What was once dated and lowbrow is now new and trendy.
Canned beer has traditionally gotten a bad rap. Childhood memories of tin-wrapped cheap swill still abound in my clouded head. Back in those days (the 70’s and 80’s) the shelves in the Midwest were lined with cans of Miller High Life, Schmidt, PBR, Blatz, and of course the king himself — Budweiser. It was all relative though, beer was beer and it was mostly cheap swill. There was no Dogfish Head or Rogue — choices were limited. The upscale brew at that time was Michelob, and if you were suave and had the funds, the night could belong to Michelob in a bottle. (Spoiler: good canned craft beers do exist now).
When the 90’s came, the fledgling craft beer world snubbed their noses at aluminum and decided only glass was worthy of housing their upscale nectar. Part of this may have been cost but part of it was indeed to separate themselves from the mass-produced generic macrobrews. Surely Sierra Nevada didn’t want to see cans of their prized Pale Ale next to Blatz in the liquor store or especially rolling around together empty in the bed of a lifted pickup truck blasting Garth Brooks.
Cans are finally back though and are all the rage in the craft beer world. There are a few possible reasons for this: Retro is hip, and cans are retro. Hipsters, the cool kids in tight jeans and nerd glasses, drink PBR-from a can. Aluminum is better for the environment than glass (it’s more easily recycled); bottles break frequently and are a pain to clean up; it’s simpler to conceal a can than a bottle; a can can be crushed, and a bottle? Well…no. And my personal favorite: Many places like beaches, pools, and parks don’t allow glass or bottles but they do allow cans. They can even go incognito with a koozie if the beer itself isn’t allowed. Spirit of the law right?
Here are five good canned craft beers for the pool, patio, or beach:
Joe’s Premium American Pilsner: With a fun logo and an everyday name, Colorado’s Avery Brewing Company creates this one as a nod to the cheap can beers of the past… well, sort of. Lemon yellow in color with a bright white foam head, it looks like an American Lager. Sweet malt and spice greet the nose as this modest 4.7% ABV pilsner leaves the coaster. Earthy and herbal hop notes hit the tongue first, followed by mild malt. The medium-bodied rocky mountain native finishes dry with a healthy dose of German hop snap. Fairly bitter and hop-filled but yet it’s light and crisp. What an American Pilsner should be.
Original Orange Blossom Ale: Produced by the recently closed Buckbean Brewing Company out of Reno, Nevada. The interesting 5.7% ABV ale comes in golden-orange hues with just a slight bit of foam in the glass. It smells appropriately like orange blossoms. Orange and fruity flavors greet the palate followed by mellow honey. Tangy then tart yeast notes come near the end and it finishes dry and clean with some hop bitterness. Not the sweet fruit beer that was expected, it’s satisfyingly intriguing, and kind of Belgian. Found at Total Wine, get it while you still can if it sounds like your kind of thing.
Dale’s Pale Ale: Another everyman sounding can beer from Colorado, this one is brewed by renegades Oskar Blues. A minimal off-white head covers this golden-tangerine colored ale. The nose is floral, orange, and fantastic. Ample grapefruit hop flavors make themselves known at first sip with some sweet malt in the background to balance. Citrus notes along with some solid bitterness combine for a hop-filled finish. The name is deceiving, at 6.5% ABV and 65 IBU this bad boy’s all IPA (not Pale Ale), and a terrific one at that. It would pair well with grilled Mexican grub.
Blue Moon Belgian White: The refreshing wit from Blue Moon Brewing (Coors, actually) is now available in aluminum. Easy drinking with coriander and clove notes, this 5.7% ABV unfiltered ale scored very well, and better than expected, in our blind tasting last year (see the Belgian Wit blind tasting). Great by the pool and crowd friendly, it’s hard to beat on a hot summer day.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: Brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the craft beer godfather hailing from Chico, California. The uber popular flagship Pale Ale is one of the original craft beers and was Sierra Nevada’s first release, way back in 1980. The historic brew is highlighted by gold-copper hues, a substantial white foam head makes itself at home and laces down the glass it drinks down. Flower, citrus, and sweet malt aromas rise out of the pint. Floral hops are the first noticeable flavor with more prominent grapefruit not far behind. It’s sweeter towards the end with orange notes joining the hop parade as it comes to a grainy and bitter finish. Hop forward but balanced and approachable, this is the quintessential American Pale Ale and still world class.