Over the last few years there has been a push to can more beer.  In the Chicago market Ska was the first to arrive.  Nationally though Oskar Bluesand 21st Amendment have been doing their part.  Recently we began to seeNew Belgium churning out cans on a national distribution level, and in Chicago, Half Acre.

I am a solid believer, much to others dismay, in the crafted can. Now I could claim to be a genius, but the bottom of 21st Amendment’s packaging gives us six, yes six reasons to drink from the can:

  1. Cans keep beer fresher because beer never sees light.
  2. Cans are lined so they don’t affect the flavor of the beer inside.
  3. Cans weigh less than glass and chill faster
  4. Cans are easier to recycle and more often recycled than glass
  5. Cans use less energy to produce and transport than glass.
  6. Cans go where no glass dare: beaches, parks, stadiums, boats, pools, golf courses……
Ok so now that 21st Amendment has given us some reasons, let us take a look at some of them in a bit more detail.
#1 Cans Keep Beer Fresher
Most people do not realize that light is the biggest reason beer skunks.  According to Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink blue wavelengths of light cause skunking.  This is normally screened out to some extent by brown bottles, but not green or clear bottles.  Tasting Beer even notes that brown bottles do not provide perfect protection.  Cans are 100% opaque providing perfect protection.
While 21st doesn’t claim it, we should also discuss oxygen.  Many brewers believe oxygen in beer can hurt flavor.  In 2007 Sierra Nevada switched to pry-off caps with a seal inside. SOURCE The goal here was to reduce the amount of air getting in the bottle.  Twist-offs are even worse at keeping out air.  However, cans are sealed, again providing 100% protection.

#2 There is a lining dummy
So while we were touring New Belgium in Fort Collins the tour guide was talking about their new canning line.  One of the guys on the tour started talking about how stupid this was.  He was a former employee of Alaskan Brewing and swore by bottles.  I began to explain to him the lining was now present in cans.  He said when he drinks beer out of a can he always gets a metallic taste.  I quickly asked if he drank straight from a can.  OH BOY! First, beer should always come in a glass, and secondly your smelling the top of the can while you drink.

Reasons #3 and #5 Energy

Both of these reasons relate to energy consumption.  Cans do chill quicker.  Cans are also more compact.  This means the potential for smaller chillers in bars etc. which combined should lead to some savings.  While chilling is important what I found fascinating is shipping.

Beer requires transportation.  The weight difference is staggering.  A Bell’s long neck comes in at 7.5 ounces while a Riverfront heritage bottle comes in at 6.75 ounces.  Both were measured on my kitchen scale empty with label.  However, 21st Amendment’s and Oskar Blues cans came in at a measly 0.625 ounces.  From Kalamazoo (Bell’s) to Chicago a UPS Freight estimate is $353.09 to ship 1,000 empty bottles.  Now if we look at just the weight of the vessel it would take 12,000 cans to equal the weight of 1,000 bottles.  Additionally, if we consider more cans can fit on a pallet than bottles and cans are less likely to break we begin to see some staggering numbers.  No growing brewery should ignore this as a future investment to preserve revenue stream.

Reason #6
Cans go more places.  If I was brewer looking to increase my market share I would definitely look at cans.  Think of all the places cans can go.  The more places your product can be sold the more places it will be bought.

In Conclusion
It is not rocket science cans are better.  They keep the beer fresher, cost less in many categories and by most accounts are environmentally friendlier.  There are drawbacks.  For one, breweries would need to invest in replacing bottling lines.  This does cause a capital outlay, however payback on the investment will occur.  The other issue is perception.  The idea that bottles are better is deeply ingrained in beer culture.  However, places like Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, New Belgium, Half Acre and Ska are changing that.






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