July 19, 2010

IPA in a Can?

What image do you conjure when combining the two words canned and beer? If you are like the majority of beer drinkers you think of some kind of light American lager. That may have been true ten years ago, but a continuing proliferation of craft beer becoming available in cans has expanded the drinking horizon. In fact, today World Class announced that they have begun shipping beers from SanTan Brewing in Chandler, a new participant in the canning revolution.

Why is canning an important development?

In many ways cans are far superior to bottles as a distribution method. For example:
  • Cans provide a barrier to all light, preventing beer skunking (the nasty aroma Corona has become synonymous with).
  • Cans are nearly impervious to oxygen intake, a major cause of premature beer spoiling. Bottle crowns are slightly permeable and will let oxygen in over time.
  • Cans are lighter and more conductive, reducing shipping costs and allowing faster cooling.
  • Cans are easier to stack and take less area when packing and shipping. This also means you can fit more beer in the fridge in the same space.
  • Aluminium is more efficient to recycle than glass bottles.
  • And possibly most important for the beer drinker, cans can be taken places that glass containers are outlawed: golf courses, public parks, and tubing or boating.
What about the metallic taste imparted to beer from a can? That is a myth, in fact. Beer cans used by craft brewers are sprayed with a special lining to ensure the beer is never in contact with the aluminum.

Oskar Blues ignited the craft beer canning revolution in 2002 with Dale's Pale Ale, Gordon and Ten-Fidy (yes, an Imperial Stout in a can - stash a few in the back of the fridge for a few years). Now it seems like every week an additional brewery announces a canning line - from New Belgium's Fat Tire, to Ska's Special ESB and Big Sky's Moose Drool.

On a local level, more Arizona breweries are beginning to can their beer as well:
  • Four Peaks - SunBru & Kiltlifter
  • Prescott - Liquid Amber
  • SanTan - Hopshock IPA, Epicenter American Amber, Devil’s West Coast Pale Ale & HefeWeizen Wheat
  • Lumberyard - Lumberyard Red Ale
  • Mudshark - UpRiver, Dry Heat & Full Moon Wit
One of the limiting factors in the canning revolution is the large minimum order of cans a brewery must purchase (somewhere in the range of 50-75k). This limits beers available in cans to the most popular beers a brewery produces. So unfortunately for now, you won't be seeing specialty beers like Four Peaks Hopsquatch in cans. Sun King in Indiana recently announced that they received TTB approval for a generic can design (In the US the Alcohol Tax & Trade Bureau must approve all beer labels). They will apply a sticker to each can specifying the beer inside. If this catches on, hopefully we will begin to see seasonal and one-time beers showing up on store shelves in cans.

Next time you are headed to a picnic at the park or your next foursome, make sure you bring a cooler of fine craft beer in a can. Or ask your favorite publican to begin carrying some national and local craft cans. Just don't be a heathen - ask for a glass. Save the PBR for chugging.


  1. Grand Canyon Brewing also announced distributing cans in addition to their bottled beer.

    Black Iron IPA and Sunset Amber Ale


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  3. Arizona now has 8 different craft breweries canning their beers. Quite impressive for the Grand CANyon State.


  4. We just got the word over the weekend that Prescott Brewing Co will release their Ponderosa IPA in cans sometime this month!