Canned beer is making a comeback, thanks to popularity with craft breweries

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Eric Strader

Although Oktoberfest is over and we are now heading into stout season, there is no reason that we can’t still drink in Oktoberfest style. With so many breweries now canning their beer, I have coined this year for me as the year of the can. And here is your chance to win a Das Can-in-Stein.

If you would like to win a Das Can-in-Stein, send an email to EricStrader69@gmail.com and answer this question:

What is the most popular beer brewed by Bell’s Brewery and is also now sold in a can? (Largest amount sold in volume by the brewery each year.)  

Unfortunately this particular can won’t fit in the Das Can-in-Stein. If you can tell me why, I will put your name in the hat twice.  

All correct entries received by Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. will be put into a hat and the winner will be randomly drawn. The winner will be contacted by email and will be able to pick up his or her Das Can-in-Stein at DIY Coffee and Ale Supply, located at 114 E. Washington St., Goshen.

I have even taken my Das Can-in-Stein to work to enjoy an occasional soda, and my colleagues are all quite jealous at staff meetings.

A couple of my favorite aspects of this product are that you don’t have to pick up a cold can with condensation on the outside, and it keeps my drink cooler longer since my hands don’t ever touch the can. And, very importantly, if you are doing yard work, the Das Can-in-Stein will keep the bees out of your can.

Now, don’t be shy, raise your hand if you have ever had a beer can collection. That’s what I thought. Yes, I too have had beer can collections over the years and I still do.  

In fact, I’ve started and discarded many collections, and I really wish that I still had some of those early cans that got recycled many years ago. Last May, Russ Phillips released a book that profiles the art of beer cans: “Canned!: Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can.”

One day, as Russ was drinking beer from a can, he began to take notice of the artwork surrounding the can. He realized that he could find all sorts of information about the beer in the can, but very little about the artwork on the outside of the can. This led him on a journey in which he founded the website craftcans.com, and also inspired the publication of his book.  

The first beer can was sold in 1935 in Richmond, Virginia. As of the writing of the book, more than 300 craft breweries from almost all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are now canning their beer.

According to an NPR story from June this year, the number of breweries canning their beer has more than doubled since 2012. Even though this is still less than 3 percent of the craft industry, it is still a significant and visible difference on our shelves, even here in Michiana. Craftcans.com currently lists 1,526 different canned beers in its database.

The hardcover of “Canned!” gives a short history of canned beer, then moves to wonderful colorful photographs over its 208 pages. There are 948 photos of cans arranged geographically by region throughout the United States. It is a good sized book, measuring 11in. x 8½ in.,  and makes a great choice for your coffee table or reference book to keep in your library.

So why cans, you ask?  

Are you concerned about that flavor? Well, if your association with canned beer is with the cheaper beers with less flavor, then yes, I would be concerned about the flavor.

However, the cans used by craft breweries have a water-based polymer lining that eliminates any metallic contamination or flavors. And it is recommended that you pour your beer from a can into a glass, just as you would from a bottle. In fact, it is printed around the lip of cans from Surly Brewing: “Beer for a glass, from a can.” In many ways, beer from a metal can is no different than beer from a metal keg.  

What are the benefits to canning beer?  Here are just a few from a list on craftcans.com.

  • Cans actually lock in the flavor of beer better than even dark glass bottles. No light penetrates the cans and the seal is tighter than a bottle cap. Thus, your beer tastes fresher longer.
  • Cans are more environmentally friendly. They are easier to recycle and require less packaging.
  • Cans are cheaper for the brewery and distributor to ship. Cans don’t break.
  • Cans are easier and more convenient to bring along on outdoor activities such as camping, disc golf, hiking, a day at the beach and any other activity that affords you the luxury of enjoying good beer.
  • Cans get colder quicker and take up less space in your fridge.

If you listen to the NPR article, you will learn that this last point can go either way.  Aluminum cans will cool more quickly than glass, however they will warm up quicker in your hands as well. But if you pour your beer from the can into a glass, you will avoid this problem.

The book is accompanied by a forward from Dale Katechis, founder and owner of Oskar Blues Brewery. He was not the first to can beer, but he has been the most influential craft brewer to do it. In 2002, he made a bold decision to put his Dale’s Pale Ale (6.5% ABV, IBUs 65) in a can. It was a tough road convincing and educating beer retailers and beer drinkers, but it worked.

Now, more than ten years later, Oskar Blues regularly cans seven different styles, including Ten Fidy (10.5% ABV, IBUs 98) the first Russian Imperial Stout that I had ever tasted from a can, Gubna (imperial IPA, 10% ABV, IBUs 100) and Old Chub, a bold Scottish strong ale at 8% ABV. All are available in Michiana.

Smaller breweries are finding ways of canning their products through mobile canning units. Michigan Mobile Canning is an operation that modeled itself after a successful Colorado system. Founders Andrew McLean and Scott Richards invested more than $160,000 to assemble their mobile canning operation, which will be able to can 2 to 2.5 million cans a year. Right Brain Brewing put its Will Power (English Pale Ale, 4.2% ABV) in 16 oz. cans as the first customer, and Evil Czech recently cranked out its first shipment of cans using the Michigan Mobile Canning operation as well.

Many regional breweries are turning to cans, or are at least canning some of their beer. Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis cans all of its beer. Some other Indiana breweries that can at least some of their beers include Daredevil Brewing and Flat 12 Brewing, and 18th Street Brewing in Gary has just started canning as well.

Keweenaw Brewing Company and Brewery Vivant  are two Michigan breweries that can all of their beers and are currently only available in that state. Canned beers from both Founders Brewing Company and Bell’s Brewery are available throughout Michiana.

There are too many canned craft beers to list them all here. Check out the aisles at your local bottle shop and you will find many options to choose from. And if you are lucky, you just might be able to enjoy them in your own Das Can-in-Stein.

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