The false dichotomy that exists between CAMRA hard-liners and craft (keg) beer fanatics is a tawdry affair, and one that is easy to get sucked in to. In my case I try not to be dogmatic about packaging and dispense methods but, ever the hypocrite, I am positively evangelical when it comes to the cause of canned beer.
The latest brewery of note to put its beer into cans is Hackney’s Five Points, canning its Pale and IPA last week with the help of Them that Can. The virtues of cans are well documented and Magic Rock, Harbour, Moor and the Wild Beer Co. have all installed their own canning lines this year. On a basic level I like them because they are lighter and easier to store than bottles, and as someone who prefers to buy beer from shops rather than online, the fact I was able to pick up eight of the new Five Points cans from Sourced Market and cart them around London with little effort is a major plus. You can also drink 330ml cans on the bus/tube/street without attracting judgemental glances (unless you pop a Gamma Ray on the top deck of the 41 and it erupts like Vesuvius, its tropical fruit aroma clashing with the stench of fried chicken and urine). The Five Points beers I picked up were canned two days previously, and this quick turnaround came as a surprise to my friend and proprietor of The Hop Locker, Joel, who warned of the perils of “can shock”. I’d never heard of this phenomenon and both the Pale and IPA tasted great when I drank them last Friday, so I readily dismissed it as the rantings of a madman. Regardless of all of this, I thought I’d take the opportunity to compare the bottled and canned Pale against each other, in a hugely unscientific, unoriginal and facile experiment.
I decided to start with the bottle because it was slightly older and I felt it unfair to start with the fresher beer first. Bottled on 10 June it was within my entirely spurious three month window of optimum freshness for pales and IPAs, and it certainly tasted fresh. Pouring amber and clear with a sizeable head, it was crisp and zesty and replete with a tropical fruit aroma courtesy of the amarillo and citra. It didn’t take me long to drink and I eagerly opened the can, fully expecting it to be more intense with an even bigger head. To my surprise the head was significantly smaller, and the carbonation was lacking compared to the bottle, which is strange as this wasn’t the case with the cans I had last Friday. Maybe Joel had a point after all, or maybe something else was at play, but the bottle was in better condition and the more pleasing of the two. Whatever the case I hope Five Points continues to can its beer as it’s a real boon for the slovenly such as myself. On a serious note my consumption of Beaverton and more recently Wild Beer Co. beers has increased significantly due to them being in cans.
Finally, if this experiment wasn’t shallow enough, a word about the design of Five Points’ bottles and cans. As much as I love the work of Beavertown’s Nick Dwyer and and other breweries’ more elaborate designs, there’s something satisfying about the simplicity of the Five Points design, which really lets the beer do the talking. Now – when are Pressure Drop going to can Bosko?