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Craft Brewers Switching to Cans

Brewers Have Been All Bottled Up But Now They re Canning It The Salt NPR


Five years ago, just a few dozen craft brewers in the U.S. were canning, while today there are more than 500. It seems the association of canned beer with cheap, watery stuff has been gradually washing away.

Can advocates and brewers who are choosing cans say there are clear advantages over bottles: The beer in a can cools faster. The can protects from beer-degrading light. Beer cans are portable and take up less space, advantages both for retailers and for consumers who want to take them camping, hiking or fishing. (See our 2009 piece on Alaska's beer can craze.) There's also more space on a can for wraparound design and decoration.

But there were reasons for the popularity of glass in the first place: While glass bottles take longer to cool down, they also stay cold longer once they come out of the cooler. Plus, glass producers and plenty of brewers will tell you translucent amber glass has been working fine to protect beer from light and air.

The biggest selling point for the bottle, though, is flavor. There's at least a perception that cans impart a metallic taste, whereas liquid stored in a bottle comes out tasting pure.

The metal touching your lips is still a factor in terms of flavor, but most craft brewers suggest pouring out beer into a glass before sipping, whatever package it comes in."That perception is just kind of dated," says Katie Alsip, the marketer for Rhinegeist, a one-year-old craft brewery in Cincinnati. Most aluminum cans these days are lined with a polymer coating that protects the beer from the metal. (That coating, BPA, is a source of health concerns for some, although scientists have found very little risk associated with it.)

Rhinegeist co-founder Bob Bonder says the company surveyed retailers, other breweries and potential customers about cans before deciding to go all aluminum. Cans were the hands-down winner. They're "lighter, more portable, easier to bring anywhere, cheaper to ship," he says. And Rhinegeist's sleek, bright design makes it stand out on the shelves.

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That's a good point: pour the beer into a glass, and avoid the metallic taste. Brilliant!

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