Berrong on Beer - You say you want a canvolution?
July 6th, 2012
04:30 PM ET
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Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and this is the sixth installment of his beer column. He Tweets at @nathanberrong and logs beers at Untappd. Drink up.

Summer is finally here. Skin is showing, windows are down and parks and swimming holes are crowded. It’s the time of year when I make every effort to be outside with friends sharing some beers, food and good times. Up until recently, it was hard to find good beers that were “outside approved," also known as beers in cans.

Because of safety reasons, most parks, beaches and pools have a no-bottle policy, which until recently had made enjoying a good quality beer outside next to impossible. That all changed roughly ten years ago when Oskar Blues came onto the scene with their canned beers and changed the perception that only bad beer was available in cans.

Seven years later, in 2009, there were 52 craft breweries serving their beer in cans. Today, The Brewer’s Association estimates there are more than 180 craft breweries that are canning, proving good beer is now available in cans and it’s here to stay.

Here’s a relatively unknown fact: Beer was the first beverage ever put into a can. In the 1930s, shortly after Prohibition ended, breweries began to put their beer in metal cans instead of bottles. This was purely a business decision as cans provided the brewery a better way to promote themselves by using all sides of the container for text and logos. The lighter weight of the metal cans could also be stacked for easier shipping.

The only downside also happened to be the most important thing when drinking a beer, the taste. Because the interior lining of the cans weren’t foolproof, the cans of the '30s and '40s tasted like metallic-flavored beer. Canned beer developed a bad reputation and by the time technology caught up and the interior lining was perfected, it was too late. People had already decided canned beer was inferior to bottled beer.

The macro-breweries, which brew with adjuncts like rice and corn (read: cheap ingredients that add off-flavors but produce alcohol) instead of the preferred and more expensive barley malt, continued to put their beer in cans. This only furthered the notion that cheap and awful tasting beer was served in cans. The truth is, cans made today now have a water-based epoxy lining that completely preserves the flavor and taste of the beverage.

Oskar Blues, a small microbrewery out of Lyons, Colorado, knew this and decided to take the risk, put their delicious beer in cans and attempt to change the mind of the discerning American beer drinker. It’s been ten years since Oskar Blues took that leap of faith and although the doubters still exist, the general consensus among beer drinkers is that canned beer tastes just as good as the bottled stuff.

The 21st Amendment Brewery (21A as it's commonly referred to in the beer world) is another great example of a brewery that’s also taken the leap, and recently even took home the top prize at the first ever Canny Awards.

"Some people refuse to drink beer out of cans and I always say to them 'Well, I don’t drink beer out of a bottle, I pour it into a glass," says 21st Amendment co-founder and brewmaster, Shaun O’Sullivan.

Canned beer is having a resurgence in the American market, and the reasons why are a no brainer: it’s more portable, it doesn’t break, you can drink it in places bottles are not allowed and it tastes just as good as bottled beer, maybe even "better," because the seal of the can better protects the beer from oxygen and it blocks out 100% of UV light damage.

Below, I’ve selected some of my favorite canned beers, and I’d love to know what you think. Cheers and happy drinking!

Canned Beer Recommendations:

21st Amendment "Bitter American"

Avery "Ellie’s Brown Ale"

Sixpoint "The Crisp"

Oskar Blues "Ten Fidy"

New Belgium "Fat Tire"

Anderson Valley "Summer Solstice"

Kona "Longboard Lager"

Ska Brewing "Modus Hoperandi"

Austin Beer Works "Black Thunder"

Surly "Surly Abrasive Ale"

Do you prefer your beer in a bottle or a can and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. beerbard

    A great opinion piece. I encourage beer enthusiasts to do a side-by-side comparison as I have. Check out my findings...

    http://www.examiner.com/article/traditional-bottles-crush-the-trendy-craft-beer-can-movement

    July 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  2. ST

    James Page (Minneapolis) had beer in cans in the late 90s. Good beer – bad business model.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  3. I got all dat gold!

    Mickeys wide mouth beer is da best and I gotz all dat goooooollllld!

    July 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  4. rhymeskeema

    Bisphenol A.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  5. A. Bourdain

    Beer is like religion ~ everyone has their favorite then tries to push it onto others... And beer is BETTER than religion (:

    July 10, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • beercrabs

      and there's nothing like Delirium Tremens....a personal favorite

      July 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
      • SillyAss

        Delirium Nocturnum. Love it.

        July 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  6. Beer Immediately

    I wish all you IPA people would shut up already. I hate IPA's. So many other great styles of beers. Forget IPAs

    July 10, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Jessie

      What I love most about craft beer is that there are so many styles from an overwhelming amount of breweries to please any palate - otherwise we'd all be drinking American light lagers, and not the good ones!

      July 10, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • SillyAss

        Amen.

        July 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  7. Karl S

    Anybody worried about the BPA used to line the can?

    July 10, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Nanny State

      No.

      July 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • SillyAss

      I could be wrong, but I don't think any company is using Bis-A epoxy to line their cans. I mean based on the knowledge we now have.

      July 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
      • beerbard

        ALL can manufacturers line their cans with BPA.

        July 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  8. David S.

    Microbrews are crap. I swear, people buy them based on their outlandish names. They all taste the same....like homebrews....YUCK. I'll take a good domestic lager from the big names any day over this garbage.

    July 10, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • RealAle

      One word – FLAVOR

      July 10, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Fred Freddly

      Proof positive that you don't need to know what you're talking about or have good taste to have an opinion. What David S. meant to say was, "Me no like it. What me no like are no good. RAAAAARH."

      July 10, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Candog

      Another ignorant redneck sounds off. I'll bet you haven't ever tried an IPA or Pale Ale. This is what multi-million dollar advertizing budgets do, brainwash the ignorant into thinking they are drinking the best beer. What the macro-breweries are putting out isn't even beer, at best it's a malt beverage and should be stated as so. You want an American lager? You won't get that from a Macro-brewery. Try a craft brewed lager next to a macro "lager" you'll be surprised at the difference.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • SillyAss

      I guess everyone's welcome to their opinion. I'm not going to knock him for his love of Budweiser or whatever else he enjoys. I think we are living in a fantastic time. We have access to beers from all over the world let alone some of the best brewers in our own country. If you are lucky enough to be able to experience and enjoy the variety that's available then you are truly blessed. Don't ya' think?

      July 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
      • Bustdbrewing

        Hey the less he drinks of micro's the more for us right? :D

        July 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Nathan

      Haha.

      Grab your shotgun, your bud-light lime, the cousin you married, and go camp in your back yard.

      At least when you drink piss-water, it leaves more good beer for the rest of us :)

      July 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Connor M

      Bottles are way better than any can. After a while cans damage the taste of a good beer, bottles always keep the beer fresher. Don't get me wrong, I love some brand of beers out of a can, but most are just better out of a glass bottle. What about kegs? Im not saying all kegs are good (bud products, miller products, ewww) but what about a pint of Stella out of a keg, or my person favorite Guiness. Guiness out of a can doesn't give you the full flavor of the brew, but out of a keg, it is amazing.

      July 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Connor M

      And dude, come on, broaden your horizon. Domestic beers are ok but lets be serious, domestics cannot compare with full flavor craft brews. You obviously dont drink beer for QUALITY your more into drinking to get DRUNK like a highschool student.

      July 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Name*Fred

      You suck

      July 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  9. Jeff

    I really like the Kona Brewing Company's Longboard Lager. It tastes the same, bottle or can, but the cans can go with me out to the pool, AND they have the new wildlife-safe 6pack tie that won't choke the seabirds! Its a WIN-WIN!!!

    July 10, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  10. Isaac

    I love the Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle. It's become a staple at the pool during the hot Texas summer.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Jessie

      Fire Eagle is definitely my favorite of the ABW line-up, but the Pearl-Snap Pils as well as Real Ale's Hans Pils are my "go-to" summer beers this year. Also enjoy the Maui Brewing La Perouse White.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  11. Recognize

    Elevated IPA is the best IPA, ever. Lucky to have the brewer right here in town (Albuquerque). The judges at GABF 2011 agreed (http://www.lacumbrebrewing.com/ourbrews.html). I routinely get Ska's Modus Hoperandi; one of my favorites, and it's in a can.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Baal

      Dude, just FYI, but IPAs are SOOOO last year.... You can cover up a real crappy beer with a lot of Hops. LAGERS are the next big thing!!

      A beer drinker from Seattle

      July 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
      • SillyAss

        Looking for some good lagers. Give me some ideas.

        July 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
      • Recognize

        mmmmmmm, hops. Ahhh, so you're a "trendy" beer drinker. The Paris Hilton of beer drinkers...

        July 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  12. FirstAve

    Who cares any container is fine, it still gets you drunk! Go Packers!

    July 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • JellyBean@FirstAve

      You got that right. Plastic, glass or paper cup, can, bottle, canteen, tupperware container, he ll we used "bowls" in college at one point. So long as the beer is freezing cold. Go Patriots!

      July 10, 2012 at 11:43 am |
      • SillyAss

        Peter Griffin is that you!

        July 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  13. Veejay717

    Interesting how people swear that bottles are best for beer but most prefer a draft to a bottle. PSSST...Do you know what kegs are made of? The same thing that cans are made of and you never hear someone complain about the metallic taste that a keg gives off. And what kind of containers are most craft beers made in...metal vats. Hmmm...maybe metal is good for beer since beer is made inmetal containers, stored in metal kegs and are portable in metal cans. And pouring a beer into a glass whether from can or keg is the only cicilized way to go.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  14. Hoptrollop

    Why does there seem to be an assumption in the comments that if you drink canned beer you are drinking it directly from the can yet with bottles you naturally put it in a glass? I always pour mine in a glass and apparently so does Mr. O'Sullivan. I wonder if a canned beer was poured in a glass out of sight if those that say they taste the metal still will. I know when anyone mentions banana as I taste a Hefe it ruins it for me. The power of suggestion is mighty.

    Y'all will miss many great beers by rejecting cans outright and that's a shame.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  15. Brittany

    Austin Beerworks is one of the best breweries to come into the market in the last few years. In the hot Texas summer, nothing beats a Peacemaker Extra Pale Ale in a cold can. No wonder it won a GABF award. Dang, now I am thirsty...

    July 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  16. A

    I always thought Fat Tire tasted better in a can than in the bottle. But I'd rather go down to the brewery, have some draft, then bring home a growler than anything else.

    Also, thanks for the Oskar Blues shout out! Not the biggest fan of their beers, but I love to see a local business doing so well.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • water guru

      I find that Fat Tire smels like a wet band-aid.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  17. freeme10

    This article hit the nail on the head. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice is one of the best beers I have had in my life, several years of which I lived in England – so that is saying something.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Adam

      LOL no wonder you like American beer, you lived in England! English beer is TERRIBLE! The best beers come from Bavaria, such as Hofbrau and Augustiner. After that, Canadian beer is 2nd! American beer is terrible

      July 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
      • Baal

        Even Canadian beer has turned to garbage, unless its a micro. Check 'em out.

        German beers are LAGERS & Pilsners...... not over hoppy crap beer...

        Germany knows how to brew REAL beer....

        July 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
        • Huh?!

          Pardon the interruption, but as a Canadian beer drinker, I can confidently say that our beer is NOT garbage. Give me a break. WE, yes WE brew some of the best beer in the world, bar none. Keep in mind there are lots of German immigrants here who brought their beer crafting savvy with them.. http://www.ontariocraftbrewers.com/

          July 16, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  18. DRTSAT

    I can't stand beer in a can. I will say that one of the best beers I've had (aside from all I drank in Germany) is Fat Squirrel from New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin. Too bad they only sell it in Wisconsin.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Veejay717

      Interesting that you won't consider cans...have you ever thought what a key is made of? Same metal that a can is made of. Maybe cans are the best way to store beer...whether a keg or a can.

      And you don't driink a draft beer from the tap...you pour it into a glass. Same for a craft beer can...you pour it into a glass.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  19. larry

    For anyone who will only drink beer in bottles hasn't had Surly yet!

    July 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • 10th Amendment

      STOP Obama's war against Medical Marijuana Patients – Support UFCW Local 770
      http://www.ufcw770.org/cannabis

      July 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
      • TRH

        Is there some reason why you think we are interested in you?????

        July 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  20. Roallin

    The price of canning machinery has dropped over the years. It use to be only the macro breweries that could afford it. This is why you are seeing more and more micros using it now.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • dt

      They don't actually make the cans themselves. They purchase cans from the same companies that make cans for Coors, Coke, Pepsi etc.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  21. rex

    Oregon residents should try Caldera beer – comes in cans, and has an amazing IPA and a pretty good amber as well.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Baal

      Most Oregonians dont like IPAs.

      They like Ales, Porters, Stouts and LAgers....

      July 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
      • AdGuy

        Just wondering... Did you do some sort of statewide research study? Did the entire state of Oregon elect you spokesperson for any beer-drinking questions that might arise from the non-Oregon world? Or, are you just making one heck of a hugely, uneducated, general statement?

        July 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • Amber Poole

        That's news to this Oregonian.

        July 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  22. enzo

    The problem isn't the storage of beer in a can but for most high quality micro-brews, especially the Belgian Style, you need to drink it from a glass to get the full taste. It has a different taste if you drink it straight from either the bottle or can. I guess you could use plastic cups but you still need to pour it out of the can or bottle to get the full & best taste.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  23. Oscar Pitchfork

    "HMMMM, BEERS IN CANS!? I ALREADY KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO SAY, PROCEED TO POST WITHOPUT READING ARTICLE". Apparently ALL beer drinkers are idiots...

    July 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  24. Adam

    Canned beer is synonymous with crap beer. That will never change.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • AlaBeer

      The can is just the delivery container. It is your choice of beer and the serving temperature that makes the difference. Don't ice down micro beers. They need to be served at 55 to 60 degrees for the best flavor.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Baal

      Uh, Guiness in a CAN, tastes BETTER then in the bottle.

      A LOT you know...

      July 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Jay

      That mentality is the same attitude that people have about Screw Top wine. Its a proven fact that screw tops for wine keep the wine fresher. That is also the reason more and more winery's are moving to screw top as opposed to cork. As soon as someone follows an "Absolute Attitude" you close your mind down to other possibilities. It also a reason why people will miss out on some amazing Wine with screw tops and some amazing Beer in cans. Your loss.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  25. Trevor

    I really don't like canned beer. Except Guinness, strange as that seems it's better in the can. I'm sure it's all psychological but as a dark beer drinker I could not see myself drinking New Castle, Guinness extra stout, murphys or beamish out of a can.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  26. mike k.

    I graduated from bottles to cans when I met my wife, who, as a bartender, knows best. Bottles now seem like a pain.

    3 more hours and I'll be behind an Anchor Steam.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  27. Myto Senseworth

    My beer usually winds up in a solo cup and on my shirt anyway.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  28. blanton

    hard to shotgun a bottled beer!

    July 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  29. mmmmmbeer

    There is no difference in taste between a can and a bottle, funny how those who say they can taste it will say they only drink beer from bottles or on tap, um kegs are giant cans. Also the fact is NOTHING colder than a can of beer in a cooler full of ice. Gubna IPA is by far one of the best beers on the market.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Roallin

      The beer keeps better in cans too. They do not let any light in. Micros were using bottles because they machinery was cheaper.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • AlaBeer

      If you are drinking micro-beers ice cold, you are not getting the real flavor. Let 'em warm up to about 60 degrees and you'll love the taste. If you want ice cold beer, stay with Bud, Coors, or Miller. Anything above about 40 degrees and they taste like crap.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  30. Scot

    I'm a big fan of the Maui Brewing Company beer that they sell in cans. They actually only sell it in cans. My favorite is the Mana Wheat, but they are all good. If you are lucky enough to make it to Maui, I'd suggest stopping at their brewery and their brew pub. The brew pub has awesome food and lots of different beers that don't make it here to the mainland.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  31. Corey

    and the best IPA I've ever head is only in cans – The Alchemist's Heady Topper, Waterbury, VT

    http://www.alchemistbeer.com/

    July 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Trevor

      Vermont beer is the best beer. Except long trail. $%^& long trail.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
      • Baal

        BS!!! The ONLY IPAs worth a crap are Pliney the Elder/Younger and Wisdom Seeker....

        July 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
        • Abigail

          Clearly you have not had Hill Farmstead's Ephraim, Double Citra, Double Galaxy, or Abner; Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine; and clearly you have never had Heady Topper (the only one in a can). Vermont rules in the way of IPA/IIPA. In your defense, east and west coast IIPAs are, to me, totally different. I prefer VT IPA/IIPAs

          July 13, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  32. Corey

    Can recommendation – Stowaway IPA – Baxter Brewery Lewiston, ME

    http://www.baxterbrewing.com/beers/4/

    July 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  33. Joe

    What I'm not seeing in the article is the most important test ... comparing the SAME beer from bottle, can, and draft. You simply cannot say "canned is as good as bottled" unless you've compared the exact same beer from each container.

    The last canned beer I tasted was Coors Light. Don't grief me, I like CL. I like other more flavorful beers as well, but CL is my favorite refreshment. And as of, say, 6 months ago, I could taste the can in canned CL, and the beer did not taste as clean or crisp tasting as CL in a bottle - I could not separate the 'canned' taste from the beer.

    One of the things also NOT addressed in the article ... do you drink direclty from the retail container or pour it out into a cup/glass? The only time I put beer in a glass is if it's draft or I'm in a restaurant that doesn't serve my choice of beer on draft. If you drink directly from the bottle, you taste beer. If you drink directly from a can, you're gonna taste the can. While the >interior< of the can may be lined, the lid / top ain't in most cases.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Huh?!

      Coors Light is absolute CRAP, and tastes like it too. It baffles me whenever I see someone walk out of the beer store with a case. They've succumbed to marketing, that's all.. I don't know if they think bikini-clad models are going to jump out of the case when they get home or what, but the beer is the most awful tasting wretched poo ever.

      July 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  34. les

    I have been drinking beer for about 40 years and I guess the "cans give beer a bad taste" thing is an old paradigm that just won't die. I prefer decent beer in bottles, but usually, when bottles are not allowed, the only beer available are the "Mega Brewery" brews, so I suck it up and try to enjoy. (I cannot dring Bud whether it is in a bottle or a crystal goblet) I will have to try some of the craft brewed canned beers, never too late to try a new thing.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  35. Hugh Jass

    'Cans are actually better now than years ago. Try one and you'll see.' No.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  36. Hugh Jass

    I tried each an evry one of them beer an I gotta sa y opening them cans is too much dang work but they all good
    .products of american inganuity inginuity ingenuity

    July 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  37. Beer Lover

    Best beer in a can: Guinness. It's also the best beer out of a bottle or the tap.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  38. Hugh Jass

    I always liked Sterling's wide-mouth bottles. Decent beer, too. And yeah, you can still taste the can no matter what they line it with. Glass bottles, please.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Primal 4 Life

      Nope, you can't, period.

      July 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Myto Senseworth

      Wash the top of your cans.....

      July 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
      • Huh?!

        why. you wash them.

        July 16, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • AlaBeer

      I loved Sterling's big mouth bottle with the pull-tab cap.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  39. Gary

    Santa Fe Brewing Co. – Happy Camper IPA, Imperial Java Stout adn Irish Red Ale

    Marble Brewing Company – IPA

    La Cumbre Brewing – Elevated IPA

    July 9, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  40. alelover

    Not true anymore Sharon. Cans are actually better now than years ago. Try one and you'll see.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Huh?!

      You're all missing the real problem. I don't want to put my mouth on metal when I'm drinking. Or cut my lip on the metal edge. It's just not the same feel, let alone the fact that the cans are lined with BPA. See this is why we still have toxins in our world, consumers (US) don't make a big enough deal about getting them out, so we continue to pretend they won't hurt us and we'll be fine when in fact cancer rates are still sky-rocketing and people are clueless about why.

      July 16, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  41. Sharon T

    I never associated cheap/bad beer with cans. I always avoided canned beer because the can affects the taste. I want to taste the beer or the soda, not the can. Bottles are the way to go when possible.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:42 am |
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