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Saturday, May 15, 2010


Cans are ugly.

This is one of those thoughts that passed through my mind as I poured out the latest tinned offering, Pyramid Hefeweizen, which the brewery thoughtfully sent to me last week. Bottles can be ugly, but they are not innately so. The lines of the standard bottle are pleasing, and label art has the ability to instantly attract the eye. Bottles can be shaped to suit a brewery, with long, elegant necks like Pacifico sports, or short, squat bodies as in Session Lager. They may be embossed with logos or come in different colors.

Cans, on the other hand, are purely industrial and come in one shape. Metal, though it does occur naturally, has the least natural feel of any material. Its cold, impersonal color is impossible to conceal. The colors seem to wash out on aluminum and often the printing isn't exact. No matter how they're designed, there's always a segment of the can that has small print, which further erodes any elegance a designer may try to impose. No matter how clever the design, a can looks industrial and communicates chemistry, not art.

(Stipulated: cans are actually better in many respects than glass. They are lightweight, recyclable, and have a smaller carbon footprint than glass. Beer in cans cannot be light-struck. )

And finally, no matter how hard I try, I cannot look at a can of beer and not see a halo of all the cheap beers of my past. This is a cultural artifact and may well diminish for future generation. For graybeards, though, the brain has to do a stutter step every time the eyes take in a canned craft beer. We have reified the can, freighting it with the meaning and emotion of "cheap" and "gross." Our old creaky software must find the patch which clarifies matters: "nope, the Caldera's good," we remind ourselves.

Canning is good and I'll get behind it. But I'm never going to come around to think the can is an attractive package.



  1. I have to disagree with you on this one, Jeff. I do not think there is anything intrinsically more attractive about bottles. Cans can have much more complete labeling and the best color for bottles is an extremely unattractive brown.

    What's more, "cans" is a euphemism that invariably makes my wife snicker.

  2. I might have agreed with you Jeff, If it was not for this:

    How can you say that is not beautiful?!

  3. Cans also have the downside of leaking minute amounts of chemicals into your drink, whereas glass does not...

  4. Yeah... on this one thing in my life, I must strife against conservationism and being PC; though I must commend on the artful and vivid commentary.

    The idea of drinking Hefe from a can really depresses me. Whether it be the ingrained predisposition from the cans of PBR as a young adult, or the memories of putting Bud into the Reed gamma spec, and seeing all the peaks from dissolved metals, I just cannot get behind cans.

    The feeling of drinking from a can is different. It allows for more carelessness, more mobility. Neither things I want in my fellow beer drinkers. Bottles hold that certain respect to which you must treat a beer container lest you end up with glass shards everywhere. And glass recycles nicely (as do cans, I must agree).

    I see the coming movement to cans for various producers - and I know some will profitably fill the void... but not from me. I'll stick to bottles, or better yet, the nice kegerator my wife begrudgingly lets me keep in my den.

  5. I stumbled upon this post while searching for decent beer that might be found in a can for an upcoming week on the Snake River (I'd heard that some craft brewers were doing this, but haven't actually seen the results). And craft brew in cans is kind of like wine with a screw top--not necessarily bad for the wine, better for the environment, but cheap feeling all the same.

    I fully agree with most that's been said. My beer snobbery allows me only to drink PBR from a can, and that's fully on purpose bad beer drinking.

    On weekend river trips, we manage to safely contain bottles for the trip home, or to drink cheap beer for a couple of days. But a week? That's a long time to spend in the hot sun without a decent tasting, quality brew.

    So I'm looking for something good that can be found in Portland. Thanks for the great blogging!