IF YOU'RE following the Savannah craft beer scene, you've most likely noticed a string of strikingly similar posts on social media from Southbound Brewing Co, Service Brewing Co and Coastal Empire Beer Co over the last few weeks.
Those updates to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all told of an interesting trend in craft beer that has made it to Savannah: Canning.
Faithful readers may know that homegrown brewery Coastal Empire has made Savannah Brown and Tybee Island Blonde available in cans for quite some time, although they weren’t actually packaged here in Savannah.
In fact, no brewery has locally produced cans in the modern era of brewing. That’s all about to change in a major way.
Craft beer’s availability in cans has grown exponentially over the last few years. The original proponent of craft in a can was Colorado’s Oskar Blues, whose flagship beer, the hop-forward Dale’s Pale Ale, has become synonymous with the concept.
Store shelves and restaurant coolers have been turning over space from bottles to cans ever since. The reasons for choosing canning over bottling are numerous and benefit both the brewery and the consumer.
From the brewery perspective, canning lines have a reputation as being more expensive than bottling operations. But, that higher up-front cost means a superior vessel to package and distribute the beer, making sure that the flavor doesn’t change from brewery loading dock to drinking glass.
Light is the enemy of beer, and the biggest benefit of cans is that they block out all light. While amber glass is more productive at screening out harmful rays than green or (gasp!) clear bottles, it’s nowhere close to being as effective as aluminum. Cans also have a tighter fit to keep oxygen out, which can be important when aging big beers like high alcohol stouts over a period of years.
In addition to quality control benefits, consumers appreciate cans due to their ruggedness and portability. It’s much easier to take cans on a camping trip or tailgating party.
Cans also chill faster than bottles, so the wait time before drinking is reduced. And while recycling efforts are improving, it’s still easier to find recycling options for aluminum cans than bottles, which also helps the environment.
Far too often, criticism of canning stems from the association of cans with “cheap” beers—the flavorless lagers that many of us watched our dads guzzle after Saturday afternoon lawn mowing.
Unfortunately, the price per six pack of craft beer doesn’t reflect savings when comparing cans to bottles. It’s still a rather expensive beverage, no matter how you package it.
Those nay-sayers against canning craft beer will often use the argument that the beer takes on metallic flavors from the can. If you’re pouring your canned beer into a glass before imbibing, you’ll find that argument doesn’t hold up.
With a nose stuck firmly into a pop-top ring, yes, the beer’s flavor may seem a bit off due to the steely aromas interfering with your sense of taste.
If you need proof that canning doesn’t adversely affect the flavor of beer, craft brew bible BeerAdvocate’s highest rated rated beer in the world is an Imperial India Pale Ale from Vermont brewery The Alchemist called Heady Topper. Heady Topper, the number one ranked beer, is exclusively available in cans.
What’s more, the brewery recommends that drinkers consume the floral, resinous, hoppy ale directly from the can, throwing dirt in the face of all conventional beer drinking wisdom.
In the coming weeks, Georgia beer aficionados will no longer have to settle for a Sweetwater 420 or Terrapin Recreation Ale when they want to drink local from a can.
They’ll be able to select beers like Ground Pounder Pale Ale from Service, Scattered Sun Belgian Wit from Southbound or one of the aforementioned beers from Coastal Empire, brewed and can-packaged right here in Savannah.
Think of those cans as mini-kegs, providing the best tasting beer possible from these creative local artisans. The fact that you can throw these locally made and packaged cans in a kayak and head out for a day paddling in the marsh is another happy benefit of being a Savannahian during this golden age of craft beer.