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Does a can "de-value" a craft beer?

Just asking.

I happened to see this article on Chow [ http://www.chow.com/food-news/117262/... ] and it made me wonder if beer aficionados look at a can possibly in the same way wine geeks seem to look at screwtops. I HAVE had people tell me that the can may effect a beer's taste, so there's more to be concerned about with beer.

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  1. LOL, exactly. I just purchased some Shift from New Belgium and I have to say that opening that can felt wrong. I immediately drew the analogy to the cork / screw top issue with wine in that it was the mechanics of opening the can that felt wrong like not pulling a cork feels wrong.

    I'd like to see more aluminum bottles like the one seen in the referenced article be made available as opposed to a standard can.

    1. Actually, the can preserves the beer's taste far better than glass. Many craft brewers are turning to cans, and the results are exceptional. Interestingly, I just had lunch with a winemaker friend who said he was abandoning the screw cap. Not because it is ineffective, but because of the (incorrect) perception that it is bad for the wine, or makes the wine "cheap".

      8 Replies
      1. re: dulcie54

        Any details on why the can is better?

        I'm assuming the winemaker is a higher-end producer? "Makes the wine 'cheap'" yes......... but what proportion of consumers know anything about the idea that screwcaps may result in 'reduction' (which can be bad for the wine). We can move this to the Wine board if we need to. I thought only wine dorks knew of such things.

        1. re: Midlife

          Beer can get light struck in glass.

          1. re: JAB

            Cans also have less air than bottles, reducing oxidation.

            I love cans, by the way. They chill quickly and take little space.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              It still depends on the equipment, experience, and skill of the canner, just as it does for bottlers....

              A semi local brewer here started off with cans, and their ipa tastes horribly oxidized within only a month of canning.

                1. re: LStaff

                  All things being equal (in terms of canning/bottling and handling) the can is superior. I've NEVER had a skunked pils in a can that was properly handled. I cannot say the same about bottles. Cans are lighter and take up less space as well.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    Every, and i do mean every Heineken that i had in a bottle tasted skunked to some degree. Cans, of course didn't. For a long time I thought this was the way they were supposed to taste.

                  2. re: LStaff

                    Absolutely true. Apparently Adam Avery spent a ton of money on equipment for canning that eliminates the oxidation problem. I tried a local canned IPA and it tasted extremely oxidized.

          2. Surly Brewing in Minneapolis only sells canned product. Popular locally and rated highly by BeerAdvocate. Their moto is: Beer for a glass, from a can.

            1 Reply
            1. A true beer geek knows that there are advantages to beer in a can, the same way that a true oneophile knows not to discount the quality of a wine by the use of a screw cap or a synthetic cork. It's those who maintain stigmas borne of ignorance and misinformation while posing as knowledgeable that you should be concerned with.

              1. Personally, I would prefer a can over a bottle in most cases. However, with Belgian beers fermented in the bottle, a can would present problems when trying to pour the beer out while leaving the yeast behind.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Tripeler

                  Cans also suffer a lack of elegance at better restaurants.

                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                    In the past month alone I've had Sierra Nevada IPA, Magic Hat #9 and O'Sirus IPA in cans and didn't notice a difference in taste and all of these are very good if not great beers.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      Cans actually cannot be found in better restaurants.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Depends on your definition of "better" restaurants. Was at Talula's Garden last night in Philly and they had Sly Fox in cans.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          But why not? If one buys wine by the glass, or a cocktail, they don't bring those bottles to your table - even if a specific brand is ordered. Why can't the bartender open a can, pour the contents into a glass and the server bring the glass of beer to the table?

                          1. re: JessKidden

                            It's what Jim Dorsch says. There is a lack of perceived elegance. Personally, I would choose a can over a bottle (except for certain bottle-fermented beers), but the common perception is that cans lack class. In a few years, that will begin to change, I think.

                            1. re: Tripeler

                              Ha ha! And in a few years we end up with... http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013...

                              Welcome to the future!

                            2. re: JessKidden

                              That could be done, but it's not normal procedure, as restaurants typically bring the beer bottle to the table.

                              I don't have an issue with this. I'm a huge proponent of cans, but frankly, I believe a bottle is more appropriate in fine dining situations. It's juist how people feel, and there's nothing wrong with that.

                      2. I dont really care what vehicle it comes in as long as its handled well and its not a bright colored glass. And I have found that cans come in handy at venues (parks, concerts, beaches, etc) where they dont allow glass. Yes I still find it a little weird to pour an imperial stout or a double IPA from a can but Ill get over it. What I dont get is the can cult thats developing just these past few years where people actively seek canned craft beer for its own sake. There are even at least two can ONLY beer bars in my area. What is that about? Maybe its a hipster thing (both seem to be hipster haunts) but it strikes me a little like a bar that ONLY serves cocktails that come in tumblers. I mean is the novelty enough to sustain something like that?

                        By the way, I just happened to run across this article on HP. The numbers are interesting. They seem to be all across the board in terms of preference depending on the beer. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Insidious Rex

                          Curious as to your take on the 2012 definition of "hipster". Seriously.

                          1. re: Midlife

                            I kind of agree with the person who said that "the term hipster is a meaningless term but you absolutely do know it when you see it". Im sure I could sit here and give you a giant list of fashions or such which if you could check off enough its a hipster (ironic hair-cut, retro clothing, employed as barista if at all, etc.) But frankly Id just say visit Williamsburg in Brooklyn sometime or one of the two beer can bars I mentioned above and there they are... Not that I have anything against them. I drink with a few.

                            Also this is a fairly amusing if not absolutely accurate take on IDing hipsters: http://www.glamour.com/sex-love-life/...

                        2. As noted elsewhere here, knowledgeable beer geeks accept that cans result in fresher tastier beer and knowledgeable wine geeks accept screwtops as meaning nothing but the elimination of any chance one's wine will be corked - pun intended.

                          I've been a wine hobbyist for around 40 years. "not pulling a cork" feels wrong for about the first one or two screw-topped bottles, after that, seems a damned convenient way to have a bottle at lunch.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FrankJBN

                            Agreed as to screw-tops. I've had $50 Oregon Pinots with screw-tops and I certainly have never perceived anything but good Pinot.

                          2. Nah, not these days. Then again, if you would have asked me 10 years ago if I'd drink a beer from a can, I'd say no way. Back then there were no tasty canned beers. I'm the type of guy who walks into a beer bar, checks it out, how many taps (25+=too many), looks at the pints to see if they have some life in them, looks to see if they list when a keg was tapped) and many times goes for a bottle conditioned beer. I've had too many lousy draft beers and too many skunded bottles, so maybe this can thing is good. Thanks Dale!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: MOREKASHA

                              Speaking of Dale, he tells an interesting story about how they were approached by the can people back when the first small canning systems appeared, and they thought it was a hoot. Some time went by and they thought what the hell, let's try it. So, they sort of stumbled into the whole thing and started a revolution.

                              I don't know how quickly cans would have taken off if another company had been first, as the Oskar Blues folks did a great job of promoting it.

                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                There's something to said for "right place, right time". The DPA is a mighty fine beer and I prefer it in cans to draft.

                              2. re: MOREKASHA

                                Now they just need to do a better job at brewing the beer in the first place. I used to drink Dale's Pale Ale until I started running into diacetyl issues. Once in a while I read reports of it still happening, so they continue to be on my craft beer ignore list (which is pretty long to be honest).

                              3. Some time ago beer in cans 'carried' the canny taste with it. But modern cans, at least the US brands, are now lined with a special material that limits the flavor transfer. Admittedly though, a glass or mug, as opposed to a can is esthetically more pleasing to the drinker by far.

                                If you are a beer aficionado, be sure to read "Falstaff's Book of Brewing" (although I can't even find it online).

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: billray68

                                  "Admittedly though, a glass or mug, as opposed to a can is esthetically more pleasing to the drinker by far."

                                  But you can pour a bottle or can or beer from a keg or cask into a glass or mug. And aroma being a big part of the taste experience neither a bottle or can would suffice in providing the full flavor experience.

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Absolutely. I'm pouring my beer into a glass every time.

                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                      I'm coming around to drinking beer right out of the can. Some IPA's just seem to taste hoppier to me out of a can even though it goes against the 80% of flavor is aroma principle.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        I have found that, too. With bottles as well as cans. In a hoppy beer, if i don't pour into a glass, the hops is the predominate flavor that comes through.

                                2. Cans are great for beer.
                                  In fact, they have for a LONG time been the __ideal__ container for beer. Even back in the early 70's (and probably before that) , aluminum cans were already lined with a protective coating in order to avoid tainting the beer. And despite the prevailing folklore, there were at least a few decent beers back then which were packaged in cans.
                                  I think the stigma about cans arose in the early days of that kind of packaging.
                                  Nowadays, it is probably the _ideal_ container for beer.

                                  The fact that canned beer has become chic among the so called "craft" set (after years of derision) is, however, definitely amusing..
                                  I swear...in 20 years, the next big thing is going to be light lager in 1950's retro style. LOL.

                                  27 Replies
                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    I don't know about retro light lager, but I do think that craft will turn harder toward balanced, flavorful session beers in the coming years. It has to happen if craft is to capture the less committed beer drinkers, who aren't looking for triple IPAs and jumbo imperial stouts.

                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                      Just about everybody of note is brewing "session beers" these days, and some places are experimenting with ultra low alcohol beers (e.g. Bruery's Nottenroth and Hottenroth). Just because people mainly talk up the big IPAs and imperial stouts does not mean they are the only thing out there.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        Point taken, but session beers are still far from mainstream today. I would say they are where cans were several years ago.

                                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                          At my age (almost 71) I have to laugh at the Professor's comment: "(Cans have)... LONG time been the __ideal__ container for beer. Even back in the early 70's..." Though he's correct, the 70's are not that long ago to me! (I don't mean to be offensive, Professor,)

                                          Jim, I'd say you're also correct. My favorite 'new' American session beer: Miller High Life Light (not 'MIller Lite) (30 pack in cans, but poured into glasses for consumption) though its alcohol content may be a little high to make it a true candidate for a real 'session' beer.

                                          1. re: billray68

                                            Over at the session beer project, Lew Bryson defines 'session' as 4.5% or less abv, although in Britain that would be considered a bit strong for a session beer.

                                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                              Lew has done a great job getting this out there. And more power to him. Im a lager man first really. But i dont think we are yet at the place where session beers are ubiquitous as suggested above. Youve still got well respected beer people like Don Russell (Joe Sixpack) deriding the session beer concept as ridiculous and unnecessary. And theres still a learning curve for sure. I am always amused when people post comments on Lew's blog saying to the effect that they agree that we need more session beer and that their favorite session beer is hop devil or some such.

                                          2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                            I would disagree. Almost every brewery in town is actively developing or has made a session beer.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              It may depend on the town where you live.

                                        2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                          I've been dreaming of session beers for a while. There are so many over the top imperial triple ipa so and so's....I think the true craftsmen show their skills on a well balanced, tasty pale ale and the like. Balance, Balance, Balance....

                                        3. re: The Professor

                                          I think you're confusing the packaging method with the liquid contained therein.

                                          Craft beer fans who derided canned beers did so because what was in the cans was swill. It's only relatively recently (apart from Oskar Blues, who were way ahead of the curve) that decent beer made its way into cans.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            Confusing the packaging method with the liquid therein? Moi? I think not.

                                            I was speaking about the general (and largely incorrect) perception people had for years that the cans somehow 'tainted' the beer. As far as the beer inside the cans, whether those beers were good or bad is strictly a matter of individual taste.

                                            The derision of cans by the so called "craft" brewers (and "craft" fans) was probably only _partly_ because of the second rate product in the cans pumped out by the bigs.
                                            I'd willing to bet though that another part of the derision of cans by the "craft" faction was because that packaging just wasn't initially available to them, and as Jim pointed out, the bottle created more of a perception of quality for what was often (though not always) a superior product.
                                            That's where I find the humor of small "craft" operations jumping on the can bandwagon. Canned beer has now developed a whole new "coolness" factor.
                                            And I'm not complaining...it's nice to be able to get very good beers now in what is probably a superior packaging method.

                                            1. re: The Professor

                                              Cans are great for retailers, too, because they can put two cases in a space that holds one case of bottles, which means less out-of-stocks.

                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                Why do you put the word craft in scare quotes?

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  "Craft" is in quotes when I refer to beer outside the norm of the usual BMC product. It is basically just a marketing term anyway.
                                                  I certainly don't intend it as a negative connotation (being a "craft" beer fan from day one).
                                                  It's just that "craft" beer of good quality can be (and more and more is) also made by larger brewers. And smaller brewers that have become quite large and mainstream (Sierra Nevada and Boston Brewing for example) are absolutely still making "craft" beer.
                                                  Eventually, the term "craft" will probably become obsolete because hopefully, good beer with character will become the norm. It can be argues that it is beginning to happen already.
                                                  Ultimately, maybe the BMC style beers will one day inherit the "quotes". LOL.

                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                    "[Craft] is basically just a marketing term anyway."

                                                    Yeah but it's a marketing term which directly describes what it is: a departure from BMC. To me the term "marketing" is often packaging, cute dogs, or other things having nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of the product.

                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                      Didn't mean to veer off topic but...LOL... You've just described a lot of the funky labels we see these days on lots of "craft" beers. ;-)

                                                      The other point though is one I've suggested in the past---that just because a beer is designated as "craft" is not necessarily an indicator of the quality. In any case, it's moot. I still think that there only 2 kinds of beer...good, and bad. And the BMC's and the "crafties" each have their fair share of both. And the "good" or "bad" is in the tastebuds of the beholder.
                                                      Anyway, it's only beer, isn't it?

                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                        You can call it craft, dog, cat or whatever. What it definitely is though is a departure from or reaction to American adjunct light lager. Doesn't matter if it's the nastiest American Brown Ale you've ever had, best DIPA or the worst Pumpkin Ale ain't none of them gonna be mistaken for AALL.
                                                        You see the term "craft" as honorific others see it simply as NOT BMC.

                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                          Maybe we're getting into the need for a separate thread but...
                                                          As to being "honorific", I'm certainly not alone in my interpretation. Some define it as you do ("not BMC light lager", with which I actually agree) others tie it specifically to small brewery product (which, even though I like many of the products, is a definition that I most definitely don't embrace).
                                                          But it doesn't matter anyway.
                                                          It's the beer itself that's important, not the label it is given or who makes it.
                                                          Hence, my use of quotes.

                                                          1. re: The Professor

                                                            When you say "it's basically a marketing term" you are disparaging the people who work hard to make a quality artisanal product. It strikes me as similar to the people who cavalierly refer to organic produce as a marketing scam, or farm-to-table restaurants as a marketing scam, without having any facts at their disposal, just garden-variety cynicism.

                                                            1. re: Josh

                                                              Well, now this is starting to be pretty funny.

                                                              I certainly don't mean it to be disparaging. I just call it the way I (and apparently many other people) see it, based upon 35+ years of following and observing the incredible and gratifying growth of this segment of the beer industry.

                                                              And I am anything but a cynic (that notion just makes me want to laugh). If anything, most folks that know me would describe me as exactly the opposite. LOL.
                                                              Besides, I've professed my support here for small brewers many times, having enjoyed their products since the 1970's.

                                                              Still, "marketing term" is exactly how I (and other people) perceive the term "craft", at least as it is being used nowadays. The hyperbole their PR machine uses is no different that that of the BMCs...it just comes from a different angle. And that's what marketing is. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

                                                              Anyway...I honestly don't see what the big deal is. The industry is doing smashingly well. If beer is good, its good. It's that simple. The strong will survive, the weak will disappear and by and large won't be missed. Wait---I take that back, at least partly---because there were some early players that were just unfortunately ahead of their time, and some of them definitely ARE missed (Newman's, in Albany NY comes to mind).

                                                              Anyway, if the term "craft beer" fades into obsolescence the way I believe it eventually will (since I'm convinced that the more characterful beer that you, I, and an exponentially growing number of people advocate _will_ eventually be the norm), I see it as a good thing.
                                                              Already, the way I see it, small brewers are in reality more in competition with each other than they are with the bigs.
                                                              In any case, it will continue to be interesting to observe how it all plays out over the next 10 years.
                                                              Belly up...I'll buy the next round.

                                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                                As folks have said, the term "craft" is used in varying ways. The Brewers Association defines it to emphasize independent ownership (among other things), for example. In the broader industry, the term typically includes products such as Shiner Bock, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel.

                                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                                  “I just call it the way I (and apparently many other people) see it, based upon 35+ years of following and observing the incredible and gratifying growth of this segment of the beer industry.”

                                                                  Can we give this “segment of the beer industry” a name that would NOT equal marketing then in your opinion? If so could you provide us an example?

                                                                  “The hyperbole their PR machine uses is no different that that of the BMCs...it just comes from a different angle.”

                                                                  Now that I agree with; hyperbole is hyperbole. But are you saying that the term “craft” itself equals hyperbole or that industry practices such as: emphasis on IBU and %abv, sexually suggestive labels, “new interesting” beer styles (i.e. imperial bitter, triple IPA), etc, equals hyperbole, or both?

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    This whole line of the discussion is reminding me a lot of the argument about the term "alternative music" circa maybe 1988. There was a point where Alternative music WAS actually alternative and the term made sense. Then the bands who defined this category got bigger (REM?) and could not really be called "alternatives" any more but the term stuck around. And then Nirvana and grunge came along and any semblance of alternative completely disappeared as it became the dominant form of rock music played on every major rock and pop station in the country. But yet we still call it Alternative even today even though it means absolutely nothing. Alternative Rock has become Corporate Rock.

                                                                    I think this is where the term "craft beer" is headed. We arent nearly that far yet (there hasnt been a Nirvana of beer yet I dont think...) but we are getting there (Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Macro brewers with successful "craft" portfolios, etc.) And in this way I agree with The Prof in that craft beer is becoming less and less of a literal description (BA's agenda be damned) and more and more of a nebulous marketing term. Especially for the Blue Moon/Batch 19/Lienenkugel crowd who are specifically attempting to tap into the craft market by presenting themselves AS "craft beer". Are they? Maybe. They dont fit my definition of what craft beer FEELS like to me but many would argue technically they are. Should we call them "Macro Craft" instead? Sounds like splitting hairs and the reason I think craft beer is going to mean less and less as this segment of the industry grows.

                                                                    But as noted it doesnt really matter what you call it as long as the beer tastes good. Just always concerned that whats happened to Alternative music doesnt happen to craft beer.

                                                                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                      My only issue with The Professor is his idea that "craft" is a marketing term only. I disagree. It defines the phenomenon.

                                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                        Interesting analogy, and spot on, too.
                                                                        It pretty much goes along with my comments about great beer becoming "mainstream". It's happening already and will continue.
                                                                        And it is also inevitable that continued growth will turn some small brewers into _very_ big ones.
                                                                        Its called "success".

                                                                    2. re: The Professor

                                                                      I think the problem you are running into here is that many craft beer fans only associate the word marketing in the world of beer with macro lager makers, and assume that you are disparaging the products/producers the care about when you say that "craft" is basically a marketing term. They can't separate their altruistic feelings about the segment from an activity that all businesses with a product to sell participate in.

                                                                      IMO, "craft" is a term that can't be defined by technicalities like amount produced, ownership, or non-use of adjuncts, etx.. Its like the term pornography - really hard to define - you kind of know it when you see it - and even then it has crossover with art, and many times intent of the producer has to be taken into consideration.

                                                                      The best definition I've seen so far was from the tv show Drinking Made Easy. I am paraphrasing, but it was something like "beer designed and produced for the purposes of flavor and distinction vs. mass appeal" Simple enough for everyone to understand and leaves some leeway for interpretation - which is important imo.

                                                  2. re: The Professor

                                                    >I swear...in 20 years, the next big thing is going to be light lager in 1950's retro style. LOL.

                                                    Change that to Light IPA - currently known as session IPA in craft beer circles - and I will agree.

                                                  3. A keg is a can, only bigger. Cans are fine, and I expect to see more of them.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: chuckl

                                                      Where's the "LIKE" button...Agree with this one. 'nuf said!

                                                      1. re: chuckl

                                                        A keg does not have the same liner as a can. C02 is coupled with the keg, not with the can. Smaller container can fluctuate temperature more than a large keg. So not exactly the same.

                                                      2. I like cans because when I take out the garbage it doesn't weigh as much as when it's filled with empty bottles

                                                        1. On my last RV trip I concentrated on buying can beer like Surly Furious and Bender, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, 1st Amendment Brew Free or Die and a few others. I did so because I eventually was going to end up at the Indy 500 where you are allowed to bring in your own beer, but it has to be in cans. I had forgotten how much more convenient cans were in a small RV with a small refrigerator. There are enough quality can beers now that I will probably continue the practice. It does limit your choices.

                                                          1. I've got fears about the BPA information/misinformation scaring off potential customers for breweries that package in cans. It seems to me that there's probably pretty strong overlap between the craft beer demographic and the folks who are fastidious about buying local/artisinal/organic. I'm not saying that there's any merit to the BPA scare, but any product that has the stink of risky chemicals, justified or unjustified, is gonna' scare away the rooftop chicken coop crowd.

                                                            1. If CNN says "No"...... I guess the answer is NO.

                                                              http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/07/06/b...

                                                                1. Are there any canned beers that still use a floating widget" (a hollow plastic sphere, 3 cm in diameter)?

                                                                  I would think its presence would dispel the perception problem.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                    I'm pretty sure some of the Guiness offerings do

                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                      Those were attempts at giving beer a smooth mouthfeel and creamy head as if it were dispensed from a tap system using Nitrogen/Carbon dioxide mix. Except for a handful of beers meant for that (Old Rasputin comes to mind), I don't think it really applies to craft beer. According to wikipedia, even Guinness has given up the widget in favor of other technology.

                                                                      1. re: LStaff

                                                                        Yea, I think that I remember some type of British Cream Ale (Old Speckled Hen?) having something like that.

                                                                        1. re: JAB

                                                                          I think Boddington's used to do it. Haven't tried it in ages, though.

                                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                            Also Tetley's, Old Speckled Hen (as JAB mentioned), Wexford. Old Speckled Hen also comes in a bottle with CO2.