In a few previous Suds with Securb columns, I’ve touched upon the subject of beers in cans. First, in W.W.J.P.D. (What Would Judas Priest Do?) I mentioned the fact that Judas Priest’s lead singer, Rob Halford, likes it in the can. Last summer I rambled on about the magic that an ice cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon holds on a scorching summer day. Furthermore, My love for beers in cans mysteriously brought me to a cooler in downtown Denver, to the filthiest package store I have ever been in, where I stood in amazement at the sight of a Scotch Ale in a can.
As summer arrives, the can to bottle ratio in my fridge is already starting to shift. Cans of Brooklyn Lager & Archer’s Ale are starting to show up among the cans of Dale’s and Chubbs. There are a few pounders of Bass Ale and the usual compliment of Pabst Blue Ribbons. So if all of these great beers come in cans why do cans get such a bad rap?
The biggest complaint people have about beer is most likely “the metallic taste.” Not only is this ridiculous, but some of the beer companies play off of this urban legend. You can not taste the aluminum from a can. I repeat, you CANNOT taste the aluminum while drinking a beer from a can. Think of a keg. What is it made of? Now think about what a can is made of? Do you feel silly yet?
When we head out to drink cask-conditioned real ales, or go to brewpubs and beer bars we are drinking out of what? Say it with me… Giant Cans! Now we have a culture of people that have been raised, by the green bottle people of Madison Ave, to believe that canned beer tastes different. We now even have beers with “lined” cans so that you don’t taste the aluminum. Wouldn’t you taste the aluminum at the top of the can if this was the case? The only thing a “lined” can really lines is macro-brewers pockets. If lining a can actually did something to make the beer taste better, why would Coors only put the lining in their cheapest beer? Because it does nothing? It gives you a loyal contingent that will stick with your product because the other brands don’t have the liner that prevents the awful metal taste. If it actually did something and Coors is committed to taste and quality why isn’t the magic liner in their flagship products? If the consumer knew something about taste they wouldn’t be drinking Keystone Light.
Let’s get into the real pros and cons of beer in cans:
The biggest advantage, as I have mentioned before, is that a can is opaque. The biggest enemy of beer is light. With a can, you take light right out of the freshness equation. Advantage: cans.
Glass does not conduct heat! Yes, glass can get hot, and it can melt, but it does not conduct heat or electricity. Aluminum is a great conduit for heat or cold and your beers chill quicker. Advantage: cans. Cans are lighter, easier to pack and store in a cooler, and easier to drag back to the redemption center. Advantage: cans.
We could play this game all day. The biggest advantage, though, is that cans are allowed in some sports and concert venues where they don’t allow glass. Do you want to walk down the Vegas strip with a cold beer? You better pour your bottle in a plastic cup because glass bottles are not allowed on the strip. Cans, my friend, are always welcome.
I think a lot of the can stigma comes from thinking we are drinking some dated, forgotten product. We all drank Milwaukee’s Best or Red, White & Blue in our youth in our parents basements and later, in our dorm rooms. Now we are older consumers of better beers in green bottles. There is no need for us to drink the beers our fathers purchased… we have our own money now. Hold on! Did I say MY money? If we are spending my money then, as I have said before, the best bang for your buck is Pabst Blue Ribbon. For $9.99 per 30 pack in New Hampshire, you just can’t beat it. Try to find another 2005 GABF gold metal winner for .33 cents per serving.
So what is the down side of cans? Variety. Since I did the What Would Judas Priest Drink column, I have noticed more and more product in cans. Maybe the brewers are finally getting it. Bass Ale is the newest addition I have seen in the can. Personally, I wish more English and European brewers would can their product. I have had more light-damaged beers from the UK than I would like to remember. Not only money wasted, but the opportunity to truly enjoy a new beer is gone. That being said, it seems the English are adopting this can fad quicker than Americans. Guinness just released their newest version of Guinness Draft, now in a 12 oz can. Based on our current options, my hands-down, aluminum-wrapped stand out has to be Dale’s Pale Ale, this month’s Suds With Securb Pick:
Dale’s Pale Ale – Though I feel beers in cans should be enjoyed direct from their aluminum vestal, Dale’s deserves a pour into the proper beer glass. The body is a clear orange color with a generous white head. There is a big initial aroma of what I think are Columbus hops. The pac west thing is going on in the aroma but I get a huge grapefruit peel aroma upfront. The mouthfeel is lively with a flowery, sweet touch on the palette and a huge hop finish that balances the ale perfectly.
<1>Commercial description: Brewed with hefty amounts of European malts and four kinds of American hops, it delivers a blast of hop aromas, a rich middle of malt and hops, and a thrilling finish. It weighs in at 6.5% alcohol by volume. Why squeeze such a big brew into a little can? Because we think fun in the great outdoors calls for great beer. Our cans go where bottled beers can’t, where flavorless canned beers don’t belong. And no matter where you drink Dale’s Pale Ale, our can will protect it from light and oxidation far better than bottles do.
– Bruce G. Owens, Jr.