dsc01747Like most people who find themselves getting willingly sucked into craft beer appreciation, I had a hard time rationalizing my preconceived notions of “canned beer.” I spent most of my time walking up and down the beer aisle at the liquor store looking for the 750 ml bottles with caged corks, somewhat erroneously thinking that this of course signaled quality and sophistication (I’ve had plenty of poorly done, fancily packaged beers).

But a few years ago came a small brewery here in the Twin Cities called Surly, by no means the first brewer to can their high quality craft beer*, but the first I became aware of that distributed locally. When they first hit the market, I suspiciously eyed their 16 ounce cans in the beer cooler, wondering what kind of beer company would want to cheapen themselves by using such a macro approach to what is arguably one of the more important aspects of a beer’s brand and relationship with the consumer. Beer in cans was the kind of stuff you shotgunned at your fraternity party with your drunken college buddies, or choked down for lack of a better option at your neighbor’s backyard BBQ because you don’t want to be “that guy” who asks for a refreshing and hoppy IPA when light adjunct lagers are clearly the only thing available.   

But folks, the can is really where it’s at. Think about it…a can preserves the integrity of the beer much better than a bottle by shielding it from ultraviolet light that can instantly skunk the beer. It’s less expensive to package. It’s lighter and more cost-effective to ship. And the best part, it’s differentiating (in the craft world, at least). From a flavor perspective, if I could easily can my beers as a homebrewer, I’d do it. The commonly held notion that “aluminum cans make beer taste metallic” is utterly false, as aluminum cans are lined with an extremely thin layer of plastic inside to help prevent any off flavors.  Yet despite these clear advantages, most craft brewers still choose to go the traditional bottle route. Maybe they think the negative connotations are too large to overcome. But taking a look at a brewery like Oskar Blues out of Colorado and its superb Gordon Double IPA, you’d be hardpressed to convince me that the fluid inside their sleek cans is nothing short of excellent.

Poured with a nice big head, huge piney hop aroma and ruddy orange coloring. Taste is sweet, with loads of caramel and malt. On the side of the can, they bill Gordon as a big, sticky red beer, and I’d say that’s completely accurate. There’s a very weighty quality to this beer. It’s not as bitter as one might expect for a double IPA, but the hop resins do completely coat your mouth, making the beer seem much bigger than it really is. Granted, it’s already 8.7% ABV so there’s not much need to crank up the volume. But Gordon is probably one of the more densely textured IPA’s I’ve ever had.

Rating: A-

* Oskar Blues was in fact the first microbrewery to start canning their beers.

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