Can the Can: On Canned Craft Beers

I’m sorry if the title of the post was somewhat confusing, but you only get to make one or two Suzi Quatro references in your lifetime and so help me, I chose to go with it.

Canned beer has kind of a negative stigma with a lot of people. A common negative image, at least in North America, that comes to mind is that of drunken jocks, chanting their fraternity motto while slamming cans in to their foreheads and beating up nerds (or for my older readers, the image of Billy Beer comes to mind). A common taste is that of tin and warm water. Regardless, for some reason canned beer feels to many like a step down from bottles.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

More and more in the past while craft breweries have been taking the canned route. Some breweries have even been switching from bottles to cans. Now there are a couple of obvious benefits with cans, being easy to stack, less breaking…but what else? Is there a financial benefit? Is there a sacrifice by compromising the flavour?

To answer some of these questions I e-mailed Michael Gurr at the Kensington Brewing Co. Their beer, Augusta Ale, just came out at the LCBO this week. In cans. I thought it a good time to ask what their rationale was for going with cans instead of bottles for their release. I was surprised to discover just how many benefits there are to both the brewery and the consumer.

On the business side of things, cans make sense especially for a new brewery. They’re cheaper to manufacture and don’t include additional costs such as a six pack holder, thus cutting down on initial expenses. The cost of a single tall boy can, which is a common method of selling canned craft beer, is also meant to be less intimidating on potential new customers, allowing them to purchase a single can ranging at about $2.50-3.00 instead of taking a chance on a new brand/beer by committing to a  6-pack for $12-14. This creates more liklihood of bringing in new customers (it’s reasons like that which make me more likely to purchase singles than packs as well).

For the consumer’s benefit, for one, you have an environmentally friendly container. “Cans are much lighter than glass, using much less material to hold the same amount of beer.”  Gurr says, “Less weight = less emissions. The rate in which people recycle aluminium is also shown to be far greater than glass.” (Although, Gurr admits, this does not take in to account the Beer Store’s bottle return program which, apparently, has a 99% return rate.)

Cans are also a good way to go because there is no light exposure on the beer, preventing the chance of a “skunky” chemical reaction that isn’t fun in the slightest (which is why beer bottles are typically dark. Green and clear bottles have more of a chance of going skunky, so beware!). This also makes for a beer that can be stored longer.

But what about the tin taste? Well, there’s two possible causes to people’s problem with that in the past. The first being that the taste of tin was actually a smell (think where your nose goes when you sip from a can) and the other being that some cans didn’t have protection on them that prevented the the beer from extracting materials from the can, creating a tin taste. The good news though, is that modern beer cans are coated with a special food-grade epoxy resins that prevents this extraction.

Other benefits include what most already know; easy storage, less breakability (Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone smash a beer can open and attack someone with it) and faster cooling time. And for me anyways, I love seeing the beautiful designs that cover the entire container as opposed to a label. Good show, package designers!

Still got that negative stigma and think that canned beer is a step down? Well, here’s a simple solution: do what you’d do with bottled beer and pour it in a glass! That way you’ll be able to drink amazing beer without the fear of being “found out” as a can drinker. While you’re at it, you can even let people sip your beer and find you’ve converted some anti-can folks.

What beers should you go with? Well, explore around! If you’re in Ontario give the three in the above picture a try, as they’ve been *ahem* tested by myself and have proven to be quite delicious and satisfying in this hot-as-balls Summer. International, I would suggest going with BrewDog’s Punk IPA, which has been hitting the stores in can form and is also quite refreshing!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to dance to more of Miss Quatro’s music.


Special thanks to Michael Gurr over at Kensington Brewing Company for the insight in to cans! 

Beers in image (left to right): Hops & Robbers IPA by Double Trouble Brewing Co., Augusta Ale by Kensington Brewing Co. and Dead Elephant IPA by Railway City Brewing Co.

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