Wednesday Food: Crafty Cans
Cans and beer have long lived hand in hand. Mostly associated with commercially-produced, big name breweries, over the last few years the can has picked up increasing momentum in the craft beer world.
Oskar Blues and Capital Brewery were apparently the first to offer craft beer in cans, approximately ten years ago. Now the number of breweries utilizing cans is estimated at 80– most popular in the Colorado regions– with about 100 expected by the end of 2010.
I remain undecided on whether cans or bottles are the preferable approach so I will present what I know, and maybe conclusions can be drawn.
Cost: This is the major hurdle that has prevented breweries who would like to use cans from proceeding with the transition. Canning equipment is more complicated and expensive than bottling equipment. For a microbrewery who doesn’t yield as many annual barrels (fewer than 15,000), the cost of canning, either for sophisticated equipment or extra labor in hand-canning, is too great to even consider. There is also a near-monopoly on can production and the unused cans have to be ordered in a quantity (something in the neighborhood of 100,000s), which far exceeds a microbrewery’s annual production.
Quality: Almost across the board I’ve learned that cans deliver a more fresh, less exposed beer. This is simply because cans are more filled than bottles, which leave about 1.5 inches of space in the neck that exposes the beer to oxygen. Because the cans are lined with plastic the flavor of the beer is not effected by a metallic taste. Cans are also opaque, so there is no possibility of experiencing the skunky flavors that result from light exposure.
Environmental Appeal: Aluminum cans are considerably lighter than glass bottles (a tenth of the weight?), so in terms of shipping, less waste is produced with a lighter product. While glass bottles can be reused more easily– by homebrewers, for example– the material requires more energy to be recycled. However, while aluminum is a “cleaner” material to recycle, I have heard that the plastic lining meant to protect the beer has an adverse effect on the breakdown process. But that claim is unsupported.
Saleability: Another advantage to cans is that they can be offered where glass isn’t an option– say pool side, golf course adjacent, or in a stadium. Thanks to Virgin America, 21st Amendment is now available mid-flight. Campers and backpackers who love beer will see the obvious advantage in a lightweight can. Plus I like to think the stigma of canned beer associated as low-quality is nearly obsolete, but maybe I overestimate the “educated” consumer.
Does anyone have additional material/ viewpoints?…
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