They’re portable – perfect for tailgating, camping, golf (ball, or Frisbee), the beach or the kid’s lunch box (I kid, I kid); they’re 100% recyclable; and they block sunlight and oxygen better than bottles. I’m talking about cans, of course.
But canned beer carries a very negative stigma with it – when canning beer became a popular option in the 1960s, the cans were poor in quality and the canning technology was certainly not where it is today. The result was beer that tasted more like aluminum than barley & hops.
Ever since, even though the technology has changed for the better, and canned beer no longer tastes like cans, the only beer commonly found in cans has been 30-racks from the “big 3”. So it’s not hard to see why cans have gotten such a bad wrap. But all of that is beginning to change.
A number of well-known American craft breweries have begun to can their beers – Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co. announced last week that they would release their flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale — one of the most popular craft beers in the country — in cans by summer. The 21st Amendment Brewery in San Fransisco will also soon be canning their beers; test marketing cans of their “Brew Free or Die IPA” and “Hell or High Watermelon” watermelon wheat by the 4th of July. And Uncommon Brewers, a Santa Cruz-based brewery which will open its doors this summer, will open having canned all of its beers. According to The Mercury News, the certified organic brewery had planned “to do Belgian-inspired beers and put them out Belgian-style, in corked bottles” but opted for less expensive, 100% recyclable cans after receiving their organic certification.
The craft beer canning revolution was started by Oskar Blues Brewing Co, who began canning their beers in the fall of 2002 as a joke – but that soon changed. Dale Katechis, founder of Oskar Blues Brewing in Colorado, told realbeer.com in 2003 that,
Right now, our goal is to change the perception in the industry about what you can sell in cans, and with drinkers about what kind of beer is sold in cans.
We went to the Great Arizona Beer Festival and did side-by-side tastes tests — out of bottles and out of cans. A lot of beer geeks went “What is this?” and they were blown away. The first thing they said is, “This is real beer, this isn’t something that was made just to sell in cans.”
All of the breweries listed above get their cans from the same place – Cask Brewing Systems Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta. Cask Brewing offers craft brewers like Oskar Blues small-scale packaging systems, using cans from aluminum can producer Ball Corp. which have a water-based coating, so the beer doesn’t touch aluminum. Today Cask has nearly four dozen customers canning beer in North America, up from one — Oskar Blues — in 2002.
It may be awhile before craft beer drinkers fully embrace craft beer cans around the country, but I can tell you from personal experience that one can from Oskar Blues and they’ll be signing a different tune. Here’s to the canning revolution!
[tags]beer, canned beer, Cask Brewing Systems, Oskar Blues, Fat Tire Amber Ale, New Belgium Brewing[/tags]