Not too long ago, you could easily tell good beers from bad: If it was in a can, it was the cheap stuff; quality ales and lagers came in glass bottles. Yet nowadays, visits to beer stores tell a very different tale. The number of canned craft-brewed beers is on the rise. “Decisions were made five years ago to can our beers,” says Michael LaMothe, headbrewer of Tuckahoe-based Broken Bow Brewery. “Cans may not be elegant, but they’re practical.”
Very practical, indeed. Easier to stack and transport than bottles, cans also protect beer from being light-struck. Hop acids are UV sensitive; it doesn’t take much to “skunk” a beer. Most bottled beers rely on brown glass to filter such damage out, but glass is never as lightproof as aluminum. Staying away from bottles has marketing advantages, as well. For instance, canned beer can be sold/consumed in more locations, including sports arenas, airplanes, and more.
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In some corners, including Westchester, quality canned beer is a reality — as surprising as that may be. Peekskill Brewery cans its NYPA and Eastern Standard beer. Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. recently began canning its Six Borough Pilsner. And Gun Hill Brewing Company — located in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx — has canned its beers for the last two years. Gun Hill co-owner Kieran Farrell explains: “Selling, stacking, and transporting cans is easier than bottles. It’s hard to even keep up with the sale.”
Are bottles doomed to extinction? Unlikely. Glass is a tradition that will stay, but the stigma of canned beer is finally fading. It’s not the cheap stuff. It doesn’t taste metallic anymore. Craft beers have evolved. It’s time for packaging to do the same.