Sunday, December 30th 2012
13 Craft Cans to Look For in 2013
With 2012 coming to a close, its time to look ahead to 2013 and all the beers we have to look forward to. When it comes to canned craft beer, 2013 will certainly be a year in which we see more breweries, both new and established, putting their beers in cans. Already we know that there will be some big beers coming to cans next year and even one that's brewed with big balls. Whether you're a big fan of craft beer, a collector of craft beer cans, or both, there is certainly a lot to be excited about in the coming year. With that being said, here is our list of "13 Craft Cans to Look for in 2013!" Enjoy!
Brewery Vivant will be making some history when they can their Hubris Quadrupel Anniversary Ale. It will be the first of the style to be canned and at 11.5% it will be the strongest craft brew in a can to date. Hubris is made with "a copious amount of brown sugar" with "big caramel and brown sugar flavors swimming on top of one of Vivant's favorite Belgian yeast strains."
After a hoax that ended up becoming a real beer, Wynkoop will be brewing up more of their (in)famous Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout in 2013 - and this time they'll be putting it in hand-labeled cans as part of their "Even Smaller Batch Series". If you missed the story behind this beyond unique beer you can learn more HERE...and yes, this beer is made with real bull testicles.
ELEVATION TRIPLE INDIA PALE ALE
Voted "2nd Best Beer in Colorado for 2011" by the readers of Denver Off the Wagon, Renegade's E3 Elevation Triple India Pale Ale clocks in at 11% and over 100 IBUs thanks to massive amounts of Summit hops. Thankfully this huge beer will come in a manageable 12 oz. can!
Sporting another amazing design from the creative folks at Bend, Oregon's TBD Agency, 21st Amendment's Sneak Attack Saison will be giving your palate a break from all those porters and stouts this winter. The brewery's late-winter seasonal brew is a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale that is "dry hopped with whole organic cardamom pods....and has an assertive spiciness. In your face, winter."
One of the nation's best IPA's, Ballast Point's Sculpin, is headed to cans in 2013 and we're very much looking forward to getting our hands on some of these hoppy fish. Ballast Point purchased a canning line earlier this month and also has plans to can their Longfin Lager and Pale Ale.
"Made with Mast Brothers Chocolate cacao husks and infused with fresh Stumptown Coffee Roasters cold brew, and then aged on oak. Arriving late January in 12 oz sleek cans, and on draft....Its 2013, and the Mad Scientists have struck again." 3 Beans will be the brewery's second slim can release, which makes sense considering it weighs in at 10% alc., 77 IBUs, and filled to the brim with coffee and cocoa goodness.
Get ready for more resealable 16 oz. Alumi-Tek® bottles from Sun King. The Indiana brewers that were one of the first to design a can that could be customized and filled with multiple style has also designed an aluminum bottle for their "King's Reserve" series. The first beer to fill those bottles will be their award-winning Belgian-style Quadruple known as The Velvet Fog.
When it comes to hops, fresher is better. It doesn't get much fresher than this. Bale Breaker Brewing is located in the middle of a family hop farm right in the middle of Washington's Yakima Valley. Look for cans of their Top Cutter IPA and Field 41 Pale Ale in the coming months.
3 Gear is one of four cans that will soon be coming down the line at the new Tin Man Brewing Company in Evansville. A big, roasty porter that will come in a pint can, 3 Gear should make all the malt lovers out there happy and provide another much needed porter option in a can.
It was about a year ago that we did a Q & A with Alec Stefansky from Uncommon Brewers and he mentioned that they were looking to can their 14.5% "American Special Bitter" in "stubby" 8 oz. cans. Although it didn't happen in 2012 we're excited to see if little cans of this big brew hit shelves in 2013.
Maui's Aloha B'ak'tun is the brewery's latest seasonal canned release. It's a "Belgian style Stout brewed with Big Island chocolate, locally-grown chipotle peppers and cinnamon. This delicious stout is currently available on draft at the Maui Brewing Co. brewpub and is being canned for distribution to retailers by mid-January."
Clipper City plans to can several of their Heavy Seas beers in 2013. One that we're definitely excited about is their Loose Cannon IPA. A very solid, uber hoppy IPA that should be another great addition to the plethora of excellent IPAs now available in cans. Cans of Loose Cannong should hit shelves in the spring. Also, look for Davy Jones Lager, a summer seasonal, as well as their Imperial Oktoberfest in cans later in the year.
The one and only Sex Panther from SanTan. Designer Michal Mason did a great job turning the Sex Panther artwork into a great looking can design for this late winter seasonal. A double chocolate porter that's "brewed with Colonial Rosewood Cocoa and large amounts of Chocolate malt giving this beer a huge chocolaty flavor combined with hints of truffle and molasses. Summit hops are used to balance the sweetness and White Wheat is added to give Sex Panther a smooth, creamy head that lasts all night!" Cans will be released on January 7th!
Posted by Russ
Monday, August 27th 2012
Ska and Golden Road Take New Approach to Seasonal Offerings
Its now late summer and you've probably begun to notice something at your local beer store. Yep, all of those summer beers are being cleared out to make room for pumpkin ales, harvest ales, and Oktoberfests. This seasonal shift is happening all over the country with many craft breweries packaging the same familiar styles for each new season. Here we take a look at two breweries that have chosen to depart from the norm and take a whole new approach to "seasonal" offerings.
Ska Brewing out of Durango, Colorado is one of the more recognizable names in the craft brewing industry. They're celebrating 17 years of brewing this year and have been canning for a decade. Out in Los Angeles, Golden Road Brewing is the new kid on the block - the very cool and instantly popular new kid on the block. Not even a year old, Golden Road has taken the Southern California beer scene by storm and their name is on the lips of many craft beer lovers. So what do these two breweries have in common?
This week Ska Brewing will begin packaging their Autumnal Molé Stout, an absolutely irresistable sounding beer that's brewed with a variety of chile peppers, cocoa nibs, and spices. It represents the first of four canned stouts the brewery plans to release with each corresponding with either an equinox or a solstice.
Future releases, although not confirmed, may be a peppermint stout, an orange cream stout, and possibly a stout aged in merlot barrels. Each can will also feature the familiar artwork that is commonplace with all of Ska's releases. Not only are we excited for all four of these beers, we find this approach to "seasonal" offerings quite refreshing.
If you're a fan of hops you'll love what LA's Golden Road has planned for their take on "seasonal" offerings. They've just recently released a limited amount of their "Wolf Among Weeds" - an 8% IPA featuring four different hops - which is the first of four canned "Custom IPAs" they'll be releasing on a quarterly basis each of which will feature photos on the can designs. The beer is described on the Golden Road site as:
Without a huge amount of seasonal weather change driving the styles of beer they produce, Golden Road is focusing on one of craft beer's most beloved styles - the India Pale Ale. The next release in the series has us very excited as it will be a smoked IPA called "Burning Bush". Having never had a smoked IPA we're very intrigued.
Here is Golden Road's description:
So, whether you're a fan of things dark and malty or all things hoppy, Ska and Golden Road have you covered. They've both got some very interesting and unique beers coming out over the next year and all of them will be packaged in cans. Cheers!
Posted by Russ
Friday, July 13th 2012
Top 13 Most Unique Canned Beers
It wasn't long ago that the idea of canned craft beer centered around putting very approachable and relatively unoffensive brews in cans. It was all about appealing to the masses and very few breweries were willing to take the financial risk related to canning a beer that might not sell. Well, those days are gone and today's craft brewers are filling cans with plenty of beers that are pushing the envelope when it comes to creativity. Below we give you our "Top 25 Most Unique Canned Beers" simply to let the world know that today's canned craft beers are truly something worth celebrating and very different than those of the recent past. Cheers!
Why: Bacon! Do we need to go any further? This slightly smoky, slightly briney, malty brown ale is also certified organic - yep, even the bacon is organic! Uncommon Brewers describes the beer as "not a pork fetish product but just a tasty brown ale with a smooth bacon finish."
Availability: Year-round release available in CA, MA, PA, IL, NJ, NY, OH, OR and VA.
Bourbon's Barrel Stout | Great Crescent Brewery
Why: The first, and only, bourbon barrel-aged beer that is being canned today. A terrific blend of maltiness and vanilla with subtle bourbon notes. At 8% this is a perfect candidate for a snifter and a night in.
Availability: if you can get to the brewery we highly suggest it. If not, you may find some cans on shelves in Indiana, Northern Kentucky or Great Cincinnati.
Monk's Blood | 21st Amendment Brewery
(San Francisco, California)
Why: first off the beer is called Monk's Blood, secondly its sort of one of those beers that defies categorization. Described by the brewery as a "Belgian Dark Ale", Monk's Blood is brewed with a plethora of ingredients including; six different malts, three different hops, dark Belgian candi sugar, vanilla beans, dried mission figs, and to top it off its aged on oak chips. Shaun and Nico, Founders of 21st Amendment, actually traveled to Belgium to develop the recipe. This belongs in a fancy pants glass.
Availability: Monk's Blood is a limited release and has been brewed for canning twice by 21st Amendment. It was last released this past March. Cans were distributed to CA, OR, WA, AK, ID, MN, OH, MA, NY, NJ, DC, DE, MD, PA, VA, GA and NC. You may still find some on shelves...
HGH Part Duh | Oskar Blues Brewery
Why: HGH stands for Home Grown Hops and this hopped-up American Strong Ale was brewed with plenty of them. This was dry-hopped with Amarillo hops and finished with Nuggent and Centennial hops all grown on the brewery's nearby Hops and Heifers farm. It weighs in at 8% and packs 70 IBUs.
Availability: Limited Canned Release and only available at the brewery for a short period of time. Perhaps we'll see an HGH Part Three sometime in the future.
8-Bit Pale Ale | Tallgrass Brewing Company
Why: While Tallgrass' liquid ode to the Nintendo generation definitely has one of the most unique can designs out there, that isn't entirely why it makes this list. This refreshing and extremely tasty pale is brewed with Galaxy hops. The Australian hop cross-breed is not used that often in American craft beers and has a very unique aroma - think citrus and tropical fruits.
Availability: Available year-round. Tallgrass distibutes in 13 states including; KS, IA, AL, MS, OK, AR, MO, WI, MN, NE, ND, SD and MT.
Autumnation | Sixpoint Brewery
(Brooklyn, New York)
Why: a wet-hopped pumpkin ale. That says a lot right there. It's also brewed with ginger and white pepper to boot. This year, Sixpoint took it to another level by letting their fans vote on which hop they would use for this year's batch. Getting the most votes was the recent rock star of the hop world, Citra.
Availability: Fall Seasonal availabile in NY, MA, IL, PA, NJ, CT, MD, NH, OH, RI, VT, VA and DC.
Le Mort Vivant | Southern Star Brewing Company
Why: Translating as "The Living Dead", Le Mort Vivant is the first, and only, Biere de Garde style brew to be canned. It is brewedusing traditional techniques and an extended boil with French, German, Belgian and American malts; French and Czech hops; and a French yeast. A very historic brew with quite an international array of ingredients. This was also the first beer that Southern Star put in their multi-seasonal can.
Availability: Limited Release in Texas only.
Johan the Barleywine | Sun King Brewing Company
Why: Johan the Barleywine is unique for many reasons. This is the one and only American barleywine that has been canned. It was also the first beer that Sun King ever brewed and was aged for two years before being the first brew to see the inside of their specially designed multi-style can. Only 700 cans of this beer were produced. The name was an homage to a good friend of Sun King's brewers who had passed away.
Availability: Special release at the brewery only. Long gone.
Pumpkin Ale | Wild Onion Brewery
(Lake Barrington, IL)
Why: This was the first American pumpkin ale to be canned. A pretty big risk back in 2010 especially with a style that is seasonal and one that might not appeal to all palates. Nonetheless Wild Onion went for it and this 5.4% pumpkin ale is a great option for outdoor activities in the fall.
Availability: Fall Seasonal available in Illinois
WET | Surly Brewing Company
(Brooklyn Center, Minnesota)
Why: The first wet-hopped beer to be canned. WET is quite possibly our favorite beer from the Surly crew. Brewed with close to 5,000 pounds of Citra and Simcoe hops that are harvested in Washington and immediately flown to Minnesota where they're sacrificed for the sake of this hop-laden brew less than 72 hours later. Did we mention that the can looks like a giant hop cone? Well, it does.
Availability: October release only available in Minnesota
Zaison | Brewery Vivant
(Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Why: Zaison is not a Saison, no, its a "Super Saison"! A bigger, bolder take on the traditional Belgian style, Zaison is brewed with special yeast strain that gives it a bit of funk as well as tellicherry black peppercorns and orange peel. The peppercorns really come out in this 9% brew and do something very special. We loved it!
Availability: Special Release at the brewery.
Sobrehumano Palena 'Ole | Maui Brewing Company
Why: It's not often that two very well respected breweries get together and brew something altogether unique - well, maybe it is nowadays. Irregardless, Sobrehuman Palena 'Ole - which means superhuman in - is an incredible collaboration between Maui and Michigan's Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Brewed with cherries from Michigan and Hawaiian liliko'i (passionfruit). This tart and tangy red ale has an exceptional refreshing quality and is just about perfect on a hot summer's day. Also another unique brew shrouded in incredible looking can art.
Availability: Limited Release available in HI, CA, OR, WA, ID, NV, CO, MD, DE, VA and DC.
Posted by Russ
Wednesday, January 11th 2012
A Decade of Canned Craft Beer
Part 1: 2002-2007
This year we'll celebrate a decade of canned craft beer. As the industry continues the shift towards canning and a lot of of new breweries are choosing cans over bottles we wanted to take a look back at how we go to where we are today (close to 500 craft beers in cans from close to 150 different brewers). The first five years were very different than the second. We start with just one brewery canning just one beer and from there things begin to grow. Here is a brief, one could say canned, history of that first half decade. Cheers!
The Early Years
Oskar Blues is widely credited as being the first craft brewer to can their beer. This can be attributed to their being the first to can their beer "in-house" using their own canning line. A few other craft brewers however did try canning before 2002.
Back in 1991, a beer called Chief Oshkosh Red Lager from Mid-Coast Brewing Inc., was canned at Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconsin. It was an all-malt red/amber lager that sold for $3.99 a six-pack. Sadly, among other things, it was this early alternative packaging that led to it's ultimate demise. Seven years later in 1998 another Wisconsin brewery, Capital Brewery, first canned their Wisconsin Amber, which is still canned today, also with the help of Stevens Point Brewery. A few years after that, in 2001, Brooklyn Brewery began canning their Brooklyn Lager which they still brew and can off-premise. Other early craft brewers that took a stab at canning with the help of larger breweries with canning lines were Pete's, Pyramid and Saranac.
The modern era of canned craft beer is born. Now synonymous with the canned beer revolution, or what they call the "Canned Beer Apocalpyse", Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, a small brewpub in the tiny Colorado town of Lyons, takes a big risk by beginning to hand-can their hopped-up pale ale in an old barn.
The Oskar Blues story has been re-told countless times and yet it's so fitting of the successes that craft breweries have encountered over the years. Big risk equals big reward and with success comes followers - in the form of consumers and competitors. An on-line article from November of 2002 really sums up Oskar Blues' vision, even if they thought it was laughable at the time, of what cans could/would mean to the craft beer industry. These quotes from brewmaster Brian Lutz and Oskar Blues owner, and Dale's Pale Ale namesake, Dale Katechis still ring true today and continue to be part of the branding and marketing of many canned craft beers.
It wasn't long after Dale's Pale Ale started appearing on shelves and delivering looks of confusion that several other Colorado breweries also started canning their beer. Durango's SKA Brewing released their Special ESB in its familiar red can during the summer of 2003. Later that year came cans from yet another Colorado brewer. Short lived, yet one of the first to be canned, was Tommyknocker Brewing's Ornery Amber Ale. It can be said that Colorado was the leader in canning from the very beginning. Today there are twenty breweries in the state canning over sixty different beers. 2003 also saw the first can of Choc 1919 from Pete's Place/Krebs in Oklahoma. The only beer they ever canned, it would be available in until 2010 when canning ceased.
In 2004 the industry began to take notice of what was going on in Colorado and several breweries started taking the idea of canning seriously. With the help of Cask Brewing Systems, makers of the small canning lines used by almost all craft brewers in the 2000s, small breweries were able to package their beers without investing in a costly and space consuming bottling line. Breweries like Connecticut's New England Brewing Company, Alaska's Sleeping Lady Brewing Company, Michigan's Keweenaw Brewing, Rhode Island's Newport Storm, and Colorado's Pug Ryan's Brewery all started canning in 2004.
A number of breweries that have since stopped canning or folded also released cans this year. Collectors and craft beer drinkers may remember cans of Stone Coast Sunsplash Golden Ale, Warbird Red, pint cans of Hopluia and Archer's Ale from Massachusetts' Sherwood Forest Brewers.
Also in 2004, Oskar Blues released their second canned offering, a Scotch Ale, called Old Chub and Dale's Pale Ale gets a makeover more reminscent of the look it has today.
A few years out from the initial canning of Dale's Pale Ale and Oskar Blues is starting to get some press. The stigma against cans is very much alive and well in the craft beer consumer world but things are beginning to change. It was in 2005 that the New York Times did a piece in which they sampled 24 different American Pale Ales and chose Dale's Pale Ale as the best and went on to tout the so-called benefits of cans. Other brewers that also saw those benefits and began canning that year were Heiner Brau in Louisiana (who still can their Kolsch), Cottrell Brewing in CT (no longer canning), Top of the Hill in NC (no longer canning), Ukiah Brewing (first canning brewery in California and the first to can an organic beer) and of course Ashland, Oregon's Caldera Brewing Company.
With the continued success of Dale's Pale Ale and the addition of Old Chub to their lineup Oskar Blues' released two special canned beers this year. A super hoppy brew called Gordon and a dark, malty brown ale called Leroy hit shelves in limited supply around the holidays. Both were filled, sealed and labeled by hand. One was to go on to be one of the first big, hoppy beers to be canned while the other disappeared and was never seen again. What ever happened to Leroy?
A big year for cans. 2006 saw some of the major players in the canned craft beer world come on board. Breweries like Sly Fox, 21st Amendment and Surly, three of the more prolific canning craft brewers, all released their first cans in this year. This was also the year that a small Hawai'ian brewery called Maui Brewing Company chose to put their beers in cans in an effort to be more sustainable and to keep broken glass off nearby beaches. Montana's Kettlehouse Brewery begins putting their beers in 16 oz. cans, one of the first craft brewers to do so, and becomes the state's first canning craft brewery. Two of their first cans were Fresh Bong Water Hemp Pale Ale and Olde Bong Water Hemp Porter. Perhaps we'll see those in cans again one day - if the TTB allows it. The first cans also came off the line at Carolina Brewery in North Carolina, Butternuts in New York, Bohemian Brewery in Utah (who now can three amazing lager beers), Steamworks in Colorado as well as Mudshark Brewing in Arizona.
2006 was the year that Oskar Blues gave Gordon a shiny new makeover and it was added to their regular canned lineup. A few new breweries came into existance this year and released some cans. Breweries such as California's David's Ale Works and North Carolina's Cans Bar and Canteen both released cans in this year but both stopped canning and/or shut down not soon after.
It's 2007 and entering this year there are a about twenty-five craft breweries actively canning their beers. Surprisingly it is a rather slow year when it comes to new breweries beginning to can. A brewpub in Iowa City, IA called Old Capitol Brew Works began canning and released a number of paper-labeled cans. Ultimately they stopped canning but the folks who started Great River Brewery (makers of great beers in cans) both started their careers in beer at Old Capitol. Although no current canning breweries began cannning this year many of those that were already canning added new cans to their lineups. Beers such as Caldera's IPA, Butternuts' Moo Thunder Stout, and Surly's CynicAle were all first released in cans in 2007.
The first five year's of craft canning were full of trial and error and trying to find ways to market cans to a rather skeptical market. Dealing with large can orders and finding the space to store the cans were definitely factors that still turned off many craft brewers from working with cans. In the first five year's after Dale's was first released by Oskar Blues, 28 other breweries and brewpubs gave canning a shot. Including Oskar Blues, twenty of them still can their beers today.
A Look Ahead
The next five years will see a lot of change in the craft beer industry, the public's opinion on cans and the sheer number of cans on beer store shelves. We'll see a new canning line manufacturer emerge, more adventurous styles being canned, the idea of "mobile" canning and some of craft beers largest contributors starting to can some of their beers. Much of the groundwork of today's canned craft beer segment was laid down early on. Much respect to those breweries who were the first to see the benefits of canning and for sticking out some tough years. From 2008 until the end of 2011 well over a hundred breweries will start canning and the number of craft beers in cans will increase ten-fold. This will be the era in which canned craft beer finds acceptance and its market share gets noticed.
To be continued...
Posted by Russ
Wednesday, December 28th 2011
Sam Adams in Cans? One day soon...
Jim Koch has been known to change his feelings about beer in the past. He once denounced the idea of a Sam Adams Light but the brand became a reality in the end. He's also included cans in his list of Sam Adams no-no's. Something that will very likely become a yes-yes in the near future.
In a recent article by Daniel Fromson in the Washington Post it was (sort of) made clear that Sam Adams is in fact pursuing the idea of canning their beers. It's quite interesting to note that the nation's largest American-owned brewery is intending to change how cans are lined in order to meet Jim's requirements.
So what is the deal? Okay, so Jim has gotten over the fact that good beer can indeed come in a can so what is wrong with the current beer cans? They seem to be doing a good enough job for lots of amazing beers. Here you go...
We do love Daniel's line about how "many brewers disagree with him" and it has been proven many times over that great beer, including many very hoppy beers, tastes excellent from a can. So, where is all this going? Well, say what you will about Jim Koch and Sam Adams this does have some implications for the craft brewing industry, the consumer and all those breweries that are already canning their beers.
If a new can lining is developed specifically for the needs of Sam Adams it will be interesting to see if it becomes the staple and/or if they use it as a marketing tool. Jim Koch has also been an opponent of cans in the past due to BPA in the linings and has mentioned that cans of Sam Adams would come when this was no longer an issue. Whether or not this is in fact something they're addressing with this new can lining is yet to be determined. It is obviously not an easy thing to remove entirely or it would have been done by now.
We've actually written to Boston Beer Company in the past to ask them about the possibility of their canning some of their beers and were met with this canned response (no pun intended, seriously):
Let's fast forward a year. You walk into your local beer store and see cans of Sam Adams Boston Lager sitting in the cooler. What are your thoughts? Well, as a craft beer lover you may not really care as you probably haven't bought a six-pack of Boston Lager in awhile (or maybe you have, who knows). But, if you're the average consumer (sorry, hate to say it) you may see those cans and think to yourself, "wow, a good beer in a can!". Cans of Sam Adams will certainly have a profound impact on the consumer base and as a result they'll have an impact on the craft beer world as a whole. Sam Adams takes from other craft brewers and vice-versa. Cans of Boston Lager would likely push other regional craft brewers, that aren't already canning, to perhaps consider how a move to cans might help their bottom line.
In the end, cans of Boston Lager, and/or other Sam Adams brands, may be on shelves this summer or they could be on shelves sometime in the spring of 2014 (okay, that might not qualify as "soon"). Who really knows? Just know that it is going to happen. I guess what you take away from all of this is that, yes, Jim Koch has a lot of influence and, yes, cans are certainly here to stay. You may never buy cans of Sam Adams or maybe you can't wait to do just that. Wherever you may stand on the matter it's hard to argue that what Jim Koch does is going to imact the craft beer industry as a whole. They have sway. If Sam Adams begins canning you can bet that other brewers will take note and consumers will certainly be impacted. Which may be a good thing. Cheers!
Posted by Russ