Last night, with the help of beernews.org, I came across an article in the Washington Post about craft beer. I'm sure we've all read some rather dubious newspaper articles about craft beer, few papers are known for well researched craft beer articles (unlike beacons of journalistic integrity like this blog), but this one was interesting. The article explains, for anyone who has not purchased beer in the last 5 years, that thanks to American craft breweries you can now find good beer in a can. This is a trend we all need to get used to apparently.
But beyond catching the laymen up on a movement that started nearly ten years ago, the article also rehashes some of the old anti-can arguments. One involves Bisphenol A (aka BPA), the chemical an increasing number of water bottles and tupperware proudly proclaim their independence from. BPA is also found in beer can lining. I for one do not understand the science behind this so I won't pretend to know if this is something we should be concerned about or not. In the end, I think we are all just putting our trust in breweries, the FDA, and others that the things we buy won't kill us, at least not quickly.
Regardless, the BPA issue is not why I am writing this post. I am more concerned about the second complaint about canned beer: the metallic flavor. From the Washington Post article:
"For Boston Beer’s Koch, the main problem with cans is how they affect beer’s taste. Although many brewers disagree with him, he believes that tiny tears in can linings frequently lead to metallic notes and that the plastic linings suck up delicate hop aromas. 'The cans tend to absorb the floral character of the hop and, to me, dumb the hop down,' he says. In developing cans for Samuel Adams, he adds, he hopes to create thicker, denser linings that address those problems."
When I was a retailer in Colorado, this topic came up almost daily. In KC, we have Tallgrass, Avery, Ska, New Belgium, and a few others selling canned craft. But Colorado is ground zero for the Oskar Blues-led "Canned Beer Apocolpse." Oskar Blues, Ska, New Belgium, Upslope, Boulder Beer, Breckenridge, Wynkoop, and AC Golden are just some of the local breweries selling canned beer in Colorado. The state is seen as an early adopter of canned craft, but even in that can-friendly environment, I had many customers who insisted that canned beer just didn't taste as good.
I for one have never had an issue with this. I don't taste metal when I drink canned beer just like I don't taste metal when I drink beer poured from a metal keg. But I am willing to admit that maybe I am just biased, maybe I just want canned beer to taste better because I want to see these breweries succeed. I have tried to be objective about it though. When Ska was still bottling and canning Modus Hoperandi, the brewery blind tasted our staff and we all either preferred the canned version or noticed no difference. Avery produces several of its beers in both cans and bottles and if anything I prefer the cans. But regardless of my preference, I have never detected a metallic flavor from the cans. And I am not the only one, otherwise you would think canned craft wouldn't be exploding like it is right now. From the WP, "In 2009, about 50 craft breweries, mostly small ones, packaged beer in cans; now there are close to 150, and they aren’t all small. By the end of 2012, at least half of the 25 largest U.S. craft breweries will be selling canned beer, twice as many as this year."
So that begs the question, what's with all these people who still think canned beer tastes like metal? Are they crazy? Is it the result of decades of marketing? The stigma of mass-produced beer? Are they literally drinking out of the can instead of pouring it into a glass? What do you think?