Beer in cans has come a long way since the days of Stones bitter and anonymous 4%abv Eurolagers. Here in the UK we’re still subject to a great deal of tasteless bilge, but now the cans come with a space-age floating widget to aid carbonation. However, as ever when it comes to brewing the Americans do things differently, and producers there that choose to can their beer have rightfully ignored the widgets and concentrated on the product instead. On the 23rd of October the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno saw the inaugural canned beer festival – CANFEST – attended by many notable US brewers who are turning their backs on glass.
But why? You’ll find a list of reasons on the website of practically everyone who chooses to do this – almost as if they feel the need to reassure the drinking public that it is possible to put something decent into something metallic. The major plus point is that cans eliminate oxidation, keeping the cardboardy flavours away. They are obviously lighter and easier to transport, they are easier to chill and stay colder, and the newest generation of cans have a upgraded coating to prevent the beer coming into contact with the aluminium, and therefore unwanted harsh, tinny tastes of previous years.
So the BeerCast decided to put this to the test, and got hold of a couple of the USA’s foremost can pushers, Steamworks Third Eye Pale Ale (6.5%), and Caldera IPA (6.1%). This wasn’t easy – they may transport well, but they are pretty hard to track down in the UK (try Beers of Europe for both or Bar Pivo in York for Caldera’s beers). Both poured highly carbonated – take that, widget people – although after a while the heads had fizzled out. Both had characteristic strong US hop aromas, the Third Eye Pale Ale reminded me more of an IPA, it had a punchy hop taste and a very long, biting aftertaste. It was refreshing, but would maybe get a bit much after a while with that thick finish.
The Caldera IPA on the other hand was stunning, the array of Pacific coast hops gave an incredible bursting hop taste that was wonderful. Simcoe, Centennial and Amarillo (I had to look them up) combined beautifully on the palate. The alcohol was modest for the above session abv, and the aftertaste was piney and very easy. The crispness of this beer was fantastic, with some citrus fruit you’d expect from an IPA coupled with a touch of sweetness that really makes it stand out. It’s one of the nicest IPA’s I’ve ever sampled, without doubt – and the fact that it comes in a can proves (as if any proof were needed) that canned beer is absolutely no different to its glass-dwelling cousins.