For years, canned beer has been widely characterized by cheap, macro-produced offerings – staples of house parties and fishing trips. A canning revolution has begun in the craft beer market recently, and I couldn’t be happier.
Before moving to Colorado and becoming a beer nerd, my favorite brew was Blue Moon. It was around the same time that I found out the beer was actually brewed by MillerCoors, and I remember seeing it available in cans.
“That’s weird,” I thought. “Why would they can such a great beer? Bottles are far more superior!”
I moved to Colorado, and my palate began to evolve.
Several weeks ago, I was vacationing in North Dakota (said no one ever) and was fortunate enough to find Green Bullet from Green Flash Brewing Company and Velvet Rooster from Tallgrass Brewing Company – both triplels, my favorite style. The former was in bottles, with the latter in cans. An hour later, I was disappointed to find that both had been packaged nearly a year ago.
The Green Bullet, normally a fantastic, hoppy delight had since seen its prime. I kept wanting to love it, but these puppies were expired.
The 16 oz. cans of Velvet Rooster, on the other hand, were as sweet and spicy as they should be.
Of course, the difference in quality could certainly depend on the brewing process and ingredients more than packaging, but I like to think that it was the can that truly made the difference.
In recent years, a handful of gimmicky styles of bottles have been advertised in an attempt to reel in more sales for Big Beer. There’s the vortex bottle from Miller Lite, which swirls your beer while you drink it, the bow tie can from Anheuser Busch, and the Miller Lite punch-top can, which essentially promotes shotgunning beers in public.
These bottles and cans, novelties more than anything, aren’t particularly successful. They do nothing to preserve quality. It’s like throwing flame decals and an oversized spoiler on a PT Cruiser – unnecessary. The cans now used by breweries preserve the taste just as well, if not better. It’s like the old phrase: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
Although a beautiful, frothy beer is certainly something to appreciate, the primary concern of beer drinkers is taste. Factors such as light exposure and oxygen can turn a bright, citrusy India Pale Ale into a disappointing dud.
According to science, light in the blue wavelength of the light spectrum leads to a skunky tasting brew. This is primarily why the majority of beer bottles are amber, not clear or green.
While traditional amber bottles have proven to be effective in preventing light exposure, cans allow zero light in, ensuring that the brew tastes exactly like it should, every time.
When beer is properly canned, the seamed lining protects the beer by preventing oxidation. When too much oxygen seeps into beer it results in a stale, almost cardboard-like taste.
Cans have another advantage over glass bottles: portability. Canned beer is highly conducive to a Colorado lifestyle. It can be brought camping and hiking, whereas many outdoor areas ban glass containers. A six-pack of cans can easily be thrown into a backpack – bottles, not so much.
A beer is a beer, despite how it is packaged, and Oskar Blues Brewery, located in Lyons, believes in this sentiment wholeheartedly. Their imperial Russian stout, Ten Fidy, is widely regarded as one of the best beers in the country, and it’s only available in a can.
Since its foray into the craft brewing industry in 1999, Oskar Blues has been a can and keg-only operation. Many consider them to be the instigators of the canning revolution taking place.
While I think it’s safe to say that bottles will never cease being used, the canning revolution in the craft beer market is only gaining momentum. More and more breweries are opting for a canned option. They maintain taste better, cool down quicker and are allowed at more locations.
I am eagerly awaiting the day that New Belgium decides to begin canning their Lips of Faith series.
Collegian Staff Reporter Erick Plattner always loves a good brew, regardless of how it’s packaged. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.