So when you think of beer in a can, do you think of super-strength or cheap lager and that though of the taste of rust on your lips as the last sip of ambient flat beer forces it's way down? Well it's time to think again, as more and more craft and micro-breweries invest in the format that premium beers have been giving a wide birth for decades.
For so long the debate raged in the Wine world about the benefits of sealing wine in screwcap, with the traditionalists happy to accept up to 5% wastage rate from issues including cork taint. Slowly, the wine world has begun to come around to the idea that sealing the wine in an air tight cap, preventing the lottery of potential random oxidisation or cork taint is a good thing, despite the loss of romance and ceremony when opening a bottle.
The thought of canning craft beer came over the pond from the US, with high flying craft brewers like Maui, Avery and Flying dog sending over stubbies of beer in cool packaging, not held back by beer drinkers who would be nervous of cans. Now UK breweries can't dismantle the bottling lines quick enough, with the likes of Camden, Brewdog, Beavertown and Fourepure installing state of the art canning kits, but why?
When a brewer is deciding how to send their beer to the public, they want to be sure that the beer tastes as good as they day they brewed it (if not better), it is sold at a reasonable price and you will choose their beer over others in the first place. Packaging their beer in cans helps them address all three of these concerns.
The two biggest enemies of beer are oxygen and light, with oxygen ageing the beer producing vinegary notes and light tainting the beer with "light strike" creating a pungent damp smell. Beer bottles are coloured brown and green to help protect the beer, however cans are able to keep out 100% of the light, eliminating light strike from the worry of the brewer. A tighter seal also helps protect the beer from oxygen.
No more metallic flavours imparted on the beer, as cans are now lined, ensuring the tin doesn't impart any flavour at all. With Beer lovers tastes becoming more demanding, brewers are falling over themselves to pack as much hops in their their recipes as possible. Cans are able to express hoppier aromas better, as the spritz of the ring-pull sends a cloud of aroma under the nose of the prospective drinker. Impatient drinkers will also benefit as cans are quicker to cool than bottles.
Craft beer comes with a slightly higher price tag, as these brewers are producing great beer, from fresh ingredients, using labour intensive methods, canning is a way to keep costs down without compromising on quality as it is generally cheaper to do than bottling.
Choosing Canned Beer
As it is far easier to print on cans, brewers can be a little more outlandish with their designs, drawing you attention to the beer and helping their brand stand apart from others. The difference between the Beavertown brewery bottles and can? Night and Day.
So the debate will continue for a while, but eventually the look of the shelves in a store that sells craft beer will look very different, and your drinking experience will be better for it.