You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Newest Fest of the Season: Cans

It used to be that there was nothing between the Spring Beer Fest and the kegger at the park (OBF). But then came the International Beerfest to break things up. A few years later it was the Organic Beer Fest. Now it looks like Ezra has carved out a regular spot for the Fruit Beer Fest. Can we handle one more? Why not. This weekend, the Cans Beer Fest debuts at the Guild.

I don't actually care that much about the cans phenomenon roaring through craft world. Cans are fine, and I appreciate their several virtues (they're eco-friendly, lightweight, keep beer fresh and shielded from damaging light, and have a retro chic you have to admire)--but after all, it's just packaging. I care more about the beer inside, and what attracts me to this fest is the beer list. Because Oregon is so beer-rich, we don't have a lot of fests that key on non-Oregon beer. This is the Cans Fest's strength. In addition to some of the usual suspects (Caldera, Oskar Blues, Maui), there are quite a few breweries I've never or only rarely had the pleasure of encountering:
  • Avery (Boulder, CO)
  • Central City (Surrey, BC)
  • Kenai River (Soldotna, AK)
  • SanTan (Chandler, AZ)
  • Ska (Durango, CO)
  • Two Beers (Seattle)
  • Uncommon Brewers (Santa Cruz, CA)
Most of the breweries will offer a few beers, and the final list includes 35 beers from 18 breweries. The full line-up is here. As a bonus, Natian Brewing will have cans of La Luz Summer Session (a misnomer for this booming 6.2% beer).

All the details can be found on the stylish poster, which is readable if you click to enlarge.


  1. I'm all for new festivals, even ones that focus on canned beers. What would be nice to see is if they would offer a side-by-side comparison of the canned beer with it's bottled version and let the consumer decide what (if any) differences they can tell between the two. But you're right - it's just packaging. If anything, the lack of light getting to the beer should help keep it's original flavor more intact.

  2. If you go, I'd highly recommend all three Avery beers, particularly the IPA. It's a ridiculously compelling IPA that I'd put up with the best of Oregon. There's something about the aftertaste that keeps you coming back.

    Avery White Rascal is a really good wit, while their pilsener is solid, but very hoppy even for the style.

    Ska's ESB is also very good, but definitely more of a citrus hop presence than the maltier English examples. Euphoria is an odd duck, a winter seasonal pale ale with a lot of caramel flavor. I'm surprised Ska's Modus Hoperandi IPA, their best-selling beer and in cans, isn't represented.

  3. Re: "What would be nice to see is if they would offer a side-by-side comparison of the canned beer with it's bottled version and let the consumer decide what (if any) differences they can tell between the two. But you're right - it's just packaging."

    In theory this would be a cool experiment, but the only way to make it fair would be to make sure that the canning and bottling dates are as close as possible (ideally from the same batch), and then make sure they were both kept under identical conditions from brewery to distributor to the fest. Then you'd have to serve them blind to eliminate any package bias.

    Unfortunately this seems darn near impossible, but if someone can put it together I'll volunteer my taste buds and liver for the cause.

  4. @Dave

    I think you're right that it's basically just packaging, and I'm sure it tastes exactly the same (or very close) if both poured and then drank. But I know that it's completely different drinking it out of the can with certain beers. It hits my mouth in a very different way and I think the can usually ruins the taste due to the way it pours out. These is especially true when I tried Newcastle.. It's a pretty easy fix though, just pour in a glass. That's what I do at least.


  5. Whatever the issues of taste, Jeff, canned beer is absolutely not "green" or "sustainable." There are severe problems with canning, particularly in the US, where less than HALF of all cans sent out ever return (For many years the aluminum industry beefed up their stats by importing the raw mats from Mexico). While aluminum is one of the most efficient of all recycling methods (efficient in this case being the re-use of the material itself), it is hugely energy expensive and results in some of the most toxic waste in industrial processing. That industrial waste stays in your community, after the company that recycled the cans sells them back to the can producers on the open market. Then Coke buys recycled cans and gets a tax break for it. Put another way, big industry has essentially socialized all of the costs of industrial production and consumption while keeping all the profits. All of this emphasizes centralized production and multi-state transport vs true local production. Even if you recycle 100% of your cans, you are still supporting a system that rewards industry for promoting wasteful consumption and then penalizes consumers for consuming. This is "green" and "sustainable" only if you work at GE.

    I'm not saying "don't buy cans," I'm merely saying that the situation is not quite as cut-and-dry as the very Greenwashed marketing dept at New Belgium might like to claim.

    Also almost every can is layered with BPA, if things like that are worrysome to you.

  6. Soggy, thanks. I almost mentioned you in the post when I saw Ska, and I appreciate the insider tip. (Though as good as Oregon--Ha!, I say.)

    Daniel, I have no dog in the fight, but the claims are relative, not absolute, right? My casual understanding of the issue comes from articles like this.

  7. Thanks for the post Jeff!


    There is going to be a chance to do a side-by-side comparison of canned beer vs. keg beer!

    We’ve canned a keg of Natain Brewing "La Luz Summer Ale" and brought a keg for you to take a try. It's only 2 tickets for both samples. We'll tally the results and share them with the world. While just for science and samples, Natian's ability to can samples for The Cans Fest mark the first time a beer has been brewed and canned here in Portland. We predict it's far from the last.

    See you guys at the #Cansfest!



  8. Jeff, I'm not sure I understand the question. I guess recycling aluminum is relatively better than just throwing it in a landfull (which, again, more than half of our cans end up in), but it's absolutely a pretty vile process itself, which that Slate article doesn't really discuss. It is much more vile than recycling glass, but there is no market in recycled glass, and so it's promoted less (this is one of the problems of using the market system to correct a failure of the market system). People often forget that recycling is a last resort: first you reduce, then you reuse, and then finally recycle. Have spare bottles? Give those to a homebrewer; to them, beer bottles are continually reusable heirlooms like mason jars. There's nothing else you can do with cans but recycle them.

    The real reason breweries are switching to cans is because it is cheaper to ship. Companies have handwaved that into "lower carbon footprints!" but there's nothing particularly green about shipping something that's 95% water from one side of the continent to the other. It's pure greenwashing.

    The old milk bottle method--keep production and distribution local, reuse containers--is the ideal one. Europeans use it to some extent, very effectively, though Europe is not immune to the deleterious effects of global trade.

    The absolute problem here is a culture of reckless, wasteful consumerism, and that won't be fixed without serious political, economic, and lifestyle changes.

    Like I said, I don't have a problem with beer that comes in cans (I LOVE dave's pale ale for hiking and camping), but it's like buying starbucks coffee: Just because the people who made that say it's better for the world, doesn't mean it really is.

  9. Daniel, I guess you're saying there's no green choice, and I am happy to concede the point. I have often wondered why we don't just reuse bottles. It's the system they have in India (or did have), and it works great. You buy a bottled soda and you have two choices. Enjoy it while sitting on a bench outside the shop, or pay extra and take the bottle with you. Once you're done, the bottle goes into a crate and the crate goes back to the manufacturer where it's cleaned, purified, and reused.

    In America, we have a third party roll their massive truck around the city collecting empties, after which they take it to someplace where its ground down into particles which are reformed into the exact same bottle you started with--if I understand the process accurately. What monumental waste and inefficiency.

  10. I should add, perhaps unnecessarily, that this is a problem with public policy, not the breweries. We've created the structure of inefficiency, and everyone lives by it.

    (I do wonder if it would even be legal for a brewery to collect, purify, and reuse empties. My guess is no, but it is, in the manner of the blogger, an unresearched, wild-ass guess.)

  11. Until recently Yeunling used reusable bottles locally in the Allentown Bethlehem area. Not sure if they still do? There were 16 oz later bottles and 12oz porter bottles, thick glass, washed and reused in heavy reusable cardboard cases as well.

  12. RE: AL / BPA

    Long ago, Ralph Nader famously described aluminum as 'congealed electricity' referencing the Hall–Héroult process by which it is produced. Recycling ameliorate this negative, for me.

    A 2008 New Belgium Brewing Company blog post addresses [and negates for me] health concerns regarding Bisphenol A [BPA] in the liners of the cans.
    Albeit, I wish there had been more specific information regarding exposure/accumulation.

  13. I tried the Pyramid Hefe side by side can-bottle and the can was awful. I think it's cuz it was contract brewed at Genessee. It had no body and could have passed for a light lager.

  14. In his 31 March 2011 blog post, beer.birra.bier reports on a 'Punk Off - Bottle vs Can' taste off between BrewDog Punk IPA in bottle and can.

    The canned beer won on freshness and Mark resides in London and County Kent. Imagine if the two containers had traveled to the Pacific NW.