Why Aren’t There More Good Microbrews in Cans?

Why aren’t there more good micros in cans?

In the past, you could only get beer of the Bud and Miller variety in cans. This was partly because aluminum cans tended to impart a slightly metallic taste to the suds, and partly because of a perception in the marketplace that “good” beer came in bottles. In recent years, however, regional microbreweries such as Minnesota’s Surly and Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox have begun offering craft beers in crushable cans. They’re using new low-cost, hand-canning systems from Cask Brewing Systems and cans with a special coating that makes for fresher-tasting beer.

But chances are many people have still never tasted a micro in a can, because many of those beers aren’t widely available outside their geographic areas. The big microbreweries like Rogue, Dogfish Head, and Sierra Nevada have stuck to glass. Why?

Because it’s cheaper not to change, explains Ray Daniels, director of the Cicerone Certification Program, which will begin training beer sommeliers in October. To make large-scale canning profitable, companies must manufacture thousands of cases daily on equipment costing “multiple millions of dollars.” There’s no middle ground, he adds, between hand-canning systems like the little guys use and ones employed by behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch, which means larger craft brewers are priced out.

Even if a cheaper canning method were available, there’s still the perception problem: “Glass carries a better general image with craft beer drinkers,” says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, a trade organization for the craft brewing industry.