Friday, April 10, 2015

Do You Take It In The Can? You Should... Join the Craft Beer Canning Revolution

The stigma has long been, "Can beer is cheap, bottled beer is classy". In 2002 a little brew pub out in Colorado (Oskar Blues) challenged this notion and created the first micro-brewed beer in cans. 13 years later the industry is finally catching up to this idea. Now hundereds of craft breweries are starting to can beers and even more are finally putting plans in place to do the same. What  people are finally starting to realize is that cans are the future, and the future is delicious.

There are three main super villians that pose a potential threat to our favorite malted beverages, they are oxygen, temperature, and light, (specifically UV rays). Cans act as the indestructible Superman like solution to all of these problems. Let's see how the two methods stack up against each other in each category in the ultimate challenge of freshness.

Botttles vs. Oxygen:

Though bottling methods have obviously gotten more advanced and capable over the last few decades theres always a chance during the manufacturing, handling, and shipping of product that certain bottles will either not be securely fastened enough or even that minor amounts of oxygen can seep through tiny air patches in certain bottled beer. Oxygen, though important to us, is a killer for delicious brews, and though bottles are pretty well protected against this threat, kegs are more at risk than our glassy friends.

Cans vs. Oxygen:

With current brewing technology brewers are now able to get beer from the brewing stage, to the bottling or canning stage with little to no oxidation. However, cans are now perfectly sealed and form an impenetrable wall against pesky air. The only way oxygen is getting into your can beer is the moment you pop the top on your delicious suds. 

Next up on our list of beer killing super villians is temperature, now this can involve a few different aspects, all of which we will discuss.

Bottles vs. Temperature:

The only thing worse than a warm beer, is a warm beer out of a hot glass bottle, though you could argue drinking out of a warm can isnt much better. But what it really comes down to is insulation, bottles have none. When beer in a bottle is exposed to hotter temperature the bottle acts like a test tube heating up by a bunson burner. And while most higher quality beers can handle a pretty wide range of temperature fluctuation, your lighter beers, we now typically associate with glass bottles are far more at risk. High temperatures kill carbonation, mess with yeast, and mostly just make your beer taste like shit. From a purely enjoyable perspective, glass is also on the losing end. The one advantage glass has is its not an amazing conductor, but that's also one of its main disadvantages. Glass takes time to heat up and cool down, which means that warm six-pack you bought is gonna need some time to chill before you can fully enjoy it. 

Cans vs. Temperature:

Now some might think that if glass is a bad conductor but can still harm your beer, then aluminum cans must be MUCH worse; wrong again! Yes, aluminum as a metal is definitely more of a conductor that glass, however canning technology has progressed, that's why good craft beer never tastes metalic out of can. Alll cans now that you would be drinking craft beer out of come with a thin micro liner within the can, that protects them from tasting like metal and also creates a small barrier from rapid temperature fluctuations. Now regardless, if you leave a bottle or a can out in the sun all day they're both going to taste gross, but cans have an advantage when it comes to cooling down. Being they are made out of a more conductive casing they do heat up faster, but they also cool down much faster than bottles. That means create a nice ice bath for your room temp brews, and you'll be drinking them in half the time of your bottled friends. Conduction also helps cans stay cold longer, so your beer doesn't start to get warm while you drink it. 

Both these first two issues are usually not a problem as long as your favorite brewery is practicing smart packaging and distributing techniques, however our last villain is all around us. Light is the main culprit when it comes to destroying our favorite beverage, and in the battle for supremacy this is where cans take the cake. 

Bottles vs. Light:

Aside from a few beers that come in ceramic bottles or use artwork to block out harmful UV rays (Rogue Voodoo Doughnut comes to mind) all bottled beers let in a certain amount of light. Clear bottles obviously filter out no light, since they are after all, clear. Green bottles do a little better, but still pretty subpar as far keeping light out goes. Brown bottle have long beer the bottle of choice before canning took over supremacy, but they still allow in light and over long periods of exposure, still put our precious beers at risk. But what exactly is it about light that's so dangerous for beer? When UV rays come in contact with the hops used in beers, it creates a chemical reaction similar to that of the chemicals released by a skunk when it sprays a predator. So when your beer gets "skunked" it's not just an expression, it actually contains a new chemical almost identical to a skunk farting in your beer. And bottled beer is exposed ALL THE TIME! Even when beer makes it safely into a cooler to be put on display and consumed it is still exposed to UV rays from the actual lights in the cooler doors. This is why when you have a large bottle stock its extremely important to rotate your product when restocking to make sure the older beers get used first, rather than risk their demise. Brewers have tried numerous ways to reduce this exposure but all these attempts have been in vain. Until...

Cans vs. Light:

Hallelujah! A savior! What breweries have started to discover is that cans are the perfect solution to our pesky, bright, friend in the sky. They leave our brews completely covered and protected from the sun light until we pour them into a glass. By eliminating exposure to UV rays all together we also can ensure longer lasting freshness from our beer, as there's no sun light to wear down the hops. Canned beers make every IPA taste as if it's been wet hopped; hops seem to explode out of the can. If you want to prove this to yourself do an easy experiment and buy two six-packs of your favorite IPA, one in the bottle one in the can, do a blind taste test and I guarantee you will start opting for a can over a bottle every time. It's not just a dream for hop-heads either. Cans make everything taste better, because they lock in the freshness, and make it seem as if you're drinking the beer straight off the assembly line. 

The revolution is no longer coming it's here and it's time for everyone to get on board. All the major craft breweries are introducing, or have already introduced can beers from their full product line up and even more have canning lines planned for the future. Aside from all the benefits and protection you get from cans they also have a few other awesome upsides worth mentioning. First and foremost, you can take cans pretty much everywhere, whether it's the beach or the park or just out on the boat for the day. Secondly, cans are unquestionably better for the environment. They're easier and cheaper than glass to recycle and more over, you dont have to worry about drunk people smashing them. Take a minute and imagine a world where we can take our favorite beers anywhere, where we don't have to worry about drinking on the beach or stepping on shattered glass. That's the future my friends so get on board and support the next generation of craft beer. The future is here, and it's delicious.  

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