June 14, 2012

On Canned Craft Beer

craft_cans.jpgEver since our local brewery The Alchemist started offering their delicious Heady Topper double IPA in 16 oz. cans, we've been high as a kite - on both the tasty beer's 8% ABV and the concept of drinking beer from a can again. Oh, and by the way - this year is the 77th anniversary of breweries canning their beer.

We shifted our palates away from mass market beer to craft brews (for the most part) in college and since then our only real options were to rely on bottles or taps to get the tasty nectar. Still, we often found ourselves pining for the days of buying a 30 rack of cans for a party, or even just being able to easily tote along a six pack without fear of breakage when we went off to play our hippie lawn sports. So why was it so hard to find good beer in a can?

Sure, there were old standbys like Dale's Pale Ale - Oskar Blues has been canning it for years. But that particular beer was hard to find in our area, usually stacked warm outside the coolers because the stores had no idea how to process it. Today, we can walk into our local supermarket and find all sorts of beer brands offering their wares in cans, and we welcome it.

Canned Beer vs Bottled Beer: Round One, Fight!

  1. Portability: Cans win this one hands down. Aluminum is lighter and more durable than glass (duh), making it much easier to throw in a cooler and take wherever you go.

  2. Durability: Cans win again. Think about the last time you dropped a beer bottle, and the last time you dropped a can. In the first instance you spent 20 minutes sweeping up wet glass shards. In the second you counted ten to let the foam go down and popped the top.

  3. Earth Friendliness: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle right? We'll never reduce our beer intake, but there's no clear winner here - cans can be recycled, while bottles can be refilled. This one is a draw - for more info here's a great blog post from New Belgium Brewery.

  4. Flavor: While some people claim not to like the flavor of beers poured from an aluminum can, we think canning actually ekes out another win here. Why? Because the can blocks sunlight that glass cannot, keeping the beer from getting light struck.

  5. Snob Factor: You'd think with a name like ours we'd be into snobs, but we're not. We're beer geeks, but we can't stand the insufferable snobs we meet sometimes - they're like wine snobs but with beards and glasses. The "win" here goes to bottles, but not in a good way. Check out Modern Drunkard for good tips on how to be a beer snob, then don't sit anywhere near us in the bar.

  6. Health: This one's a sticky wicket - the insides of all cans are coated with epoxy that contains BPA, a chemical that's been linked with cancer. Canneries around the world are seeking other options, but that's the state of affairs right now. There has been research indicating that the amount of BPA in the epoxy and the temperature mitigate the risks, but this is something not everyone knows. We also noted that it comes up only when talking about craft beer in cans, not the huge amounts of mass market beer that are consumed - we guess people don't care if Bros get cancer. We read an article on this topic at Fledgling Brewer that eased our concerns if you're interested.

Take Your Beer In the Can
We've been on the prowl for canned beers, sniffing around beer sections of stores enough to make the proprietors nervous, and this is a list of canned beers we've bought and tried ourselves. It's far from an exhaustive list and pretty regional to us in the Northeast, so if you know other good brands please let us know in the comments. We'll continue to update this list as we try more.

If this list got you curious, you can also find a nice database of all kinds of canned craft beer at CraftCans.com; we also got the image at the top of this story from their site.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at June 14, 2012 8:44 AM
Recent Comments

I've had that Whale Tail up here on Cape Cod from the tap, and was kinda excited to see it canned --- I was rather disappointed in the canned goods. Did NOT taste the same, did not taste good at all. For stuff to bring home, I'll stick with the Ipswich or Harpoon IPAs.

Posted by: PsychoDad at June 28, 2012 11:04 AM

Great Post Jake.

I am wondering if the ultimate beer google made will come in bottle or can (I think bottle) I've only seen people drink the Draft Version teasing me with it on you tube videos

Posted by: Bar Stuff at June 14, 2012 3:57 PM
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