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Wednesday, December 28th 2011

Sam Adams in Cans? One day soon...

Jim Koch has been known to change his feelings about beer in the past. He once denounced the idea of a Sam Adams Light but the brand became a reality in the end. He's also included cans in his list of Sam Adams no-no's. Something that will very likely become a yes-yes in the near future.

In a recent article by Daniel Fromson in the Washington Post it was (sort of) made clear that Sam Adams is in fact pursuing the idea of canning their beers. It's quite interesting to note that the nation's largest American-owned brewery is intending to change how cans are lined in order to meet Jim's requirements. 

"Samuel Adams,  is working with several manufacturers to develop cans for its products, according to its president, Jim Koch, who used to be firmly in the anti-can camp. “There will come a day,” he says, “when I will feel comfortable putting Sam Adams in a can."

So what is the deal? Okay, so Jim has gotten over the fact that good beer can indeed come in a can so what is wrong with the current beer cans? They seem to be doing a good enough job for lots of amazing beers. Here you go...

"For Boston Beer’s Koch, the main problem with cans is how they affect beer’s taste. Although many brewers disagree with him, he believes that tiny tears in can linings frequently lead to metallic notes and that the plastic linings suck up delicate hop aromas. “The cans tend to absorb the floral character of the hop and, to me, dumb the hop down,” he says. In developing cans for Samuel Adams, he adds, he hopes to create thicker, denser linings that address those problems."

We do love Daniel's line about how "many brewers disagree with him" and it has been proven many times over that great beer, including many very hoppy beers, tastes excellent from a can. So, where is all this going? Well, say what you will about Jim Koch and Sam Adams this does have some implications for the craft brewing industry, the consumer and all those breweries that are already canning their beers.

If a new can lining is developed specifically for the needs of Sam Adams it will be interesting to see if it becomes the staple and/or if they use it as a marketing tool. Jim Koch has also been an opponent of cans in the past due to BPA in the linings and has mentioned that cans of Sam Adams would come when this was no longer an issue. Whether or not this is in fact something they're addressing with this new can lining is yet to be determined. It is obviously not an easy thing to remove entirely or it would have been done by now.


(this is also fake)

We've actually written to Boston Beer Company in the past to ask them about the possibility of their canning some of their beers and were met with this canned response (no pun intended, seriously):

"Thanks for the email about Samuel Adams beer. We take pride in producing great beer and equal pride in selecting the best package for ensuring that quality beer reaches you. For us, this means dark brown bottles, which absorb 95% of flavor-damaging light, and higher 6-pack holders, which prevents the light reaching the bottles. In addition, we use pry-off caps, which act as a more effective oxygen barrier than twist-off caps. Although convenient for many situations where glass is prohibited, we do not currently  have plans to can our beers."

Let's fast forward a year. You walk into your local beer store and see cans of Sam Adams Boston Lager sitting in the cooler. What are your thoughts? Well, as a craft beer lover you may not really care as you probably haven't bought a six-pack of Boston Lager in awhile (or maybe you have, who knows). But, if you're the average consumer (sorry, hate to say it) you may see those cans and think to yourself, "wow, a good beer in a can!". Cans of Sam Adams will certainly have a profound impact on the consumer base and as a result they'll have an impact on the craft beer world as a whole. Sam Adams takes from other craft brewers and vice-versa. Cans of Boston Lager would likely push other regional craft brewers, that aren't already canning, to perhaps consider how a move to cans might help their bottom line.

In the end, cans of Boston Lager,  and/or other Sam Adams brands, may be on shelves this summer or they could be on shelves sometime in the spring of 2014 (okay, that might not qualify as "soon"). Who really knows? Just know that it is going to happen. I guess what you take away from all of this is that, yes, Jim Koch has a lot of influence and, yes, cans are certainly here to stay. You may never buy cans of Sam Adams or maybe you can't wait to do just that. Wherever you may stand on the matter it's hard to argue that what Jim Koch does is going to imact the craft beer industry as a whole. They have sway. If Sam Adams begins canning you can bet that other brewers will take note and consumers will certainly be impacted. Which may be a good thing. Cheers!

Posted by Russ

Labels: Opinion