For a long time there has been a stigma attached to the humble can as it is associated with cheap, commercial yellow fizz with the ethos of stack’em high and sell’em cheap. But it looks like things are changing as more and more are seeing the benefits of using cans.
As with many things in the craft industry – canned beer originally took off in the States with so many big breweries choosing to can their core range. The Colorado based brewery, Oskar Blues, best known for their Dale’s Pale Ale range, were the first to fully immerse themselves by canning their whole range over a decade ago. From there so many other breweries have jumped on the bandwagon and what starts in the States soon makes its way across the pond to the UK.
So why is canning better than bottling and what are the benefits for both the brewer and the beer geek?
- They are easier and cheaper to produce and better for the environment.
- Canned beer is lighter to transport, saving the brewery money as more can be transported at once, you can get 108 trays on a pallet compared to 70 cases of bottles.
- This also reduces the brewery’s carbon footprint in the long run.
- They are also easier to dispose of as their recycling process takes far less time than their bottled equivalent.
All this is well and good and we all want to care about the environment a little more than we do but when we buy delicious beer we want to know that it has been brewed, stored and packaged to best preserve its quality. Again that’s where cans come out on top.
The protection that cans give from light is far superior to that in bottles. Beer in clear and green bottles can easily be damaged by light which produces a skunky aroma which is not what anyone wants from their favourite brew. Skunk is one of the more common flaws or off-flavours that can occur in beer so much so that for a long time many Americans believed that European beers were meant to give off that strong smelling aroma.
It all depends on the colour of the glass, for example green glass allows green light particles to make its way through in the same way that clear glass allows all light particles to pass through the beer, ultimately skunking the beer every time. Brown bottles provide more protection for beer as they don’t allow nearly as much light to penetrate the beer but there is still some light getting through. So this is where the argument for canning beer comes in. Cans provide full protection from all light, making sure that the beer inside is kept as fresh and as tasty as possible for the customer to enjoy.
And then there is the design benefits. Breweries are able to express themselves so much more creatively when it comes to cans as they get full 360° coverage.
It would seem that all the evidence suggests that cans are the best way to preserve the beer’s quality from the brewery to the beer geek. Gone are the days of prejudice against a cheap tinnie as more and more well respected breweries are deciding to can and doing it well. The change has really started to take shape in the UK with breweries who have always bottled converting to the can. So whether you choose to drink cans for environmental, practical or purely taste reasons it seems that more and more cans will be popping up on the shelves of your local bottle shop.