Issue 30

Beer Chat: Nebraska’s beer can revolution

Beer Chat: Nebraska’s beer can revolution

Once thought of as the official vessel of the American adjunct lager (AKA: macro lager), the aluminum can has become somewhat of a darling in the craft beer world. At this point, well over 500 breweries across the nation are canning their efforts and Nebraska has seen many of their own beloved breweries choosing this environmentally friendly packaging option.

It all started almost a dozen years ago in Colorado when Dale Katechis of Oskar Blue’s thought it’d be “funny” to put his Dale’s Pale Ale in a can. At the time, little did he know that his sense of humor would revolutionize an industry.

However, the craze didn’t happen overnight. Many craft producers and consumers alike held a negative view of aluminum. Foremost was the idea that the metal would transfer a taste to the beer. This is an understandable worry. However, if you take the example of 16 oz brite cans, you can see that this particular concern could be thwarted by the application of a water-based polymer that lines the inside of the cans to form an impervious barrier between the aluminum and the precious liquid. There is, however, the issue of tasting the aluminum with your mouth when drinking straight out of the can, but when poured into a glass; there should be no trace detectable.

Since there should be no worries of off-flavors to your discerning taste buds, there are lots of great reasons for Nebraskans to enjoy their locally canned brew. Zac Triemert of Brickway Brewery and Distillery in Omaha says, “Cans fully protect the beer from damaging light rays that cause skunking. They are also much lighter than glass, fully recyclable and you can bring them to the golf course, beach, or your favorite summer concert.” Zac started canning at nearly the moment his brewery started pumping out beer.

Another brewery to dive right into canning was Brian Podwinski’s Blue Blood Brewing Company in Lincoln. He agreed on many of Zac’s points, saying “There were several reasons we chose cans as our packaging. First, cans are better for the environment. They are more readily recycled, lighter to transport both full and empty, which not only reduces brewery costs, but also our carbon footprint. Next, a big upside for cans is they can be taken anywhere that alcohol is allowed. I can’t say I have ever seen a sign saying ‘no cans’. Finally, it is the ‘circle of beer’. Buy beer in cans, drink beer in cans, recycle beer cans for money, and buy more beer in cans.”

Nebraska Brewing Company, who originally built their brand at their brewpub in Papillion, built a huge second production brewery in La Vista with canning capabilities. Founder Paul Kavulak says, “Nebraska Brewing Company may have been somewhat unique from a growth perspective in that we’d been distributing for almost six years with exclusively draught and barrel aged 750ML bottles. We had established a very broad distribution network that was simply poised and waiting for the introduction of our cans. Our reputation for quality beer had street cred. We had pent-up demand and not only are cans better in environmental, portable and logistical ways, there is a huge upswell in not only consumer acceptance, but a clamoring for beer in cans generally”.

When asked where Triemert sees the beer can’s place in the future of craft beer, he added, “the only craft beer left in a bottle five years from now will be the large craft players that have been in the market for 15 plus years with wide distribution. Notice, most of them currently can their beer, so by then, more than 50% of their production may be canned too”.

It should be added that the superior conductivity of the aluminum gets your beverage colder faster than any other container on the market. Who can complain about that? Next time you are in the beer aisle be sure to check out the impressive selection of craft beers in cans and don’t forget to grab yourself a six-pack of fine Nebraska made beer. Brickway and Nebraska Brewing Company from the Omaha area, Blue Blood Brewing Company and Modern Monks Brewery in Lincoln, and Kearney’s Thunderhead Brewing Company are all great portable options for your next heroic adventure.

Jason McLaughlin

Jason McLaughlin

Jason is a Certified Cicerone, ranked National as a BJCP judge (Beer Judge Certification Program), is a craft beer aficionado, a writer for the Nebraska Beer Blog, and award winning homebrewer living in Lincoln. Jason spends time traveling around the country judging beer competitions, and attending related events. Beer tasting and evaluation is his passion, and he can appreciate a great example of any style regardless of hype.

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