Is it time to start drinking from cans again? I remember those days of drinking absolute piss from a can at parties. Many of the national beer brands have been available in cans for many years and it has never been particularly good compared to cask or bottled but there again most of these beer brands aren't particularly good via any method of dispense. Then there was the attempt to make canned beer more smooth with a good head with the draughtflow widget in cans. Boddingtons and John Smiths used this and it gave the beer the texture of milkshake and they tasted incredibly bland. Now we see cans appearing again via the craft brewers. A fortuitous trip to Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham a few weeks ago meant I was able to purchase a few of these as well as the bottled version of the beer in a couple of instances for comparison. With a bit of help from my wife I was able to compare these beers blind so here goes.
Beavertown Gamma Ray (5.4% ABV)
This is my first taste of this beer in any form so let me begin by saying it is absolutely gorgeous. The first beer had a strong aroma of tropical fruit and a nice creamy mouthfeel. The sweetness of the tropical fruit flavours was heavenly. It is not as strong as some American IPAs I've had but this doesn't show in the taste. Masses of hoppy flavour. Beer number two had a much less pronounced aroma and was less smooth. The same tropical fruit flavours were there but there was a more grassy bitterness to the finish. I preferred this beer as it had slightly more depth to it with this extra bitterness to the finish.
The verdict here is I preferred beer number two which I guessed was the bottled version. My guess was correct. This is a 10/10 beer in the bottle and about 9.9/10 from the can. Very small differences between the two and both of them fantastic.
Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA (6.2% ABV)
I had tried a can of this beer before so that should have helped me work out which is which. Beer number one had a strong hoppy aroma. Plenty of fruitiness from the hops but there was an earthy bitterness to it also. This beer also had a heavy malt character with very subtle tobacco notes but it combines well with the hops. Quite smooth and I was immediately thinking this was the can. Beer number two however was smoother with more citrussy notes coming through in the aroma. It was also slightly darker in colour. There was still a strong malty base to it but it was not so apparent and the tobacco notes were missing. The citrussy notes came through quite strongly in the finish. This did not taste like the can I had a few weeks back.
The verdict here was that the bottle was yet again my particular favourite and once again my guess was correct as to which was which. When I first tried this beer from the can a few weeks ago I gave it a 7/10 but the bottle gets a 9/10 from me. Having said that I enjoyed the can more this time too although this may have been helped by having the bottled version alongside it too as I tried alternating between the two towards the end.
The Beavertown beers are much loved by me. I tried a can of the fabulous Neck Oil (4.3% ABV) a month ago and this hoppy refreshing session bitter seemed ideal for drinking quickly straight from the can to quench the thirst on a hot day and this is indeed what happened. I was planning this comparison test once I was able to purchase more of their cans and the final two here were enjoyed with no bottled versions to compare them to. The Black Betty IPA (7.4% ABV) is a classic black IPA. Lots of roasted malt character with liquorice strongly evident but it combines with the hops to deliver a light hoppy finish that you never get with traditional black beers.
Finally we have the incredible Smog Rocket (5.4% ABV). This beer I found did not transfer to the can quite so well. I first tried this beer from the bottle last year and later I enjoyed a pint of the keg version in the Evening Star in Brighton. That was pretty much bang on. Incredibly smooth, very rich with hints of dark fruits, a little smokiness and liquorice. This can had plenty of flavour but it did not have quite the same depth of flavours that I remembered or perhaps my taste buds are playing tricks on me. Whatever, however this beer is served I think it is the best smoked porter I have ever tasted.
There is definitely a place for canned beers. Some craft beer lovers seem to suggest they contain mystical qualities which the bottled versions never had but quite frankly that is crap. They are handy though for train journeys and much more convenient at certain times and for certain events so I will definitely be buying more of them. Indeed I have already tried other canned beers including the fabulous IPA (6.5% ABV) from Fourpure, a new London micro. This beer uses the classic three 'C' hops from the US (Cascade, Chinook and Centennial) which combine to create a rich sweet hoppy beer full of tropical fruit flavours but with a satisfyingly light grassy bitter finish.
Canned beers are also popular among the craft brewers of the US and I enjoyed a few on my travels last year. The Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2% ABV) is one you can get quite easily over here and is highly recommended with similar flavours to the Fourpure IPA above. What I particularly like about the American cans are the larger sizes though and the Brits should definitely do the same. 330ml is just not enough so please sort this out.
Canned beers are definitely worth drinking now. I'm sure we will see more craft brewers offering their beers from cans in the future. They don't seem to offer anything by way of taste improvements on the bottle from what I can tell although they may be less affected by sunlight and have a longer shelf life perhaps which may lead to greater consistency. Where it does win though for me is in the convenience which is why I will be buying more in the future.