© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Columbus Breweries Giving Canned Craft Beer A Try

Good beer... in cans? Cheap beer has long been associated with the aluminum can and upscale brews with bottles. But some craft brewers are trying to break that stereo-type. A number of Columbus’ small craft breweries have switched from glass bottles to cans. One of those breweries? Four String Brewing Co. in Grandview. The beer? Vanilla Porter. More specifically, about 7,500 cans of it. The Vanilla Porter is the fourth Four String beer to make it to the canning line. Owner Dan Cochran said he decided to start canning just six months ago. “It’s booming," Cochran said. "It’s flying off the shelves, and we have not been able to keep up since the first month we started.” Better than bottles? Cochran said cans help beer taste better, longer. Craft beers are known for their bold aromas and flavors. And they’re more expensive than the average domestic beer. So brewers want to keep the beer tasting fresh as long as possible. Cochran said aluminum cans do that better than bottles. “Cans don’t allow in any light.” UV light can make a beer taste skunky. And Cochran said cans grant a longer shelf life. “The can, or [the lid], is said to seal much better than a crown or a bottle cap does, so there’s less oxygen getting to the beer," Cochran said. Spirit of craft brewing “I think [the can] kind of epitomizes the spirit of craft brewing, something that is kind of unexpected," Sly Fox Brewing Co. brewmaster Brian O'Reilley said. O’Reilly is the brewmaster at Sly Fox Brewing Company in Pottstown, Pa. Sly Fox has been a leader in craft brewing this side of the Mississippi River. It was the first craft brewery on the east coast to can beer, back in 2006. “I think early on people that didn’t like craft beers in cans wouldn’t talk to us," he said. "They wouldn’t give us the opportunity. But I think now it’s become so common place, people have had more and more good experiences.” Aside from some specialty brews, Sly Fox cans all of its beers. Why? O’Reilly said cans are environmentally friendly; they get cold faster; and they’re space savers. “They’re easier to ship. They’re lighter. You can pack more in a small space," O'Reilly said. "And obviously when you’re talking truckloads of beer, you can save quite a bit of money.”

Becoming the norm? Russ Phillips operates craftcans.com, a website that tracks craft beer – in cans, of course. Phillips said canning craft beer – no longer a trend, in his opinion – can be budget-friendly for new, small breweries. “I definitely think it’s a cost thing. That’s one of the first things that I think a small brewery would look at would be cost," Phillips said. "And getting their beer in cans, especially using a mobile canning outfit is a good cost cutter there. You don’t have to invest in your own canning line, especially if you don’t have a lot of space and money, that’s a good deal.” Four String and Seventh Son Brewing in Italian Village both use a mobile canning service which shows up with all the equipment and cans they need. “We chose to just do those two [beers] because when you’re canning initially it’s a pretty big investment," said Colin Castore a partner at Seventh Son said. "You have to actually buy, literally, a truck load of each can. So we started off with two. And we’re going to add some more in the future. But we thought it would be a good way to start.” And to the naysayers who refuse to drink beer from a can Castore said, "I’m a big fan of pouring everything I drink into a proper glass so you can get a little bit of aroma from it. I think if you did it with a can and did a blind taste test that you’d never be able to tell the difference.” Of course, not all canned beer is good beer. “There’s good beer in a can, and there’s bad beer in a can," Phillips laughed. "And the canning process itself, there’s a lot of variables there. So the best beer in a can is the beer that’s brewed very well but also canned very well.” According to Phillips’ craftcans.com, there are more than 500 craft breweries canning more than 2,000 types of beers in the United States.