Think beer in aluminum cans and you think college parties serving watered-down, light beer, right? Not anymore.
More craft breweries are starting to call it quits on bottles and sell beer exclusively in cans, say beer industry experts.
Reasons for the shift? Today's aluminum cans are increasingly designed with wider openings allowing the drinker to experience the beer's aroma before tasting it (check out more about Sly-Fox “360” cans), and now are coated inside so there is no metallic taste. Brewers say cans do a better job of preserving the beer by keep out the harmful oxygen and light, and the aluminum cools down the brew much faster than a bottle.
Adrian Perez, high-end brands manager at L&F Distributors in El Paso, Tex. says cans are also convenient.
“A lot of the craft cans started coming about when some of the bottles were not being able to be enjoyed in parks and certain areas where bottles were excluded,” said Perez.
While beer cans have been around for decades, the craft brew industry was turned on its head in 2002 when Oskar Blues Brewery, maker of Dale’s Pale Ale, became the first microbrewery to produce and distribute exclusively canned beers.
Then, it was a revolutionary idea for hand-crafted brew to be sold in cans, which were widely seen as inferior. But today many craft brewers have embraced what has been dubbed the can revolution. In fact, one beer consistently rated as one of the world's top beers--The Alchemist’s Heady Topper -- is available only in cans.
Now, this summer even Boston Beer Company, owner of the Sam Adams brands, plans to release its "Sam Can" in the U.S.--the first canned beer in its 29 year history.
“Craft beers in cans are through the roof. It’s the new want and need: environmentally fresh, and just in demand,” said Perez.
Perez said for the smaller breweries, cans can also be a boon for business. Cans are cheaper than bottles to ship and don't require an extra labeling process.
Yet Paul Fierro, owner of Primo’s Craft Beer in El Paso, Tex., said some shoppers are still hesitant to buy a more expensive beer in a can.
“It’s just peoples perceptions. You see the same beer side by side in a can and in a bottle and most people go for the bottle,” Fierro said.
Perez said also some beer drinkers still may be turned off by Bisphenol A (BPA), present in the protective lining that covers the aluminum in the cans and plastic products. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it has been linked with cancer and birth defects, however the FDA says it's safe at the low levels in cans.
And he points out that drinking beer out of a bottle doesn’t entirely knock out exposure to BPA, as it exists on the lining of bottle caps.
Yet Fierro said, as a beer lover himself, he’s starting to prefer brew in the can for preserving the true taste of crafted beer. “It keeps any light from penetrating and effecting the flavor and coloring of the beer,” said Fierro.
So what brews are among the worthy of your Fourth of July BBQ or next Sunday afternoon by the pool?
Here are some that Perez suggests:
Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs, La.
• Purple Haze
• Abita Amber
• Richeous Ale
• Sweet Action
Southern Star Brewery
• Bombshell Blonde
• Buried Hatchet Stout
• Lava Lake
• Livin Mountain Pale Ale
Santa Fe Brewery
Santa Fe, N.M.
• Happy Camper IPA
• Java Stout
• Freestyle Pils
• Black IPA