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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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Three Pint Stance - In defense of cans

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Over the past half-decade, many changes have taken place across the craft beer landscape, but none more obvious and ever-present as the switch from glass bottles to aluminum cans.

It used to be popular knowledge that canned beer was cheap beer, and if you were looking for higher quality, you would always find that beer in a brown, glass bottle. Younger craft beer drinkers will be amazed to know that when the local craft boom began, the most commonly found format on store shelves was the 22 oz. bomber! I don’t know about you, but it been a long time since I’ve picked up one of those.

The switch from bottles to cans has been underway for a while now; the logistical reasons for said switch have been discussed at length. However, when talking to customers and beer lovers alike, there is still a very polarized view of which format provides the best taste.

Unfortunately, there seems to be plenty of misinformation about cans and bottles in terms of which container is actually best at preserving a beverage’s flavor and freshness. Let’s try to clear that up a bit.

First off, the largest group of can dissidents seem to be the ‘metallic taste’ crowd. While I can understand how people can associate a metallic taste in their beer to the metal container it is in, it is important to know that the inside of every aluminum beverage container has some sort of food-grade liner that prevents the beverage from making any contact with the metal.

Now, this isn’t to say there’s no way a metallic flavor can get into your beer. If the beer made any contact with copper or iron during the brewing process, there can be a metallic flavor present. Further, a water source too high in iron can cause a beer to taste like pennies! Don’t just blame the container! Besides, we’ve all noticed that little bit of rust on the bottle cap of an older beer, right? Nobody is perfect.

There is another group of dissidents who seem to be afraid of dirt and debris on the tops of the cans. One customer said to me, “When you take the top off a bottle, nothing has touched the area you put your lips on since the factory. With a can, you could have had a rodent (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on it and then I’m supposed to drink from that!”

OK, so that’s an extreme example, but it’s one I have heard a variation on a few times, so I will address it. First off, I can assure you that the chances that any craft brewery in Maine is going to allow rats to roam free through their cellar are slim to none. So let’s forget about rats - and all other rodents - because that’s so far out of the realm of possibilities that I don’t want to spend any more time on it. I will say this though, most small-to-medium sized craft breweries that are canning are using four- and six-pack holders by a company called PakTek, which cover the entire top of the can keeping it free from all debris, detritus and other unknown contaminants. If you really want to be double sure, just wipe the top of the can with a clean cloth!

The final complaint I get about cans is pure aesthetics. I don’t think I can really combat this view, as it is rooted in opinion and really, who am I to tell anyone their opinion is wrong (even when it so clearly and obviously is)? If you prefer beer in a bottle, I would say to you, good luck. More and more breweries are making the switch for a multitude of reasons. There will always be a place for bottled beer in certain segments of the market, but as local craft beer made to be consumed in the home, cans are winning the day and don’t look to cede that territory anytime soon.

I for one welcome our aluminum overlords.


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