Credit: Riverfront Times

One of the benefits to doing tours at the Schlafly Tap Room is that I often get to meet a bunch of people that haven’t been exposed to the huge world that is craft beer.  It’s also interesting to see some of the reactions that take place when I mention that Schlafly has just release their Summer Lager in a can. Sometimes that reaction is joy, but a lot of times it comes across as a sour look.

It’s at that point that I have to stop the tour and clear up their misconception of canned beer.  So, with the addition of more and more canned craft beer coming into the St. Louis area, it maybe it’s time to do it on a larger scale, to explain some of the advantages and disadvantages.  First, let’s lay out some of the things canned craft beer is not:

Isn’t canned beer supposed to be cheaper?
At some point in your life, I’m sure you’ve had to purchase a large amount of macro beer for a party. You’ve quickly noticed that buying canned beer is usually much cheaper than buying beer in bottles. Why is this? It’s simply the economics of scale. When you’re brewing over a 100 million barrels of beer each year, you’re going to need hundreds of millions (and possibly even billions) of cans. When you’re buying that many cans, the price decreases.

Local brewers just aren’t going to have the warehouse space to purchase the hundreds of thousands of cans necessary to drop the price and lower the cost for the beer as a whole. Not to mention the fact that neither brewer is canning these beers locally, they’re currently having the beers contract brewed at Steven’s Point Brewery in Wisconsin. That adds additional shipping and contract costs.

Don’t beer cans use BPA?
You’re right, they do. The companies that currently make beer cans are looking into new can liners that don’t contain Bisphenol A, but if BPA is a concern, then you probably should avoid cans for the time being.

Bleh, beer out of a can tastes like metal!
That’s because you’re committing a cardinal sin when it comes to drinking craft beer, you’re drinking it out of the can or bottle. Think back to the times you had a stuffy nose, remember how everything you tasted was a muted version of what you normally taste? That’s because your sense of taste is completely tied into smell.

When you wrap your lips around a bottle or can, you’re creating a seal that keeps the beer’s aroma from reaching your nose. If you can’t smell, you’re not going to fully enjoy the beer as it was intended. As mentioned above, the can or bottle is merely a transportation device to move the beer from the brewery into your glass.

Now, are there going to be times when you can’t pour it into a glass? Sure, which brings us to one of the reasons canned beer is so great:

This is probably the main reason most craft breweries have begun canning beer. Canned beer can go places bottled beer cannot. The park, beach, pool, float trips; basically any place that bottles aren’t allowed, cans can happily live. They’re just about the perfect summer beer vessel.

This also means that you may on occasion have to drink out of the can. Obviously it’s not the preferred method of drinking your beer, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

No Light.
Light is probably the biggest enemy of beer. In just a short time, light is the thing that can make that wonderfully hoppy beer you’re drinking turn into something that smells like it came out of the backside of a skunk. This is one of the best places where canned beer excels, because it allows no light to hit your beer as it’s sitting at your favorite retail establishment.

Beer’s other big enemy. Oxygen is a bit of a toss-up as far as cans are concerned. When a brewer purges the bottle with CO2 to remove the oxygen, it pushes all of the oxygen out of a small opening. Cans are a bit more tricky as they have a larger opening which means it’s more difficult to get all of the oxygen out.

But, if most of the oxygen is removed, you’re left with a vessel that is airtight and will keep oxidation to a minimum. Another great aspect of the can.

Cans are lighter than bottles, which means you can ship more at a time, which means you can save extra trips back and forth from the brewery to the distributor. Cans are also easier to recycle and easier to chill down, both huge savings to using energy.

Are cans the ultimate device for transporting beer? That’s really up for you to decide. There are certainly a lot of advantages, but there are some disadvantages as well. Personally, I think they’re pretty swell and I’m always looking forward to more canned craft beer in St. Louis.