Have beer, will travel

Craft beer in a cooler? Can do!
By JOSH SMITH  |  June 2, 2010

Culture and experience have taught us that beer in a can is of lesser quality. But with several craft brewers' recent foray into the world of canning, it may be time to put this crude stereotype to bed.

It is true that once upon a time, cans were exclusively the domain of macro-lagers. No more. The advent of micro-canning technology in 2001 and the ability to place smaller orders of aluminum cans have allowed the little guys to join the party, and dozens of craft brewers have opted for cans over bottles, all across the country.

Nevertheless, the social stigma surrounding canned beers remains. Beyond underlying class prejudices is the lie that beer in a can has a metallic taste to it. However, the polymer coating that is sprayed on the inside prevents any liquid from making contact with the aluminum. I can say without bragging that I have a fairly well-attuned palate, and cannot tell a beer's origin once poured in a glass.

In fact, there are several advantages to cans over bottles. For starters, it is more difficult for oxygen or light to enter a can, the main reasons that a beer may become damaged, or "skunked." Cans are even good for Mother Earth — chilling quicker in the refrigerator, lighter to ship, and much easier to recycle.

Obviously the biggest argument in favor of cans is that they can go where bottles cannot. Whether you are going camping or hiking, to the beach or the park, cans are ideal for your upcoming trips this summer. Lighter to carry and much harder to break, cans are a staple in this outdoorsman's cooler.

Blazing the trail for the can movement is OSKAR BLUES brewery of Colorado. Their flagship DALE'S PALE ALE is a perfect beer in my opinion for its big flavor of piney and citric hops and sweet malts. OLD CHUB, a Scottish Ale, and TEN FIDY, a Russian Imperial Stout, also receive high marks as formidable styles that pack a punch. With a portfolio that also includes Imperial IPAs and a Czech Pilsner, Oskar Blues is a versatile, elite brewer worthy of the often high price tag.

But Oskar Blues isn't the only brewer that has figured out how to cram a whole lot of hops into a little can. Oregon's CALDERA IPA is as flavorful as Dale's, with the hops taking on more of a grapefruit inflection. 21ST AMENDMENT IPA from San Francisco works as more of a sessionable IPA, but I can't say I endorse their HELL OR HIGH WATERMELON WHEAT BEER. Some things simply don't belong in beer, and I count watermelon among them.

CENTRAL CITY RED RACER IPA of British Columbia, Canada manages to incorporate all of these different hop flavors — pine, citrus, grapefruit — to create one intense IPA. Their namesake PALE ALE doesn't hold up to similar scrutiny, but not many beers do.

Out east, BUTTERNUTS BEER AND ALE jumps out at you walking down the craft beer aisle with its brightly colored cartoon characters adorning the can. The names follow suit: SNAPPERHEAD IPA, PORKSLAP PALE, HEINNIEWEISSE WEISSEBIER, and MOO THUNDER STOUT. Butternuts will do in a pinch, but even better is Pennsylvania's SLY FOX PIKELAND PILS, a bready yet spicy German pilsner that is entirely sessionable.

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