Like most people, my first truly micro-canned beer was Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues. Before that I’d had beer in cans from Portland Brewing (MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale) and Big Rock Brewery in Canada, not to mention all those 16-oz. widget cans from Great Britain and Ireland. Those weren’t bad, but Oskar Blues showed (and continues to show) that big, flavorful beer can taste great in a can, too. I was also quite impressed when I visited the Ball canning plant in Fairfield, California to watch the 21st Amendment beer cans being manufactured. Prior to that, I shared the anti-can bias of most of my peers. I probably even helped to spread it because I vividly remember drinking a lot of beers with metal turbidity problems when I was a teenager. But as I learned, the problems with metal leeching in the cans that altered their flavor had largely been solved using newly developed organic polymers that coated the inside of the cans. And the true test — taste — proved it once and for all. I have now done several side by side taste tests with draft beer and the same beer from a can, and you can not tell the difference between the two. Between that and the many advantages to beer in a can, I am firmly in the flavorful-beer-in-cans-are-a-positive-development-for-the-industry camp. With New Belgium Brewing entering the market with canned Fat Tire I’d say the future of canned beer is safe.
Collecting beer cans is probably one of the most popular hobbies within all breweriana. People have been collecting cans since 1935, when the first ones appeared. It probably peaked in the 1970s, when many savvy breweries created not only special commemorative cans but entire series of them to cater to collectors and, not incidentally, increase sales. But by 1980 less than fifty breweries remained to feed collectors. Over the past five or so years, the number of new breweries beginning to can their beer has increased dramatically. A year ago when I wrote a feature story on canned beer for Beer Advocate magazine there were around two dozen micro-canneries using Cask systems or a similar set-up. Today there are over forty, with several more contracting canned beer or hand-canning. The Queen City Chapter, a breweriana club in Cincinnati, Ohio, has set out to document all of the new cans and they have an impressive website that chronicles this second wave of canned beer. For most examples, they have a photo of the can. They have, as far as I know, the most comprehensive online collection of new beer cans and it’s a great place to follow along with who’s started canning now, because it seems to change fairly often as new breweries join the ranks of beer can breweries.
This is my fifth pick for “Website of the Month,” which I started featuring on the right sidebar four months ago, because I get so many link requests, and because I have so many in my blogroll, I wanted to highlight the best ones I come across.