Saturday, September 26, 2009

Craft Brewers Turn to Cans

A couple weeks back we listened to a NPR report on how craft breweries are moving towards canning their products; 45 craft breweries now can at least one of their brews. Despite any perceived biases towards canned beer, they do provide benefits - particularly blocking exposure from sunlight - the culprit responsible for skunky beer. Also the metal taste associated with canned beer has been eliminated by lining the insides with an epoxy-based resin. And like boxed wine - canned beer can be easily transported anywhere: boats, beach, picnics - you name it. However, there have been examples where in no situation will we consume a canned beer over its bottled sibling. The prime example is Tecate, where the canned version is far worse than bottled one. The same holds for PBR - one of our favorite domestic retro beers. Not sure why - maybe our personal tastes.

At that time of the NPR report, the only canned craft beer we had tasted was Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery. We liked it, but thought nothing special. So one day we ventured into our local beer supplier, Norm's Beer & Wine, and were startled to see the array of canned products. Not only domestic craft producers from Oregon and Colorado, but several German breweries; truly a universal phenomenon. And in Virginia, we learned from this Washington Post article that Blue Mountain Brewery has become the first Virginia microbrewery to can its beer. We'll be heading down to Nelson County soon.

But at Norm's we decided to stick to Oskar Blues Brewery - the pioneers. Based on the Examiner's portrayal of the brewery's operation here - we purchased six packs of Old Chubb and Gordon. These are stronger ales than Dale's Pale Ale and we hoped would be a good representative of canned craft beer. And the Old Chubb is right up our alley. It's a Scottish ale, but a little smokier than most versions we frequently consume - but overall, very balanced and pleasing. Later we learned that the beer includes "a dash of beechwood-smoked grains imported from Bamburg, Germany, home of the world's greatest smoked beers". But served in a glass - no one would know it was canned. The Gordon was interesting, not necessarily from the vessel, but because of its ingredients - brewed to be a cross between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA. It's hoppy so beware - it took a few sips to become accustomed to the finish. Its very distinct - and I learned to consume this beer with a meal - as it cleanses the palate. Overall though, we preferred the Old Chubb.

So, next time you frequent your local beer supplier, take a hard look at the canned products. If you purchase one, remember, like any quality craft beer, canned craft beer should be consumed using a glass vessel.
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