Some of our fondest memories from "back in the day" involve beer in cans. Hitting the beach with a suitcase of cans in tow. A 30-count (the bonus pack!) of some god-awful lager from a regional brewery now long gone was what we tended to consume back then. Yes, good times. The beer wasn't great, but what did we know. It was what we could afford and it got it done!
Fast-forward to now and we're living in a golden age of brewing! SERIOUS beer is now part of the national tapestry and an elegantly packaged bottle of brewed brilliance has replaced the tired wine as the dinner gift of choice! Long gone are your memories of those aluminum cans, of cutting your fingers as you pull open the tabs, or crushing your empties to impress your new girlfriend. But if you think that's all a distant memory, then think again because...THEY'RE BACK!
What started quietly some years back has seemingly blossomed overnight as craft breweries nationwide move aggressively into canning. Embraced by both industry majors such as Sierra Nevada Brewing and regional favorites like Surly Brewing , SERIOUS beer in cans is fast becoming mainstream and as Daniel Fromson recently reported in the Washington Post, 2011 might be remembered as the Year of the Can!
In his article, Fromson details the recent growth of canned craft beer:
Canned craft beer has been around since 2002, when Colorado's Oskar Blues Brewery began canning its flagship Dale's Pale Ale, but it didn't take off until recently. In 2009, about 50 craft breweries, mostly small ones, packaged beer in cans; now there are close to 150, and they aren't all small. By the end of 2012, at least half of the 25 largest U.S. craft breweries will be selling canned beer, twice as many as this year. Locally, DC Brau and Virginia's Starr Hill Brewery will be joined by Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery, which will launch a canned pale ale, Underdog.
So why is canned craft beer becoming increasingly popular? Canning advocates cite a number of factors. Cans help the beer maintain its freshness by blocking out light which can lead to that skunky taste we all dislike. Cans are also more efficient at keeping out oxygen than some bottles. And then there's the eco-factor. Cans are now made from recycled materials and are easy to recycle and this appeals to the growing community of sustainability-oriented breweries out there. Plus they're more portable and transport easily for those extreme sports outings.
There are advantages on the production side as well. And while transitioning to cans can be initially expensive, what with special equipment costs and the bulk can expenditures, the brewers do save money in the long run. A canning operation takes up much less square footage than the bottling line does. Cans weigh less, so shipping costs are lower.
Yet even as attitudes toward cans are changing in the craft beer community, many people still dislike the idea of craft beer in cans. Some associate cans with the bad beer days of yore, fraternity binge outs, bud-light beach parties - a world they've worked hard to distance themselves from. Others claim that canning technology is not there yet and that canned craft beer still doesn't hold its flavor as well as it would in a bottle. And if you're interested in aging a beer in a can, you'd best reconsider.
Nonetheless, one thing is indisputable: canned craft has arrived big-time and we'd best get used to it-Because canned craft beer is here to stay!