There are many craft brewery’s, 45 as of summer of 2009, I am not sure how many at the moment I write this, but I know of at least one more now who are starting to put beer into cans. I came across some tonight and was quite excited. Capital Brewery has started putting some of their beer into cans. There are a few advantages, and some minor disadvantages to this which I would like to give my thoughts on. First lets take look at my find for today…..
Here they are. Capital Brewery’s Wisconsin Amber and Island Wheat….in cans! There may be other beers from Capital in cans, but these were the only two I found. I also could not find anything on the Internet about this, so I may be the first one writing about it. That would be neat. Anyway, I will start this article with the only drawback I can think of, which is image. In all honesty, the beer in a can image is the only drawback I can think of. There is still a stigma of beer being a cheap beverage and if it is in a can cannot possibly be high end. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Beer in cans is probably just a bit better than beer in bottles for many reasons.
The first reason that many craft brewery’s find canning the beer as an advantage is it is a very reliable package. What I mean, is that light an oxygen can be very damaging to beer. Even crown cap bottles, even wax dipped or foil sealed, will allows some oxygen in over time. A can is air tight and unless there is oxygen inside the can, the odds of post packaging oxidation are fairly low. The second factor is light. Most beer lovers know that clear bottles are horrible for beer, green bottles are not much better. They let in damaging light that will skunk the beer, literally changing the hop compounds to the same chemical that a skunk produces, hence the smell and the name “skunky beer”. (A quick side note: A skunky beer is not warm or old. Some beer drinkers call a warm or old beer skunky. No, those are just American lagers that do not taste good warm, which is why they insist on you drinking them cold as ice. The cold deadens the taste-buds and also the colder the beer, the more locked up all the volatile aromas are. Basically, without getting all techie, the colder the less you taste and smell.) Even dark amber bottles will become lightstruck. The darker bottles offer good protection, but not 100% protection. Cans offer 100% protection from light. So with this better packaging, you get a high quality and fairly consistent beer. It is for these same reasons that many people swear by drinking tap beer. It comes from keg which is really just a giant can.
There are a few other advantages to having beer in a can. One of which is that you can take it anywhere. Many beaches or events do not allow glass bottles on the premises. However, you can take cans. So you can enjoy your craft beer at the beach, in a can. Cans also get cold faster (however I guess they do lose their chill faster too if you are holding the can in your hand), so if you pick some up and toss it in a cooler, it should be chilled enough to drink fairly quick. Remember, this is not Coors light which has to be “ice cold”. Just a good chill will do most craft beers nicely. One final quick advantage is the durability of the can. There is no risk of your friend or child knocking over your beer bottle and breaking it on the concrete and cutting themselves. Cans will not shatter and leave a mess if they are dropped.
Now there are some myths of beer in a can. The first we covered. “No good beer would come in a can”. I can list many brewery’s who now can their beer. These are not bad brewery’s or bad beer by any means. Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, Surley Brewing Co., and Keweenaw Brewing Company come to mind right away. Another myth is that “beer in a can tastes like metal”. This is a myth because all the cans today come with a plastic liner. At no time (unless you have a bad can with a scratch in the liner) does the beer come in contact with the metal of the can. IF someone does get this metallic taste, it is probably from the outer part of the can while drinking. Pour it into a glass and the problem is solved. I still drink canned beer from a glass anyway. Even though cans are a good packaging for beer, it is not a good delivery system to your face. Most of your sense of taste come from smell. How much aroma do you get drinking from a bottle or can? Pretty much none. So you should try to make it a good practice to drink beer from a glass or cup, whenever possible. If I had to drink beer from the can, I would, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it.
I am not 100% sure of this, but one other downfall I thought of while writing this, may be that it is harder or more expensive to put a canning line into a brewery. I know a bottling line is fairly simple, especially a crown cap operation, just by looking at how a can is put together, it appears to be a bit more of an intensive project. But I can’t say for sure, and it is too late in the evening to do some real digging. So I will leave it as “I think it would be harder.” and not state it as fact.
So, in the end I applaud Capital for this move and look forward to seeing more beers in a can from not only Capital, but other craft brewers around the nation. Craft beer, take it in the can!