I made a trip up to Chico, California last week to interview Ken Grossman for an article I’m working on and fortuitously happened upon a new innovation that Sierra Nevada Brewing just launched. They’ve discarded the twist-off crown in favor of a new one they’re calling a “pry-off cap.” They’re using up their old stock now and then replacing it with the new crowns so over the next few weeks or months you’ll begin seeing the new crowns on store shelves. Some, like Pale Ale, have already made the switch.
What’s innovative about this is the material they’re using inside the cap that sits against the top of the glass bottle providing the seal. Oxidation is, of course, probably the most common reason beer goes bad. Twist-off crowns and regular crowns do a pretty good job of creating an oxygen barrier and keeping out the oxygen, but they’re not perfect and some oxidation will occur over time. So Grossman spent the last 6-7 years researching how to make a better seal. What he came up with was a super high-density non-PVC substance that’s used in Germany but is uncommon here. It’s harder than the usual rubbery crown insides and requires a bit more pressure to seal, which is why they can’t use the twist-off cap any longer. But the new substance keeps out oxygen ten times better than anything else Sierra Nevada tested, so having to use a bottle opener is a small price to pay for a fresher beer that stays fresher longer. Now that’s a good use of new technology.