5 Reasons to Reach for Craft Beer in a Can

A number of years ago, I worked for a brewery that launched a campaign touting they were not “Canned and Corny”. After many hours of training, I believed this mantra. It wasn’t until recently (maybe the last four years or so) that I have begun to choose – nay SEEK OUT – canned craft beers over bottled.

Why the switch? Many reasons. But once one sits down to carefully consider the pros of choosing canned craft beer as a superior hydration vehicle, you may never go back.

The canning line at Four Peaks Wilson location
The canning line at the production facility of Four Peaks on Wilson Street.

Oxygen is bad for beer

Did you ever take a sip of beer and get a mouth full of wet cardboard? Well, maybe not ACTUAL cardboard but you certainly get the essence of wet cardboard. That’s called oxidization. Breweries everywhere go to great lengths to prevent oxygen from reaching their beer after fermentation is complete. Expensive equipment must be in tip-top working condition. Often, testing by many breweries are executed to ensure that the oxygen levels, measured PPB (Parts Per Billion), are as close to zero as possible.

Can of Pumpkin Porter being shaken before being tested for oxidation.
Can of Pumpkin Porter being shaken before being tested for oxidation.

The air-tight seal that canning provides is superior in preventing additional oxygen from poisoning our favorite craft brew. I should note here that care must occur during the entire brewing process else oxidation (among other infections and imperfections) can happen prior to canning and destroy the integrity of the beer.

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Charlie Billingsley works in the lab at Four Peaks Brewing Co and guarantees that the lab does multiple tests to verify minimal oxygen pick up in packaging. This is in addition to ensuring Your Beer is free of beer spoiling bacteria. Also, sensory evaluation is performed on all forms of Four Peaks beers – draft, bottle, and canned beer – to make sure quality standards are maintained across all packaging lines.

Light will ruin your beer

Just like oxygen evokes an off-flavor, so does light. Light reacts with the hops in beer to produce a “skunky” flavor. This is called light-struck beer.  It happens as light waves break down hop molecules, called isohumulones (or isomerized alpha acids) and produces a chemical that, welp, is related to the same chemical that a skunk sprays on its victims.

Cans are best at eliminating the probability of light hitting the product. Brown bottles do a good job. Kegged beer will most likely be poured into a clear glass, and clear and green bottles should just be avoided whenever possible.

Barn Burner 2014, Flagstaff
Barn Burner 2014, Flagstaff

As Charlie puts it, “Living in Arizona presents us with countless possibilities of outdoor activities where canned beer can be enjoyed like going to the pool, golf courses, hiking (pack it in pack it out), and camping – just to name a few.”

Cans weigh less

This goes beyond the amount of effort needed to raise a beer from the bartop to your mouth. A lighter beverage vehicle means easier trips from the car on grocery day; easier trips for the delivery guy to the retailer; easier trips from the brewery to the delivery guys; easier trips from the can producer to the brewery. Now when I say “easier,” I mean more cost-effective. Cans are lighter than bottles, so they cost less to ship and distribute. The weight of an empty can is about 14 grams while an empty bottle weighs about 230 grams.

How does this help? Charlie explains that “this means lighter loads in trucks [that] are easier on the roads when shipping and requiring less fuel to do so.”  A big bonus is that Four Peaks can supplier, Rexam, makes Four Peaks cans in a production facility in Phoenix. This shortens the trip to the brewery and offers Four Peaks the accessibility to watch production runs.

Because many of your favorite craft breweries are run like Mom & Pop shops, every penny counts; every penny that is saved gets reinvested into staff, equipment, product and the community.

Additionally, many friends of Four Peaks send photos of their hiking, biking and camping excursions with cans in tote. It may also be prudent to note that cans are lighter to carry if you are hiking in Tucson or camping in Flagstaff over the weekend.

Cans chill faster

If you are looking to quick chill your beer, I recommend the ice bath method if there is no time for proper chilling in a cooler. It is important to keep in mind that beer does not like to experience sudden and repeated drastic shifts in temperatures – especially fresh beer that is fresh and not pasteurized.

I do not recommend the freezer method. Beer does freeze. It does explode. I speak from experience. If it’s in a bottle, now might be a good time to talk about safety.

8th Street Canning Line
8th Street canning line canning 8th Street Pale Ale

Cans are safer

Whether it’s imbibing at home or a party, cans offer a level of safety that one may take for granted – especially if you’re in the company of some kids at a picnic or that friend who speaks explicitly with their arms and hands.

Hosting a party? You may appreciate that a trash can full of cans will be easier for you to lug to the recycle bin outside than a trash can full of broken bottles.

Have you ever loaded groceries into the back of your car only to arrive home, open the trunk and have a six pack of bottled beers leap to its death? Jerk move, beer. Jerk move.

Notably, cans can also be stacked in a cooler or refrigerator. That makes room for more beer or mom’s leftover meatloaf.

Safety can also include the ecological effects of recycling. As a representative of Rexam explains, “The bottom line is that beverage cans are safe and provide the highest quality packaging for beverages on the market today. It is also the answer in terms of sustainability and environmental superiority as it is recycled at more than double the rate of any beverage package in the world.”

There are a few missteps by the consumer that can negate this list. Craft beer is meant to be enjoyed fresh, with friends and responsibly. A lot of care, love and passion went into that vessel of beer you’re enjoying. If your beer isn’t cared for properly, don’t expect the quality and value to shine through.

This list is in NO WAY a definitive list for the canned craft beer argument however it is time for us to move past the stigmas of our grandfather’s canned beer. Let’s embrace the new technologies that have advanced canning techniques and processes that have lead to a superior quality product in the palm of our hands.

Weigh in! Do you prefer canned or bottled craft beer?

5 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Reach for Craft Beer in a Can

  1. I am certainly ok with the idea of cans, I’m drinking Finch’s Nuclear Winter from a can as I write. I think the challenge still lies in the perception that “macro beer belongs in cans, not craft.” Simply not true. The #2 top-rated beer on BeerAdvocate.com has explicit instructions to consume from the can. And, if the image of aluminum puts us off so much, pour it out into proper glassware, or hell, a red Solo cup. I don’t care. Just enjoy it.

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