Samuel Adams in a Can
Craft 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.
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.
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.