The Sam Can: Boston craft beer experts weigh in on Samuel Adams’ decision to can their beer

An illustration of the Sam Can. Photo via Samuel Adams.
An illustration of the Sam Can. Photo via Samuel Adams.

After years of brandishing the bottle as the best way to package premium beer, Samuel Adams will jump on a trend embraced by hundreds of craft brewers and start shelling out canned beer.

The Boston-based brewery announced today that “Sam Cans,” the result of two years worth of ergonomic and sensory testing, will be on shelves by early summer.

“In the past, I had my doubts about putting Sam Adams in a can because I wasn’t convinced that Boston Lager would taste as good as it does from a bottle. But cans have changed. And I believe we’ve designed a can that provides a slight but noticeably better drinking experience than the standard beer can,” Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams said in a statement.

Thousands of people weighed in after the brewery made the announcement on social media, and while a good number of Sam fans were on board with cans, the majority of beer lovers said they did not approve.

“You will ruin the ambiance and the taste and classiness of the beer,” beer drinker John Curran said on Samuel Adams’ Facebook page.

But according to local craft beer experts, breweries are moving away from the sleazy, shotgun stigma attached to canned beers.

“A big issue has always been the association of canned beer with party drinks like Bud Light. Craft beer makers didn’t want to associate with the light beers,” said Jeff Wharton, co-founder of Boston brew club, Drink Craft Beer. “Bottles have been seen as the best way to package beer, but in reality that is more of a perception.”

Experts contend that canning beer does not compromise the taste, and actually protects the beverage from getting “skunked” by blocking out sunlight. The portability and durability of cans is also a huge draw for consumers.

A common can complaint is a “tinny” flavor when drinking beer out of a can, but drinkers should snow that craft beers are meant to be classed up with a glass.

“If you’re pouring it into a glass, it should taste the same,” said Chris Furnari, editor of industry watcher Brewbound.com. “That’s not to say that if you’re going on a hike or to the beach you won’t drink it from the can, because you will, but that’ s why (Sam Adams) designed the Sam Can so that if consumers are going to drink it from the can they will have the best possible experience.”

Koch said he consulted experts while designing the Sam Can, which will feature a flared lip and wider top for “a smoother, more comfortable overall drinking experience.”

According to Brewbound.com, sales of canned craft beer have skyrocketed in the last few years, from $1.2 million in 2008 to $13 million by July 2012, and Craftcans.com tallies the number of canning breweries in the U.S. at 249.

“Its getting a lot bigger and it kind of makes sense,” said Wharton. “You’re going to see more and more of it happening. Cans can go a lot of places that glass just can’t.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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