Want Good Beer? It's in the Can!

I recently played a round of golf in an afternoon charity tournament and made an amazing discovery. No, it had nothing to do with finding my inner scratch golfer (I gave up searching for him a long, long time ago), but it did produce a winning tin cup worthy of mention.

Past experience has shown me that playing golf and enjoying a distinctive brew don’t usually go hand in hand. There just aren’t that many options. Occasionally I can buy a cupful of something good, like Samuel Adams or Yuengling Lager, at the clubhouse bar, before heading out to the course. But my enjoyment of it usually fades as quickly as my tee shot. I either end up spilling the open cup of suds in a bumpy cart ride half way to the second hole, or it fills with bits of grass, bugs, pine needles, or that mysterious green stuff that I sprinkle liberally like Parmesan cheese to fill all the divots I create. 

There are the beer carts that crisscross the course, dispensing liquid refreshment and snacks like mechanical, four-wheel St. Bernards. You can’t beat the convenience, for sure, or the general geniality of the cart drivers. But they don’t have a tap, so fresh-tasting beer is out. And, like so much of the rest of the world, they only offer the ubiquitous Coorbudmiller Light. Why settle?

Instead, I decided to try something new — canned beer. I know, that’s not new. Except that it is. Thanks to the inventiveness of some American microbreweries, and the realization by an increasing number of European importers that Americans like the portability and durability of a metal can, there are now more options available for enjoying good beers on the go. So I bought a couple of different kinds, stuffed them in a cooler, and tried them out on my unsuspecting playing partners.

It’s uncanny, really, what fully flavored beers you can get in a can these days. For years, if you wanted something other than an Anheuser-Busch product, you were limited to a few British Empire beers, like Boddingtons, Foster’s, or Holsten Pils, or their Dutch counterpart, Heineken (with its cute little keg-shaped containers). Now there are many more canned beers from the Old Country to choose from. For instance, the “original” Czech pilsener beer, Pilsner Urquell, now comes in a can, as does its German counterpart, Bitburger, which my crew thoroughly enjoyed. We even practiced a little international relations — by playing the Scottish game and learning to order beer like a German: “Bitte ein Bit!,” as it says on the can, pass me a Bitburger, please!

Other choices for quality beer from around the world now available in a can include Tetley’s English Ale, which pours tap-smooth and creamy, via the clever little “widget” of nitrogen that, when opened, releases a delightful swish of gas that froths up the beer. Also, its wide mouth and low alcohol content (3.6%) make for a highly drinkable beer, straight from the container, that won’t inspire my divot-making. Although several brewers have been making and selling Irish stout in a widget-fired can for years, including Guinness and Beamish, that style is too bready and filling for me to enjoy during an afternoon on the course — I’d save it for breakfast.

Probably the most exciting discovery for me was finding that American craft brewers have gone to the can, too (as it were).  I picked Dale’s Pale Ale, from Oskar Blues, in Lyons, Colorado, which was deliciously hoppy with a bite of bitterness, almost like an IPA. It was sweet and refreshing, light and less carbonated, surprising since nostril-filling foam was a hallmark of my can-beer-drinking days. I have also tried the brewery’s Gordon Beer, which is similarly tasty but has an alcohol content of 8%  — too high for me to drink and not wind up making dribble castles in the sand trap.

Other craft beers that come in a can include Phoenix Pale Ale and Pikeland Pils, from Sly Fox, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship Lager; several offerings from 21st Amendment, in San Francisco; the T-6 Red Ale from Warbird Brewing, Fort Wayne; and the whole line of beers from Butternuts Beer and Ale, Garratsville, New York.

I know what you are thinking (I was too, initially): Why would you drink from a can? Aren’t we more evolved than that now? Actually, it’s the canning process that has evolved. The guys at Oskar say that today’s aluminum cans are lined with a polymer film, virtually eliminating the old tinny taste, and provide a fresher beer because the cans hold extremely low amounts of dissolved oxygen. Besides, cans are lighter and more portable than glass bottles, they chill faster, are easier to recycle, and the beer is less likely to be spoiled by UV light (even dark colored bottles won’t guarantee protection against spoiling). They also say that, though the idea started as a joke, canning has been a boon for the brewery, which proclaims on its Web site to be in its fourth year of 100% growth. Uncanny indeed.

As always, let me know what you think of this week’s post. Have you tried any of the beers mentioned above, or can you recommend some that I missed?


  1. Guiness is the only canned beer I have purchased or consumed when I had a choice of something not in a can… I now live in a land of non-returnable/no deposit bottles, so canned beer makes some economic sense for store bought beer.

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