Vail’s Ale with Altitude column: Say hello to my aluminum friend
VAIL CO, Colorado
As America’s beer preferences shift to a more fragrant and flavorful quaff, more brewers are choosing aluminum cans as the package of choice to deliver the freshest beer to the thirsty masses.
Unlike bottles, a can’s aluminum body protects beer from UV light exposure, which is a good thing. When beer is exposed to UV light, it reacts with the dissolved hop oils and produces “skunky beer,” liquid bile that both smells and tastes foul.
Another reason is the can’s lid seal, which ensures that no oxygen enters the can. This is paramount because oxygen deteriorates the precious liquid within, degrading the aroma and flavor that we as brewers try so hard to create and preserve from the time we mash it, until our faithful imbibers bring it to their lips.
“Impossible!” you say. “Glass is the best package for beer, and only putrid swill is offered in cans!”
At first, it was hard for me to understand, too. When I started brewing at Oskar Blues in 2005, I had certainly heard of “those other canned beers,” which did contradict the can-packaging argument. However, I was not hip to the fact that cans are the superior package for beer and pretty much any beverage you would like to have in its freshest presentation.
The famous double seam provides a secure seal that can’t be matched by a glass bottle’s cap, and the can’s epoxy liner keeps the beer from contacting the aluminum to ensure that all you taste is beer – no metallic flavor.
Craft beer in a can is increasingly becoming common as other brewers are seeing the light and choosing aluminum. Oskar Blues has an ever-growing number of peers in American craft brewing who see cans as the only way to package the beer they work so hard to make, and the variety is astounding. You can now find nearly every known style of beer in a can. Beyond the benefits of the package to the beer itself, the aluminum can offers … freedom.
Freedom to bring a lightweight, durable container of your favorite liquid reward for riding that amazing trail, skiing that killer backcountry or climbing an insane route. Freedom to bring that same beer with you to those many places that don’t allow glass.
How about these fun facts to boot:
•-Aluminum cans have the highest amount of recycled material of any beverage package and are infinitely recyclable.
• Cans are far lighter in weight than bottles and are unbreakable. You can pack up some delicious craft beer in cans and not feel like a pack mule.
•-Once you’ve finished off a can on top of the mountain or down on the Gold Medal water you just fished you can crush it and save pack space.
All that being said, I hope you have a greater appreciation of the many virtues of the modern aluminum can and what it offers the craft beer drinker. The variety and availability of more styles from more brewers gives the adventurous beer lovers even more ways to enjoy craft beer anywhere – and it’s the aluminum can that makes it possible.
Dave Chichura is head brewer at Longmont-based Oskar Blues Brewery. When he is not in the brewery he is a third-rate hack singer and guitar player, a second-rate hack fly fisherman and an aspiring yoga master and novice mountain biker living full throttle with no bottles. Ale with Altitude is a monthly column from a brewmaster participating in a craft beer event at Cascade Resort Hotel in Vail. Visit http://www.vailcascade.com to learn more.
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