Craft Beer in Cans
I’m a steadfast believer in canned beer. Don’t be shocked, I’m not about to replace my reassuringly expensive craft brewed beer with cheaper-than-water-piss-in-a-can. Oh no.
What you are about to experience over the coming months, first here in London, then latterly all over the UK is the next big trend in craft beer. Craft beer in cans.
What’s with the trend?
When it comes to beer, we are still taking the lead from the 2800 or so craft breweries in the United States. Back in ’02 Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery turned the beer industry upside down when it became the first U.S. microbrewery to bring craft beer to market in aluminium cans only. Back then people still frowned upon cans as a cheap way to deliver lager-style cheap beer and still associated cans with college kids, hipsters, and… other cheap beer. Today, over 300 US breweries sell beer in cans and canned beer is now the biggest growth area in the US beer market.
The arguments in favour of canned beer are overwhelming. Here are a few:
- Cans are lighter and cheaper for the brewery and distributor to ship. Since breweries pay distributors by the palate, you can fit 30% more cans per palate than bottles. This means we get great beer, cheaper.
- They are recyclable. This is good for the planet.
- Cans don’t break.
- Cans are easier and more convenient to bring along on outdoor activities such as BBQ’s, festivals, picnics in the park, beach trip or any type of outdoor pursuit where good beer is required!
- Cans get cold quicker and take up less space in your fridge! This means you can have lovely cold beer quicker and put more beer in your fridge!
The overwhelming argument in favour of cans though is taste. Beer cans have a micro thin water-based polymer lining that eliminates any metallic contamination or flavours. Nobody wants a mouthful of nails. The seal is better than bottle caps at preventing air from getting in. Oxygen is a big enemy of beer, causing oxygenisation which can happen over time if there is not a perfect seal on your craft beer. Cans are 100% opaque which means no nasty sunlight can attack your beer. Sunlight can cause it to become ‘lightstruck’ or have a ‘skunked’ flavour. This makes it taste like Heineken, definitely a big no no.
Cans are cool
The only thing cooler than a craft beer is a craft beer that looks fantastic. Cans certainly achieve this with their sometimes outrageous designs, bright colours and attractive packaging.
Cans are also a more relaxed alternative to bottles which fit well with the relaxed dining, street food and popups vibe. You can find wicked canned beer at Byron burgers for instance. As Chris Hall also mentions in his excellent blog post on cans (https://thebeerdiary.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/yes-we-can/) a movement of craft beer towards cans may even provide an opportunity for bottled beer to stand out as a more rare or specialist product, maintaining the important tradition of bottle fermentation which emphasises fuller flavours, natural carbonation and successful aging of beers.
Nobody should drink quality beer directly from the can or bottle. Since 70% of the flavour is said to come from the aroma, great beer should always be consumed from a vessel where you can appreciate the beautiful aroma by getting your nose stuck in there. This is clearly impossible from a can or bottle. Never fear… new technology is the States is enabling ‘topless’ canned drinking where the whole top of the can is removable! I cant wait to see this over here.
You have probably seen canned beer by Camden Brewery and Brew Dog in bars or at the supermarket already. They have realised the benefits and got the ball rolling. Fourpure in Bermondsey recently started selling cans from their own canning line and this week Beavertown in Hackney canned their first beers.
Even premium purveyors of fine beer such as Pilsner Urquell are moving towards the canning line. Budwiser Budwar commissioned a canning line for its original lager and dark lager this year.
Apart from the obvious benefits I mentioned above, the cost of canning beer has also reduced over the years. The canning companies have reduced their minimum order size and the makers of the canning plants have developed smaller, cheaper lines. This all means that it is more accessible for niche craft breweries to get their fantastic beer into cans.
So there is my looking glass into the future… I believe cans are coming and for me this is good news as they look great and keep the beer at in prime condition for our drinking satisfaction. Weatherspoon’s have recently started selling cans across their 900 pub estate but I’m yet to venture into one to confirm this. On the flipside, I have also read that the Sixpoint beer (from the US) they are serving has not exactly been welcomed by the Weatherspoon’s faithful (you can read the debate here: http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-can-canned.html) so perhaps the speed of the can-invasion I am envisaging is a little way off yet. Time will tell.
What do you think about canned beer? Are there any other craft breweries doing cans that I have not mentioned?