Samuel Adams in a Can

Sam Can_SketchCraft brewers have debated putting beer in bottles vs. cans for years.  On one side of the aisle, you have purists who think that cans are meant to carry mass domestic beer. On the other side, brewers who see the benefits – a can is lighter weight, blocks out sunlight and enables you to take beer places where glass bottles aren’t allowed.  There’s even a website dedicated to “news and reviews for the canned beer revolution.”

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve been a purist about putting Sam Adams in a can.  I wasn’t convinced that the beer would taste as good as it does from a bottle.  I had flavor concerns based on my own experiences. 

The debate has moved from brewers to our drinkers, and we threw wood on the fire a few weeks ago when word got out that we’ve decided to put Boston Lager in cans.  We saw comments posted to beer forums, mainly from craft beer drinkers who welcome the change.  The feedback on Facebook was mixed and fans repeatedly asked the same question: why?

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to address some of those concerns and explain why we’re making a change.

Why now?

My friends, Dale Katechis and Marty Jones at Oskar Blues, pioneered the process of canning craft beers, and I’m grateful for their early ingenuity. They took a chance when many brewers, including myself, stuck to using good ole’ glass bottles.  Over the years, as can technologies continued to improve, more and more craft brewers decided to offer their beer in cans.

I knew that when I took this leap of faith, I wanted to do it in a way that would be true to Sam Adams.  So two years ago we put together a team including our brewers and an industrial design firm to see if there was any way to improve the standard beverage can for the taste of a full flavored beer like Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

To me, the standard beverage can is sort of like the standard pint glass. It works just fine and is familiar and reliable. But, as the generic option, it may not be the best choice for a more flavorful beer. Eventually, we brought in sensory experts to validate our new can design. The goal: to develop a new can design that would give our drinkers the best tasting Sam Adams in a can. The result of several years of research and testing is a new design, which we’re calling the Sam Can.

What’s the benefit of a can?

Ask any craft brewer that puts their beer in cans and they’ll tell you the same thing.  First and foremost, you can take cans to places where bottles can’t go like the beach, hiking, golfing, boating and BBQs.  Cans also protect the liquid from sunlight and oxidation which can compromise the flavor of the beer.

What’s different about this can?

The new can design aims to provide a drinking experience that is a little closer to the taste and comfort of drinking beer from a glass. What you’ll notice:

  • The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.
  • The can opening is located slightly farther away from the edge of the lid, placing it closer to the drinker’s nose to help accentuate the hop aromas.
  • The hourglass ridge creates turbulence (like our patented Perfect Pint glass) which “pushes flavor out of the beer” and the extended lip places the beer at the front of your palate to maximize enjoyment of the sweetness from the malt.
The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.

The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.

All of these aspects of the new can work in concert to allow more airflow – and most importantly aroma – which enhances the flavor of the beer (have you ever tried tasting food when you’re stuffed up and can’t smell it?).

Our new can design required a million dollar investment in special equipment tooling along with time, research and testing.  We think that the difference will be a subtle but noticeably better drinking experience than the standard beverage can.  The Sam Can Is probably less of an improvement over the standard beverage can then our Perfect Pint glass is over the standard pint glass. It may seem a little crazy to make that kind of investment, but we felt the small improvement in the drinking experience was worth the expense.  We make decisions based on the beer, not on the bottom line.

Why are so many people down on cans?

There are a lot of myths out there about putting craft beer in cans.  We’re not the only ones that have faced it.  Other brewers, like our neighbor down the street, Harpoon Brewery, also took to their blog and ably addressed some of the top myths that drinkers raised when they announced they were installing a canning line.

But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you and your personal preference.  And as brewers, we work hard to bring you options.  Don’t get me wrong, if I had the choice, I’d always opt for drinking craft beer out of a glass.  But sometimes that isn’t an option – like when you’re backpacking, playing golf, or on a boat.  For those occasions, the Sam Can is an option.

When will we see the new can?

We’re currently in the process of installing a new canning and hope to conduct a test run within the next couple of weeks.  If all goes well, the plan is to release Boston Lager and Summer Ale in cans early this summer.  Our fingers are crossed.

  1. Looking forward to Sam Summer in cans for just that reason of taking it almost anywhere I go this summer. Thx Jim.

  2. Steve Greene says:

    God bless you, Jim Koch – and everyone else at Sam Adams – for your unwavering commitment to good beer and the beer-drinking experience. Thanks for the very cogent explanation of your decision to go with the Sam Can: I can’t wait to give it a test drive!

  3. Mike Barbosa says:

    The main reason why I dont drink out of cans is when I do, I get a massive headache. Otherwise, I dont have a problem with them. *Headache

  4. neil lombardi says:

    I’m all for having a nice cold can of Sammy when Im out back mowing the lawn… hale The Sam Can!!!!!

  5. erik says:

    Coors light has plastic in their can, they say it’s for insulation, but I think its to keep that aluminum taste out.

  6. Timmah says:

    I will give it a try. How bad can a Sam Adams be?

  7. Gerald says:

    Jim I can’t wait for the Sam Can! :) Y’all the BEST of the BEST so I trust you guys! Cheers to you my friend from a Samuel Adams BEER LOVER!!!

  8. Ian says:

    Look forward to trying it. Long live beer!

  9. Thomas Hezel says:

    Sign me up for a beta test.

  10. John says:

    Sorry, if it works, don’t fix it. I’ll stay with the bottle thank you.

  11. Larry (I love Sam Adams any way you can deliver it) Marshall says:

    I have no problem with the can option. Certainly better than going without a Sam beverage. And, as always it’s easy to pour into a glass……….or other suitable container if enjoying it in any of many outdoor activities where bottles are not allowed

  12. Danny McHugh says:

    At Maui Brewing Co. they spoke of the recycling advantages of Aluminum over Glass at something like 90% vs. 30% which is also awesome!

  13. Bob says:

    Summer Ale in the can??? Does this mean all major seasonal brews in a can???

  14. Christopher Coyne says:

    Will the freshness be the same?

  15. CJ Quarlena says:

    If it ain’t broke………fix it ’till it is !

  16. lhtwist says:

    What about a can with a completely removable top, like some of the microwave-friendly soups and the like? Essentially creating an aluminum pint ‘glass’ once the top is removed.

  17. Tom reilly says:

    Can’t wait and cans get colder faster

  18. Ralph DiBacco says:

    Love the idea of a Summer Ale in a can for the beach & Pool! How about litte mini fridge kegs too!

  19. Michael says:

    That will be something I will try sinse I love sam Addams beer.

  20. Anthony Selvaggio says:

    I think you said it best, When you said The new can design aims to provide a drinking experience that is a little closer to the taste and comfort of drinking beer from a glass. Little closer is not good. Your beer is excellent and the bottle part is a factor in the taste . I hope you will keep it in bottles to see which packaging the customers pick in the stores. But then again I drink from a bottle or glass never from a plastic cup or can. That’s just me. I hope this is not one of those ‘remember when they sold it in bottles? it was so good’.

  21. Justin Caudill says:

    I can see the benefits of this venture into cans. I was hoping that there would be a coating of the inside of the can to prevent the beer from getting that “metallic” taste that I typically find in can beer. I am willing to try to though and hopefully like it as I am sure it will be a little bit cheaper then the bottles.

    • billy rw says:

      The can is lined. All beer cans are lined. It tastes metallic because you are putting your nose and lips on aluminum. If you still get the metallic taste when pouring into a glass, then it’s all in your head.

  22. David N says:

    If you’re getting into canning, what about 5 liter pressurized mini kegs like Heineken uses? Now that’s a can we can all agree on!

  23. rudwung says:

    You can do as you like with regards to bottles and cans; however, the only time I can see myself willingly drinking from cans is when no bottle or tap available.

  24. Julie Sullivan says:

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I would be happy to be a test subject.

  25. Tyler Junk says:

    I am a huge craft beer drinker and I started out with Samuel Adams Boston lager. I think this is a great idea and I can’t wait to see it on the shelf.

  26. Paul says:

    I would buy more Sam Adams if I could take it in a canoe or places like that. Also the cans would cause less trash to haul off and would be lighter weight.
    At home I like it in a keg but I tend to buy other beers when I want something in a can. I hope the can works out I will buy it.

    • Gamboa says:

      I’m hoping I’m trying the new Sam can please send out t shirts so the public can see the SAM CAN and understand it better…..GOOOO..SAM CAN.!!

  27. Jim Kalinowski says:

    After you start putting Boston Lager in a can it would be wonderful if you would consider putting Latitude 48 in a can. I do love the balance it brings to an IPA. Cans make a lot of sense for reduced shipping weigh and the ease of recycling. But, most of the time I will be pouring these into a glass wether I get it in a can or a bottle.

  28. Kevin says:

    If you put it in a mini keg, like others have suggested… that would be the happiest day of my life. (don’t tell my wife)

  29. Ken says:

    I will always love my Sam Adams Brews. However, I will not be buying can beer. My opinion is craft beer is classier and don’t want to look like a guy who drinks cheap tasteless beer.

  30. Aaron says:

    Its great ya’ll spent so much time on redeveloping the lid, but I didn’t read about the can itself, primarily the inside. It has always been my contention the alum flavours the beer over time. Keystone used to tout a lined can to protect the beer. Didjya do something about that? I have passed over Sams on ocassion because only avail in bottle. Look forward to new cans.

  31. Terry Schwimmer says:

    Interested to try it, but I love using your bottles for homebrew. Better start asking for them back now.

  32. Bob says:

    It’s about time. Cans are easy to recycle almost everywhere in the country; whereas, bottles are not. Most bottles end up in landfills. I have bought top quality craft beer in cans for years and can’t tell the difference from bottles. Just pour it into a nice glass and enjoy.

  33. For all you nay sayers, think about this; The beer is brewed in a giant can!! only it’s stainless steel. I will try it before I knock it.

  34. Dave Tripp says:

    I’m all for trying something new! I’m quite certain that much thought and research has gone into this choice to insure that it will be the best design available at the time. I’m sure the taste we all have come to expect from Sam Adams is first and foremost in this new adventure! “Salude!”

  35. Joe says:

    I look at it as a small, portable keg. Plus I can stock more cans in my fridge than bottles. Just as long as I can get s.a. Light in the can, cause I can’t get it in the keg. Thank you!

  36. jjchristiano says:

    Great. Now I can drink Summer Ale on the beach and on my boat as I like to bring a cooler of cans and not glass.

  37. I often bring beer biking and kayaking, and prefer to bring cans. They don’t clink around, don’t have the tendency to shatter if I fall on them when in my camelbak on the bike, and crush down for easy removal. Oskar Blues has been a go-to for good beer in a can. I’m excited Sam will be an option now too! It’s one of my “staples”.

  38. Joe MacCabe says:

    Why not make the can shaped like a bottle?

  39. Michael Genrich says:

    Baxter Brewing Co. in Maine has been all-can for a long while — their Stowaway IPA is wonderful. I can’t imagine Sam is going to screw this up. If you have yet to try a craft beer in a can I’d recommend you do so toot-sweet.

  40. Ron says:

    WhaT chemical’s are you using to coat the inside of the can? I know some people that work in packaging and they tell me all cans are coated.

  41. J-Marc says:

    Please send some in Quebec !!

  42. dave Bogdan says:

    Looking forward to the cans better in the kayak as well as backpacking and putting cans in a cold stream.

  43. Thinking outside the can, just great beer!

  44. Nate says:

    Awesome, can’t wait to try it out. Way to expand your horizons, Jim. You guys always seem to have a cool project you’re working on. I’m really excited to try this out.

  45. Vincent Pisciotta says:

    Can’t wait! You are right Cans are more useful in certain places. I could bring it to NASCAR racetracks.

  46. enwkodiak says:

    Bring it on! I am ready to try “Sam in a Can”

  47. Sakebitosan says:

    I will try it – because and *only* because it is Samuel Adams – but my reticence has to do with the flavor that the can’s composition imparts to the beer more than anything else. Glass does absolutely nothing to the taste – it is “saporally inert,” if you want to qualify it technically (hey, my OED has an entry for “saporal,” and it’s the only word I can find, dammit.) If Boston Brewing can do the same job of perserving taste against the ravages of Demon Aluminum as the folks at Guinness, Tetley’s and Boddington’s, I’ll have no complaints – but I will always want glass if given the option.

    Secondly, if it’ll grease the skids for full, year-round production and sales of Boston Brewing’s fantastic but inaccessible Kölsch, I will sing the praises of canned beer to the end of my days. I swear. 8^]

  48. frank says:

    I’m sure it will be great. In the end I’ll bet you could have gone with a standard can and just given all your employees a raise and/or hired a few more people with the money you spent reinventing the can, and the glass for that matter, and still had the same sales shift you’ll see anyway.

  49. luis reyes says:

    Jim keep doing what you do so will !! You and the crew over in Boston show people what good beer should taste like.
    Three thing i miss about living in Boston
    1.The Tour at the Brewery
    2. Boston Brick Red
    3. Red Sox nation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. Al Hamlett says:

    If cans can go where bottles aren’t allowed I’ll stay here where bottles are allowed and if you want I’ll hold your bottle till you get back (or I finish mine!)

  51. I am looking forward to trying it, I don’t like the mass market beers, I have been a craft beer drinker ever since I started drinking beer and I think it would really get Sam Adams out there to the skeptics and let them know what a real beer tastes like. Thanks for all you do.

  52. Jim says:

    Cheers to you for not only taking the time to prepare this, but also for simply speaking to your customers at our level. Overall concerns were addressed simply and honestly and that kind of integrity is a reflection on the product, company and staff as a whole. Can’t wait to enjoy a few of these come summer.

  53. Butch Mixon says:

    I think that Sam Adams in a can will probably become the beer of choice for mid-river trip lunch breaks for many paddling groups, especially the Merrimack Valley Paddlers, who some say are the connoisseurs of river beer. Someone’s idea of a completely removable top to simulate a drinking glass is an excellent idea…

  54. I agree with Justin Caudill!!! I was hoping there was some kind of interior coating because glass is always superior to cans because cans create a metallic taste. Pretty sure metal isn’t an ingredient in Sam Adams so something should be done to keep it from getting in the beer in the cans. Then I would be happy with the canned beer.

  55. Andrew says:

    I have certain concerns regarding this change to cans. Lett me say I do not have issues with craft brewers that use cans. It is a great option in terms of protecting the beer and keeping the costs down. Also it being easier to recycle is a big plus. However, brewers who use cans have, in general, designed their beers from the ground up to take in account the metallic taste that often comes with the can. Liners not withstanding, you still put your lips on metal, and I believe you get a metallic taste from that as much as anything.that can seep into the beer. Sam Adams beers has not been designed to compensate for this flavor factor. If Sam Adams was coming out with a new beer in a can, I would be all over it. But I am not convinced this is a good idea. Still I will give it a try when it comes out.

  56. Gary Gillman says:

    I’ve had good experience with canned beer from Sierra Nevada and Pilsner Urquell, amongst others, indeed generally I think the canned versions are better than the bottled, due I think in all likelihood to the impossibility of light penetration.

    However, my only potential concern is what I understand is the much greater heat conductivity of thin metal vs. that of typical bottle glass. Way back in the early 1980′s, the late American beer author Jim Robertson raised the point whether this might tip the quality balance in favor of the traditional glass bottle. In other words, at the same time as we all know cans conduct chill much faster than bottle, presumably they do the same for heat, and especially with unpasteurized beer, does this raise a risk of some detriment to quality?

    I must say my own taste experience tends not to confirm that, but I think it is a fair point to raise especially in the context of a container felt to suit the summer season and I wonder if the craft brewers which have introduced canned beer have considered this angle. I should add that I don’t know whether circa-1980 aluminum had replaced steel as the general material for beers cans and if it hadn’t, whether the conductivity of steel is different than that of aluminum, I just don’t know.

    Anyway, love the Sam Adams line and keep making great beer. I’m a particular fan of the Stock Ale and I wish we saw it in my home market of Ontario, Canada.

    Gary

  57. worthywads says:

    Cans have been lined for 50 years, blind tasting of beer poured from can and bottle show no difference on a fresh beer. Blind tastings of 6 month old beer and the can wins every time. Fact is air does pass into the crown seal on all bottles. The bottle never was the best solution.

  58. Michael O'Grady says:

    Mr. Koch,
    Only a couple comments on the can lining. Di you spend any of the $1M on a can lining that is deemed safe? I have heard questions about those currently being used by your craft brewing colleagues.

  59. Kevin Logan says:

    We are very excited to see these cans start rolling off the lines…Best of luck with the Sam Can!

  60. Robby Cleveland says:

    As much as I love your beer, I’ll definitely try it. I’d much rather be drinking Sam Adams on the golf course than the crappy yellow light beers.

  61. Cristin says:

    I love how recyclable aluminum is, how well it chills and I’ve never had an issue with flavor impact – in that regard I much prefer aluminum to the glass alternative of plastic, as I feel that the flavor is much crisper. However I have major issues with the presence of endocrine disrupters like BPA typically used in aluminum can liners, and until beverage packagers come up with a BPA-free lining, I will stick to glass and aseptic packaging. If BPA-free can linings can be developed for acidic products like tomatoes, I’m sure the same can be done for alcoholic beverages with a litter bit of effort.

  62. Mac McCready says:

    Sam, you’ve been holding out on me- only 4 months ago I inquired about cans for all the reasons mentioned here and now , voila! I can’t wait. What ‘s equally funny to me is that about a week ago I had a dream and I saw a can of Sam Adams Boston Lager in my dream ( see what happens when you repress desires). Fast forward a week and I’m having a beer with my brother and he tell me Sam Adams is coming out in a can and I couldn’t believe it at first. Now if I could only capitalize on my visions? Say I would be willing to be a taste tester- send beer to ….

  63. jjchristiano says:

    Please design a good can huggie for it so I can keep them ice cold on the scorching beach. You have the nice Sam pint glass so put the same care into the perfect huggie. And none of this thick foam shit. Material science for thermal insulation has come a long way. A huggie that gives me a cold Sam sitting in the sun for 20 minutes. Jersey Shore 2013 with ice cold Sam Summer baby!!!!! I’m in.

  64. Beerlab45 says:

    This works for me, this has been done by many.
    Will love this for softball

  65. John Harris says:

    I hope you guys get this. I have been around a very long time, and I have enjoyed beers from perhaps 50 countries, as well as 49 States. It is time for you guys to brew up some BOSTON STRONG !!!!. Donate the proceeds to the injured survivors of the Marathon Bombing.Make the label unique.Personally I would prefer an Ale similar to Ten Penny Ale brewed by Moosehead, but I will leave that up to you. Not a gimmick, but a TRIBUTE..

  66. Jim Ellis says:

    Not a fan of canned beer. Has a definite aluminum taste to me. Could be from the outside of the can, and not necessarily IN the beer itself. Having said that, it was usually a less than desirable beer in the first place, so I am more than willing to give this a shot (or two, or three) as I’m sure if anyone can get this right, it is you, Mr. Koch, The Real King of Beers. I am retired and available for taste tests when you are ready. ;)

  67. jake says:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on a can. Even if it is sub bottle it will beat any other can domestic beer. I have full faith in this adventure thanks for committing to giving us all a good beach can beer.

  68. Kevin Griffin says:

    Just picked up a 12 pack of Sam cans. Taste is excellent! Will definitely buy canned Sam again. It’s much easier to transport cans than bottles.

  69. L. J. Cormier says:

    PLeassssseeeee make Octoberfest in the Cans!!!! Love the Cans….. Easier to transport, Great taste……

  70. Nick Pursley says:

    Just tried my first Octoberfest in a Sam Can. Wow, that`s about all I can say. You guys nailed it. Purely a pleasurable drinking experience. Mr. Koch and crew, thank you……..

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  72. LMcCutcheon says:

    Well done Sam Adams. I think cans are a great idea. I brought a couple on my last canoe fishing trip and it was a great pleasure to have flavorful beer in a can.

  73. Tom says:

    I am a fan of Boston Lager, and was excited about Samual Adams in cans. I purchased a 12 Pack and stored it in the refrigerator. When I opened the first one, It spewed like I had shook it up. The next one, I opened over the sink with a half liter glass to capture the contents. I hope this is unusual. I do enjoy Samual Adams beers and look forward to more options in cans

  74. Bardo Todaro says:

    Any way I can convince the powers that be to make Octoberfest all year round..PLEASE

  75. L. J. Cormier says:

    NO PROBLEMS WITH THE CAN’S OTHER THAN UPSTATE NY IS SLOW IN GETTING THEM. I also agree Octoberfest should be year round in cans! I like the options of having bottles or cans, but honestly I think the cans are the best thing that Samuel Adams has done.

  76. Mac McCready says:

    It would be nice if they fixed the problems with the cans overflowing once opened and re-introduced the Sam Cans and put them on sale as regularly as the bottles. I really want can beer as I am tired of dealing with bottles- especially picking up the broken ones when the recyclers empty my bin. Not fun.

  77. D Moriarty says:

    Just had my first can of Sam’s bought at Total Wine store here in Phoenix.. Wonderful. Every bit as good as bottle. Cans fit in my Uhlein beer cooler easier so I will prefer them. Safer on our outside deck by the pool. Way to go! Great beer.