Drink Craft Beer
Years ago, it was revolutionary when Oskar Blues started canning their beers. Recently, though, craft brewers have embraced this packaging format and every year seems to bring more and more good beer in cans. We’re at the point where even Samuel Adams whose founder, Jim Koch, said only recently that they would never can their beer is now putting brew into cans. With the format becoming more popular there’s a contingent of people who say they taste metallic notes in canned beer and those who say you can’t.
I’ve talked to beer packaging experts as well as brewers about this, and their consensus is that cans don’t impart flavor. The lining in cans is a water-based polymer that doesn’t interact with beer. Furthermore, this lining prevents beer from ever touching the metal in the can which, it turns out, is a good thing. The aluminum in modern cans is so thin that, if the lining was to allow beer through, the beer would eat through the metal before you could get it home from the store.
With that said, we thought this was an experiment worth running. So let’s see how it turns out!
We've got four different beers, ranging from a simple craft lager to an IPA. All beers will be poured into an identical glass; we're testing whether cans or bottles effect the actual taste of the beer, not how the presentation effects the perceived taste. The beer will be poured and photographed away from me, so I can’t see which is which (in case there are any noticeable differences after pouring). I will know what beer I’m getting and any information that’s on the bottle/can. They’ll be served to me with a nondescript notation so that I can’t tell based on how the beer is labelled. I’ll get both beers at the same time, side by side, so that I can compare.
Cisco Summer of Lager
Appearance: Glass #1 has a clear, golden hue to the beer with a thin film of bubbles on top of it. There’s a bit of lacing on the side of the glass as you drink the beer, but not too much.
Smell: There’s a sweet, slightly malty note to this one with just a touch of fruity hops perhaps. That could just be the yeast, though. It’s a little bready, almost like walking into a bakery where a lot of loaves are in the oven.
Taste: Just as it smells, it’s light and mildly sweet. There’s some nice malt to it, but it’s definitely understated. This is one that I could drink a lot of, it finishes with only a hint of aftertaste lingering in the back of your throat and bubbles you can feel scrubbing your tongue.
Appearance: Glass #2 looks the same as Glass #1, except there’s about two fingers of pure white head that is just lingering and lingering. As the beer disappears down my throat, the head does not, coating the sides of the glass the whole way through.
Smell: Glass #2 doesn’t smell quite as sweet as Glass #1. It’s got a brighter, less bready aroma to it and the aroma is much cleaner. It still has a slightly fruity thing going on, again perhaps from the yeast.
Taste: Again, just like the smell, this one is a good bit brighter than Glass #1 and less sweet. The carbonation isn’t quite as strong, but he aftertaste lingers just the same...a drying presence in the back of my throat. Overall Glass #2 leaves my mouth significantly drier, probably from the reduced sweetness. Glass #2 is also a bit more minerally, which is contributing to that increase in perceived brightness.
Which is canned?
Honestly I’m not sure. I don’t pick up any metallic tastes or smells from either one. The differences between the two could be batch variation, as the cans are brewed and packaged at different facility than the bottles...or it could be something else...but none of it strikes me as the metallic notes that are typically thought of as indicative of cans. I’ll pick Glass #2 because it seems a bit fresher and cans allow less air to get in. But, again, I’m just not sure. Neither seems “canny.”
Result - Glass #2 is canned. Jeff is correct.
Appearance: Glass #1 is a light, bright yellow color clear as day. And, just like a bright, clear day there are little wisps of white bubbles on top, just like a few lonely clouds in the sky.
Smell: The smell is clean, almost too clean. There’s a hint of citrus in here...lemon it seems like. Finally, I’m getting a bit of tang at the very end of the smell, but I’m not sure where it’s coming from.
Taste: Again, that lemony fruitness is back. It’s not strong, but it’s there: right up front, then again in the aftertaste. In between, there’s a wheat-like chalkiness. This is a dry, super-crisp beer with fairly strong carbonation.
Appearance: Glass #2 looks exactly like Glass #1.
Smell: If Glass #1 smelled clean, Glass #2 is somehow even cleaner. I’m not picking up much of anything, if I’m being honest. As it warms you’ll find a bit of that lemon from Glass #1, but that’s about it.
Taste: The lemon is slightly stronger in Glass #2 than it was in #1. It’s more persistent of a flavor than it was in Glass #1, but the wheat is still there in the mid-palate. That said, Glass #1 and Glass #2 are really similar.
Which is canned?
I’m even less sure than the last case! At least in that last one there was a difference in sweetness, which can possibly indicate oxygen exposure. I know that these two beers are brewed at the same place, as I’ve seen Wachusett’s canning line. Here it’s just a difference in lemonyness (is that even a word?) which is almost definitely just batch variation. Even if it’s not, I’m not sure what that would mean as far as can vs. glass. I’ll say Glass #1 is canned, as some people think the liners in cans might absorb flavor? But I’m just guessing here.
Result - Glass #2 is canned. Jeff is wrong.
Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Appearance: Glass #1 is a robust amber color that is, again, clear enough to read the logo on the glass through. The head is cream-colored and big enough to overflow the glass yet thick enough to not stream down the side. Even halfway through drinking the glass, there is still a ring of foam around the top, sticking to the glass.
Smell: This is definitely a lager, without any yeasty fruitiness in the aroma and that familiar smell that is almost sulfury that seems the be ever-present in lagers. There’s a bit of spicy hops here, but they’re nice and balanced.
Taste: Again, this is definitely a lager. It doesn’t have the yeasty esther notes that even filtered ales have. It’s smooth, with quite mild carbonation and a hoppiness that stays with you throughout the sip, but never overwhelms. The beer isn’t sweet nor is it hoppy. It’s just flavorful, with malt reminiscent of rustic German bread.
Appearance: The color on this beer is identical to Glass #1 (even with the glasses next to eash other), but the head is highly diminished. There’s a bit of lacing around the side, but it’s much thinner than on Glass #1.
Smell: Unlike Glass #1, Glass #2 has much less in this department. The smell is milder, the hops aren’t nearly as strong and the lagery, almost sulfury aroma just isn’t there. Is this the same beer?
Taste: OK...this might be the same beer. The flavor profile is definitely close, but there are different highlights. First, there’s a lot more carbonation here. Glass #1 felt almost like cask ale, but Glass #2 has prickly, sturdy carbonation that hits the roof of your mouth with a pop. The hops are there as well, similar to Glass #1 and that lager taste is definitely back. Aside from the carbonation, these beers identical in taste.
Which is canned?
I have no idea at all! The only difference is carbonation. And that may be just due to the larger head on Glass #1. Even though they were poured together as similarly as possible, maybe one vessel agitated the beer more? I don’t know, I can’t even make a guess here. I have no idea.
Result - Glass #1 is canned. Jeff is wrong as he didn’t even make a guess.
Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale
Appearance: Again, the beer is clear clear clear with a copper tone to it. A big, off-white head perches on top, just sitting there looking delicious.
Smell: Hops. Yep, that’s pretty much it: a bag of hops. It’s a little fruity smelling, with tropical notes coming through. It smells just like an American IPA.
Taste: And there are still hops here. It’s a little sweeter than I expected from the smell, but not by much. There’s some decent hop bitterness and a resin that sticks through the back of the throat. The malt is pretty light, with hops being the predominant flavor here, but those hops are a little more piney than the smell.
Appearance: Glass #2 is really similar to Glass #1, except there’s only a thin memory of head here and the liquid is a little darker.
Smell: The hops are way milder on the nose in this one. There’s some malt that comes through here, although it’s still in the background and just a hint of mustiness.
Taste: There’s less bitterness in Glass #2. The beer is sweeter, probably because of the lowered bitterness. Also, the flavor of the hops is lighter, which is to be expected since there’s so much less hop aroma. That resiny feeling on the back of the throat is still here, but it’s diminished. And the musty smell I got? It’s here a little bit, but accompanied by a bit of minerality.
Which is canned?
Again, neither beer has any metallic tastes that people seem to associate with cans, but the closest I can come to metallic is the minerality in Glass #2. Sometimes those two flavors can be confused. That said, if cans are supposed to reduce oxygen exposure, the brighter, more fresh hop flavors in Glass #1 would seem to point to that one being the can. So, basically, my decision comes down to whether I think the mineraly/metallic flavors or the brighter hop flavors come from the can. Given what I know about the polymer can linings, I’m going to guess that the increased hop flavor and freshness is from the can.
Result - Glass #1 is canned. Jeff is correct.
I ended up getting half correct and half wrong...although I couldn’t even make a guess on one of the beers. 50/50 is what you’d expect if I was just guessing, so it seems that I couldn’t tell which was which. I didn’t pick up any metallic flavors in any of the beers that weren’t there across both glasses. After knowing the results, it seems that cans gave beer more head, possibly because you have to pour over a raised lip which agitated the beer, as opposed to a smooth glass bottle top? Either way, I couldn’t find any of the alleged flavors that people claim to get from cans. There were definitely flavor variations between the bottles and cans, but that could be chalked up to batch variation, differences resulting from contracting the beer out to facilities with a canning line or other reasons.
We’d love to hear from our readers, though. What do you think? Do you notice metallic flavors when you drink beers that have been canned? Let us know.
You know when you just want a beer but you don’t want to think about it? Rather you want to be able to be outside playing baggo or wiffleball? Or maybe you want to socialize with friends and family? Whatever the activity, if it’s a situation where beer is a second thought to what’s at hand, don’t reach for some mass market lager because I’ve found your what you want! I first had Victory Summer Love at a big family gathering, and downed quite a few straight from the bottle while keeping busy in the yard with my cousins. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the details.
Crystal clear, light and a wispy head that quickly fades? If you didn’t know better you’d think I was describing something that was much less appealing. Having had this quite a few times, though, I’ll tell you to ignore any worry as this is a great beer for socializing and playing wiffle ball!
I hate to say this, because we all know that beer is a super diverse drink, but this smells like beer. There’s a bit of malt in it, very little hops and the well known mark of yeast having caused fermentation. You can tell it’s an ale as there’s a bit of fruitiness to the nose but, other than that, it’s a fairly neutral beer.
So I told you this was a great beer that you didn’t have to think about. The carbonation is smooth and not overwhelming. The hops provide a bit of flavor, but there’s nothing challenging about them. The malt is a bit sweet, balancing the hops, and has a great biscuity flavor. Over all, this is one of those beers that’s a delicious social lubricant. Don’t worry too much about it, just enjoy it! Cheers!
For the very first time, New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing Company will be offering a subscription to get a case of each Big Beer they put out in 2009. The lineup is:
- Gravitation Belgian Quad (New Release) - early January, 2009
- Imperial Stout - mid February
- Maibock - late March
- Baltic Porter - Early May
- Farmhouse Ale - late June
- Big A IPA - early August
- Wheat Wine - mid September
- Barley Wine - early November
- S'Muttonator Double Bock - early December, 2009
This is one of the finest brewers on the East Coast, and each edition of their Big Beer Series is limited and often hard to get if you don't act right away... Their Big A has been known to sell out of stores within a week of release (and some stores sell out in a day). This subscription will ensure you get some of each one.
The downside? You have to buy a case of each and you have to pick it up at the Brewery. But, they will be having beer socials for the release of each brew. For all the details, check out the website here.
It's no secret that we're big fans of local beer. So, when we found out Sherwood Forest was launching a new beer, Sheriff's IPA, we wanted to get the inside scoop. Sherwood Forest was one of the very first breweries to start canning craft beer with their Archer's Ale (pictured in bottle form on the right). We spoke with Dave Lambert, the owner of Sherwood Forest, about the launch of the new product. It turns out that the launch of Sheriff's IPA is just one of a few new products coming out. Read the full interview bellow:
DCB: First of all we noticed you're expanding your offerings. What made you decide to launch Sheriff's IPA and can you give us any details on this new offering?
Dave Lambert: We decided to come out with this due to a lot of feedback from our loyal fans and distributors. We have had only one style since we started back in1997, at that time we focused on getting the archer ale right and making a quality consistent English Ale. Once we felt we had been able to do that successfully we then decided to branch out to another style. With the IPA there is much more acceptance of this style and more and more are discovering that a well balanced hoppy IPA is a wonderful experience. Sheriff's uses Centennial, Cascade and Nugget with domestic 2 row pale malt and English Caramalt the result is an ABV of 6.0% and produces an American India Pale Ale, a bitterness, flavor and aroma dominated by these hops yet balanced with premium English specialty malts. A deep golden copper, clear and precise is the result and one that fits into our theme with the Sheriff!
DCB: Who/what inspired you to own a brewery? For Jon (Sherwood Forest's Brewer) or you, who/what inspired you to start brewing?
Dave Lambert: We just loved beer and both of us home brewed before we got into the business. We knew nothing about distribution or selling or anything else that goes into building a successful brewery. We just knew that we enjoyed beer and the process of making it!
DCB: Do you or have you homebrewed? If so, what was your most recent batch?
Dave Lambert: Yes we both have homebrewed; I have not done it now in over 3 years as Jon is in charge now of all of the test batch brews. I still have my homebrew system but have been to busy lately with building the business!
DCB: One trend that seems to be growing right now is the double/imperialization of almost every style. What's your take on this trend? Is this just a brewing fad or something you think will stick around?
Dave Lambert: I think that you stick with the basics when it comes to brewing; we have been probably too conservative in what we do; but we know what our customers look for from us. I think that this is more of a luxury to those that do doubles etc...we try to run a tight ship and we watch everything that we do and this does not fit into who we are.
DCB: Back in April 2006 you spoke with the Boston Globe about cannedbeer. At the time it was a tough sell for some accounts. Is that still the case, or have you seen a change in the market now that more breweries are moving to cans?
Dave Lambert: We were the 2nd company to do the canning in all of the U.S.; there was us and Dale's and that was it. When I spoke back then many did not understand why you would take a craft brewed ale and put it into a can! Fast forward to today there are now many small craft breweries canning and it is becoming much more accepted here in the U.S. as a unique way to package great craft brewed ales and lagers. We just loved the idea of drinking our product from a can while still realizing that the taste profile and flavor are not affected by the can at all. We have many customers who drink only the can which is great to see! So when I mentioned that it was a tough sell this was because we were the only ones out here on the East Coast out there all alone. Now we have many more who have come to see this as a great craft package!
DCB: Do you see yourself expanding your market? If so, where to?
Dave Lambert: Yes; currently we are in MA,CT,RI and NH so this is a lot to handle as is, but we have gotten many request to expand this distribution footprint but are just not in a position right now to produce enough product, this may change in the next year or two but right now we are pretty busy with what we have.
DCB: Coming back to your new beer offerings, how do you decide on which beer to bring to market? Is it driven by a desire to bring out a certain style? How many tests do you go through before the right beer is made?
Dave Lambert: This is a decision that our board makes! Jon and I!!! We both love IPA's and always wanted to bring our own to the market. Many of our loyal fans asked us for another style and we wanted to have one that even if it did not do well we could have a hefty supply for our own consumption!!
DCB: Adding a new brand is always a big move, but is there anything else other than the IPA in the near horizon?
Dave Lambert: Yes, Friar's Belgian White and Maiden's Blueberry
DCB: Anything else we should know about?
Dave Lambert: We are just a couple of guys getting up every day and loving what we do while trying to make sure we keep the Sheriff at Bay!!!
So there you have it! We've tried the Archer's Ale, in fact we drank a couple over the 4th of July and it's quite tasty, so give it a shot next time you see it. We haven't tried the IPA yet as it wasn't yet out at the time of this interview, but keep a look out for it at your favorite store.
Hey all you craft beer drinkers! It's that time again! What time? New Beer of the Month from Amazing Clubs time! Yeah... we know, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But the beer... The beer tastes good. So let's get to it!
This month, we've got beer from High Country Brewing Company and Farmington River Brewing Company, made by Mercury Brewing Company. High Country sends their Blowing Rock Ale and Blowing Rock Bock, while Farmington River has their Blonde Ale and Brown Ale. With that in mind, let's get to the beer!
High Country Blowing Rock Ale
Appearance: Light golden
Smell Biscuity light honey notes
Taste: This tatses more like a lager than an ale to us, but it's really nice. Light and hoppy with a light honey like finish. Really tasty beer.