Here in Sonoma County, it looks like the last of the rain has fallen for the year. The ground is no longer moist to the touch and the forecast is nothing but sun and increasing temperatures. Looks like it’s time to start making weekend plans that include long stretches of outdoor activity (not that a Bay Area winter exactly chases one inside). When heading outdoors, a bottle can be a bit of a hassle: heavy, breakable and no easier to carry once emptied. Thank God craft beer is becoming increasingly available in cans. How much more available? Well you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.
While many of us grew up with nothing more than industrial lagers in cans, the variety of beer available in cans today is staggering. From light pilsners to hoppy IPA to thick and viscous imperial stouts, everything a beer lover could want can be found in a can. Let’s take a look at a sample of what might be out there for each individual’s taste, or for each situation.
On the hot days, a crisp pilsner (or reasonable approximation of a pilsner) may be exactly what you’re looking for. The pilsner style is definitely represented within the canned market. The style is made for cans with its subtle hopping needing the added protection of the can’s aluminum. Additionally, these beers, meant to be served cold, will ice down in no time.
If pilsners are a bit too light for your taste but you still want the crisp flavor of a lager, there are still plenty of options. Bock’s, amber lagers, Oktoberfest märzen; they’re all coming in cans. As a lover of märzen, the Santa Fe Oktoberfest jumps out to me, but it may also be the can. (See if you can identify their cans in the pictures of this article. I love their simple style). Whichever way you go, look for a more full-flavored lager than what your dad packed in the cooler.
Anchored by the success of brands such as Blue Moon and before that Widmer, the wheat beer style is almost a must have in any summer cooler. Be it a flavored-wheat containing fruit, spices or both, or simply a lighter ale brewed with the same result in mind, these are craft brewing’s answer to the traditional lager and pilsner. Light and refreshing with more body and signature ale esters, hot weather doesn’t stand a chance when you’ve packed these cans.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re a fan of hops. This is where you’re invited back into the conversation as the pale ale category is full of canned beer. With the standard for pale ale, Sierra Nevada, starting their own canning operation later this year, it’s nice to see a wide variety of pales to quench our thirsts right now. It’s in this group that you’ll find the first craft beer I ever enjoyed in a can, and I was immediately won over. Good to see ya Dale.
The hops really step it up a notch with the IPAs available in cans. These are no light bodied faux-IPA either. From one of the first beers to make me truly understand what hops were (Hop Ottin IPA) to one of the hoppiest beers I’ve ever had anywhere (Oskar Blues’ Gubna), the IPA category is bursting and is almost becoming the go to style in terms of canning. As the general public clamors for more IPA, it’s only a matter of time until this stack of IPA cans rivals and surpasses those of pilsners and lagers.
As we get into the darker colored beers found in cans, our styles begin to fall apart. Those of amber hues range from classic amber and red ales to Scottish Ales, Imperial reds and Belgian-styled beers. Keep these in the cooler for when the sun begins to creep behind the horizon as their richer malt flavors will go well with that campfire dinner.
Last but not least, as the sun sets on this canned collection, we get into “the dark beer.” As with the ambers, the styles fall apart completely here. Porters, Black IPA, Stouts, and even Imperial stouts, they can all be found in cans. These are the beers that will surprise most who are new to cans. The idea of an imperial stout, coconut infused porter or even a brown ale may seem odd, It even looks odd when pouring out of a can, but the beer is fine. In fact, as mentioned with pilsners, these bigger beers can stay fresh longer in a can. Aging canned beers is a questionable proposition. I’ve aged cans of Ten Fidy for a year and the result wasn’t as noticeable as I might have expected.
Wherever this summer takes you, rest assured knowing you have a wide selection of cans to pack in the backpack, throw in the camping cooler or just sit back at home and drink.