Once the shining star of post-Prohibition innovation, the first canned beers may not have tasted all that great, but what they lacked in taste they made up for in portability and eye-catching label art. While cans even began to outsell bottles in the late ’60s, the number of breweries producing canned beer dropped significantly over time. Bottles were more marketable and the stigma that the taste of beer would be distorted by metallic cans made it a more difficult sell. With this in mind, it’s shocking to think that in 2002, Oskar Blues Brewery took a major risk to became the first microbrewery to produce and distribute exclusively canned beers.
Not only did it work, it changed the craft brewing industry forever. In fact, Oskar Blues was named 2013 Craft Brewer of the Year by Beverage World magazine, and is releasing a brand-new stovepipe-sized 19.2-ounce can of their Mama’s Little Yella Pils just in time to celebrate. This summer, even Boston Brewing Company, makers of Sam Adams, who pledged to never can their beers back in 2005, will come out with their “Sam Can,” designed to bring out the best flavor of Boston Lager. Sly-Fox from Pennsylvania just released its innovative “360” cans to much acclaim. But perhaps the greatest testament of all is the cult popularity of The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, an imperial IPA available only in cans, consistently rated among the top beers in the world.
It’s a remarkable testament to the bottle’s stubby cousin, for what they lack in sex appeal, cans make up in a variety of marked improvements. If you’re afraid of a metallic tinge to the beer, don’t be. As a result of a safe, water-based coating which doesn’t affect taste, your beer will never actually come in contact with metal. A truly airtight seal protects freshness for far longer than bottles. However sacrilegious it may seem to purists, farmhouse saisons, sours and even barrel-aged behemoth stouts are coming to a can near you. So pop a lid and celebrate the revival of a classic.
Here are our top 10 beers coming to cans in 2013:
1. Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale
With IPAs overwhelming the canning industry, there’s plenty of room for this classic pale ale, which perfectly balances cascade hops and crystal malts. The brewery’s flagship beer, which was only available on the West Coast until recently, can now be found as far away as Chicago. Plans to start canning Mirror Pond in Minnesota are underway, and cans should hit markets summer 2013.
2. Dry Dock Brewing Company’s Hefeweizen
This Colorado brewer has their wheat beers down. Their popular hefeweizen is ranked among the best in America, and now it’s available in cans! At just 4.3%, it’s highly drinkable but full of flavor. It’s got that traditional banana-clove-coriander hefeweizen taste, but the balance is where the magic happens.
3. Brewery Vivant’s Tart Side of the Moon
Immediately eye-catching for the can’s throwback design honoring Pink Floyd’s classic album, the beer itself is a mind-bending classic just waiting to be discovered. Listed as a wild ale but really a sour stout, at 9.8% it’s got cherry tartness up front and roasted malt, coffee and a little chocolate on the finish. Brewery Vivant from Grand Rapids, MI only releases cans, but the daring attempt and successful execution of this unusual style makes them a brewery to watch out for.
4. Uinta Brewing Company’s Baba Black Lager
Perhaps better known for their big IPAs like Hop Notch and Dubhe, our favorite offering from Uinta Brewing Company is the Baba Black Lager, a German-style Schwarzbier which clocks in at just 4%. Perhaps closer to a porter, expect roasted dark malt, a little chocolate, a little coffee and subtle but good hop character.
5. Brasserie St. Feuillien’s St. Feuillien Saison
Here is one that you surely didn’t expect on this list: a Belgian beer in a can! St. Feuillien is a Belgian brewery not afraid to step out of the box — as evidenced by their collaborative efforts with California’s Green Flash — or in this case, the bottle. Their Saison is a classic example of the farmhouse-style, so expect a good balance of fruit and spice that holds up well even in its less-than-monastic packaging.
6. Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Sculpin IPA
If you’re a fan of the tropical fruitiness of West Coast IPAs, it’s hard to do much better than Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Sculpin IPA. Even at 7% ABV, it’s one of the most drinkable IPAs in existence thanks to the perfect balance of bold floral hops — think sweet, not bitter. Make sure to drink this as fresh as possible!
7. SanTan Brewing Company’s Mr. Pineapple
Looking for something tropical and refreshing for the summer? Look no further than Mr. Pineapple, a pineapple hefeweizen from SanTan Brewing out of Chandler, AZ. This wheat beer has just the right amount of fresh pineapple added during fermentation, which thankfully doesn’t overpower the taste of the hefeweizen. At 5% ABV, it’s just sweet enough and balances perfectly with the clove and malt characters.
8. Bronx Brewery’s Pale Ale
2013 has already been a big year for Bronx Brewery, which had been contract-brewing for the past few years in Connecticut, as they officially announced construction of their brewery in the Bronx. Now that their pale ale has finally launched in 16-ounce cans, everyone can enjoy this excellent, easy-drinking, caramel-colored hoppy pale.
9. 21st Amendment Brewery’s Lower De Boom
Barleywine is surely not the first style that comes to mind when it comes to canned cold ones, but 21st Amendment has it covered. It’s definitely one of the strongest beers in a can you’ll ever have — at a booming 11.5% — but don’t let that scare you. The cans are “nip-sized” at just 8.4 ounces, making this a perfect can to share with a friend, lest you Lower De Boom on yourself.
10. Evil Twin Brewing Bikini Beer
Likely the lightest beer you’ll drink all summer at just 2.7%, this is the perfect IPA for the beach, with a ton of tropical citrus fruit hoppiness. Evil Twin, a gypsy brewer that formerly brewed these beers overseas, is now brewing Bikini Beer (and Hipster Ale) at Connecticut’s Two Roads Brewing, which means it will be more affordable with a wider distribution than ever before.
More craft beer news on Food Republic: