Don Kavanagh: Cans on comeback trail

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Don Kavanagh ticks off the advantages of the humble can

Some brewers are deliberately choosing aluminium. Photo / Thinkstock
Some brewers are deliberately choosing aluminium. Photo / Thinkstock

I know of quite a few people who, when I give them a beer and offer a glass along with it, say: "The bottle's made of glass, isn't it?"

There is something unquestionably right about beer being served in glass, whether that is a nicely curved pilsner glass or simply a plain green bottle, and I know many people who refuse to drink it any other way. And by any other way I mean from a can, because there aren't many other ways to drink beer, when you think about it.

Cans have never had the same social cachet as bottles of beer, although there was a brief and fleeting period back in the 1980s in Britain when cans were almost considered cooler, since they tended to be bright, obvious and contained more beer than a bottle could.

Even today the can of super-strength lager is the more popular option among the bench-dwellers of that part of the world, since it contains at least 440ml of high-octane industrial waste rather than the bottle's capacity of 330ml.

And cans of beer have a certain cultural significance beyond the shores of the British Isles. Cracking a few tinnies is the default position of your average Australian and New Zealand might well revert to the slab of cans again soon, too. Because cans are on the comeback trail. No longer the province of cheap and nasty dodgy dozens on the bottom shelf of the beer chiller, some players are making a deliberate move back to aluminium.

Boundary Road led the charge, putting out a selection of their craftier beers in cans, including the Bouncing Czech and the really quite yummy Flying Fortress Pale Ale. Now there are beer snobs who don't have a good word to say about Boundary Road in any circumstances, and I am quite sure their kneejerk reaction will be to slag off the whole idea.

But it isn't just Boundary Road going back to cans. The Wellington brewer Garage Project, darling of the craft beer scene, is also planning to can its beers, for some very good and simple reasons.

First, cans are impervious to light, so even the risk of light strike is eliminated, ensuring longer shelf-life.

Second, a dozen cans are lighter than a dozen bottles, making it cheaper to transport.

The main obstacle is the perception that beer tastes different from a can. I call it a perception because the breweries are adamant that it does not, that there is no scientific reason why it should. But I can't help but think that the can does affect the taste, so I wait in happy anticipation for the breweries to prove me wrong.

I realise that I'm probably wrong and that there is no appreciable taste difference, but then Lion went through a long investigative process to find out why some people claimed to get headaches from drinking Steinlager and found absolutely no evidence to support the idea that a Steinlager hangover was worse than that provided by any other beer.

But it hasn't stopped people claiming to have the headache, has it?

- Herald on Sunday

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