The Case for Canned Beer
With so much attention paid to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver a couple of months ago, it was easy to overlook a new brew-themed competition that took place in October in Reno, Nevada.
Canfest, a celebration of beer served in aluminum cylinders, might not be what many beer purists think of when it comes to good beer. But the event was an idea whose time has come.
Over the last several years a growing number of American craft breweries have begun to embrace cans, helping consumers to easily take the good stuff where it's needed.
Consumer ease is not the only reason the craft brewers are embracing cans. The containers are both economical and better for the environment than bottles, said Tim Ohst, director of brewery operations at the Royersford, Pennsylvania-based Sly Fox Brewing.
"It's a lighter weight packaging than glass, so it saves fuel on shipping," he said. "And people are more likely to recycle cans."
Buckbean, the Reno-based Brewery that packages their beers in 16-ounce aluminum cans, hosted Canfest, which brought more than 25 breweries to the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino.
One of the early craft breweries to go the can route, Colorado’s Oskar Blues, took home several awards, including best in show.
“After leading the canned beer apocalypse with Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002, we’re stoked to see people coming together to celebrate quality beer in a can,” said Chad Melis, a spokesman with the brewery. “We’ve been blowing peoples mind’s one can of beer at a time and we’ve had so much fun doing it.”
Proceeds from the event benefitted the Nature Conservancy and the Great Basin Bird Observatory.
Unlike glass bottles, light cannot penetrate cans, which helps prevent an altering of the intended taste. Sometimes known as skunked beer, it's caused when light reacts with the hops and negatively affects 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 smaller breweries.
In a beer culture dominated by cans emblazoned with familiar and established names like Budweiser, Coors and Heineken, the newer craft breweries – many less than 15 years old – had to compete for their share of the market. To combat the stigma that is often associated with canned beer most opted for bottles with catchy labels or names.
Now, with more than 1,400 craft breweries in the United States accounting for roughly $5.7 billion in annual revenue, according to industry statistics, many feel ready to share cooler space with their larger competitors.
Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing, one of the more celebrated American craft breweries, announced last year they would begin canning the hugely popular Fat Tire amber ale.
"This really came out of our own lifestyles," said Greg Owsley, the chief branding officer for the brewery.
Stacey Blacker, the owner of Red, White and Brew, a New Jersey beer store, 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 something good."
In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of all the awards from the inaugural Canfest event:
Pale Ale/ I.P.A.
Gold: Anderson Valley Brewing, Poleeka Gold Pale Ale
Silver: Surly Brewing Company, Furious
Bronze: Rochester Mills Brewing, Cornerstone I.P.A.
Gold: Oskar Blues, Gordon
Silver: Oskar Blues, Old Chub
Bronze: Guiness, Guiness Stout
Gold: Bavik, Witterke
Silver: Four Peaks Brewing, Sunbru Kolsch
Bronze: Bavik, Rose
Gold: Capital Brewing, Wisconsin Amber
Silver: Oskar Blues, Little Yella Pils
Bronze: Coors, Coors Light
Best In Show
Oskar Blues, Gordon
-- John Holl
John Holl writes about craft beer and the culture of drinking. He may be reached at email@example.com.