Following in the footsteps of boxed wine, which has only recently started to shake off the stigma that cheaper brands like Franzia have given it, canned beer is moving beyond Old Style and Bud Light. Craft brewers have recently started to embrace aluminum cans, which are lighter and cheaper to ship than glass bottles; unlike glass, they don’t let in light, which can make beer go skunky, and cans allow less oxygen uptake during packaging. And now that they’re lined, they don’t give the beer a metallic flavor. Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Company has been selling its beer in cans since it launched in 2006; other craft breweries that now offer cans include New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Big Sky, Ska, and Brooklyn.
One of the most recent can converts is Gabriel Magliaro, owner of North Center’s Half Acre Beer Co., who recently decided to move away from bottles (except for 22-ounce bombers, which the company will continue to offer). Besides the aforementioned upsides, he says, “you can bring a can to the beach, the park, wherever you want to go; it’s light and there’s no broken glass. Really, on all levels it’s a positive thing.”
Half Acre’s canning equipment arrived in early April and was put to use right away; Daisy Cutter Pale Ale and Gossamer Golden Ale are currently available in four-packs of 16-ounce cans. (Magliaro says it’s easier to package as much as possible at one time. Besides, “tall boys are cool and definitely a Chicago tradition.”)
There is one hitch: the minimum number of cans you can order is more than 200,000—a 53-foot semi load’s worth—with up to two different labels allowed per order. Half Acre has limited storage space, which means that until it goes through most of its current order of cans, it can’t buy more. Magliaro predicts that’ll happen in the fall, when he plans to start canning a darker beer—maybe the popular Over Ale. Until then, if you want something besides Daisy Cutter or Gossamer you’ll have to hit a bar with Half Acre on tap or stop by the brewery for a growler or bomber.