Embrace the Can
When Picking Out Microbrews
As summer hits its stride, one of the more rewarding adult
privileges is a cold beer on a hot day.
However, for those who prefer suds of the craft or micro brewed
variety, options for the golf courses, pools, and other public
outdoor venues -- where glass bottles are not allowed and a keg
is impractical -- are limited.
Now, a growing number of American microbreweries are
beginning to embrace the aluminum cylinders, allowing
consumers to easily take the good stuff where it's needed.
"They are skeptical at first," Stacey Blacker, owner of Red, White
and Brew, a beer shop in Mount Holly said of her customers. "But
they soon realize not only is it good beer, but it's also
Consumer ease is not the only reason the microbreweries are
embracing cans. It's both economical and better for the
environment to use cans, said Tim Ohst, director of brewery
operations at the Royersford, Pennsylvania based Sly Fox
"It's a lighter weight packaging than glass, so it saves fuel on
shipping," he said. "And people are more likely to recycle cans."
Sly Fox, which started out as a brew pub 13 years ago, began
canning four of its beers -- two year round and two seasonal
beers -- in March 2006, said Ohst.
"We wanted to be forward thinking, and it has worked out pretty
well," he said. "Also, the cans stack better in a refrigerator, which
is a plus."
There is also the purity factor.
"Light being one of the two great enemies of beer, oxygen being
the other, canning is the freshest way to get beer to our
customers," said Marty Jones of Oskar Blues Brewing in Colorado.
Unlike glass bottles, light can't penetrate cans, which helps
against altering the intended taste. Sometimes known as skunked
beer, it's caused when light reacts with the hops and negatively
changes the flavor profile. And prolonged exposure to oxygen
can turn the brew stale.
The move to cans also signals a new confidence exercised by the
In a beer culture dominated by cans emblazoned with familiar
and established names like Bud, Coors and Heineken, the newer
craft breweries -- many less than 15 years old --had to compete
for their share of the market. With the stigma that can be
associated with canned beer -- mostly bland lagers or watery
light beers -- most opted for bottles with catchy labels or names.
"We're looking to take the shame out of canned beer," said
Jones. "No brown bags required."
Now, with more than 1,400 craft breweries in the United States
accounting for $5.7 billion in revenue, according to industry
statistics, many feel ready to share cooler space with their larger
None of the New Jersey microbreweries are currently canning
their beers. Colorado based New Belgium Brewing, one of the
more celebrated U.S. micro breweries announced earlier this year
they would begin canning its Fat Tire amber ale -- long available
in bottles -- this summer.
"This really came out of our own lifestyles," said Greg Owsley,
chief branding officer for the brewery. "Now, I can finally take
Fat Tire in the backpack, in the boat, all those places we felt a
little guilty taking our bottles and treated them so preciously to
make sure they didn't break. Now we can throw one in the back
pocket and head on out."
Blacker, of Red, White and Brew said there are still the self-called
beer "purists" who refuse to drink any beer from a can. She
compared them to wine drinkers who will not drink from screw
top bottles. "They say they are educated, but really they are just
ignorant," she said. "All in all the beer, wine, whatever is just as
good and by not giving it a chance they are really missing out on
A Journalist Looks at Beer
|The Beer Briefing
by John Holl