Previously the preserve of bland, flavourless and fizzy lagers, cans are fast becoming the dispensing method of choice for craft breweries – broadly speaking, breweries that are independently owned and brew using only high-quality ingredients – across the UK and overseas.
Canned beer is more portable, quicker to cool and less likely to spoil due to light or oxygen exposure. It’s now a huge market both globally and in the UK. Containers are specifically designed using the latest technology to ensure that the beer does not taste metallic, as can be the case with mainstream lager brands.
We’ve selected some of our favourite ‘tinnies’, from breweries small and not-so-small. All are chosen for their conversation-starting qualities and we’ve given some background into the brewing process as well as the outfits carrying it out.
1. Camden Town Brewery India Hells Lager 6.2%: £2.89, cannedcraft.co.uk
Camden Town Brewery founder Jasper Cuppaidge set up shop in 2010 on a mission to prove that British breweries could produce good lager. India Hells Lager (IHL), its IPA-hybrid, proves this point very well. Packing a reasonable punch at 6.2%, IHL is an explosion of fruity flavours with a dry and bitter finish. Brewed using light Pilsner and Munich malts and stuffed full of juicy US and German hops, it goes brilliantly with the likes of spicy sausages or strong cheeses.
2. Wild Beer Co Bibble 4.2%: £2.10, wildbeer.myshopify.com
Somerset-based Wild Beer Co is famous for extravagant and complex beers that experiment with wild yeast strains and barrel ageing. Bibble, its signature pale ale, doesn’t hold back, despite its low ABV. Pouring a gorgeous deep amber, Mosaic and Amarillo hops give this session pale strong tropical flavours, balancing out an underlying yet not unpleasant bitterness. “Bibble” means to drink regularly in Somerset, something this makes it only too easy to do.
3. Weird Beard Brew Co Decadence Stout 5.5%: £2.69, beerhawk.co.uk
It’s not just pales, lagers and IPAs finding their way into cans nowadays. Weird Beard Brewery is among a host of makers experimenting with darker beers such as porters and stouts in cans. Decadence Stout is a dark black and incredibly rich stout, brewed with roasted malts that give it a strong espresso and dark chocolate flavour, along with undertones of liquorice and dried fruit.
4. Beavertown Gamma Ray 5.4%: £2.80, honestbrew.co.uk
Originally Hackney-based Beavertown upsized to Haringey and on its new site, totally embraced the canning revolution. It no longer bottles any of its beers, instead packaging everything from 10% triple IPAs to Yuzu sours in cans that are beautifully decorated by illustrator Nick Dwyer. Its stand-out beer is its American Pale Ale, Gamma Ray. Massive quantities of US hops give this a fruity citrus aroma, while pale and caramel malts combine for a bittersweet finish.
5. Brewdog Jackhammer 7.2%: £2.60, brewdog.com
Scottish craft beer behemoth Brewdog has dominated the industry since its launch in 2007 and has the largest canning line in Europe, capable of producing 34,000 beers an hour. It has used this new extra capacity to start putting its 7.2% IPA, Jackhammer into cans. The beer is an overwhelmingly bitter hop monster, which is not for the faint-hearted. Slight grapefruit and piney notes initially on the nose are followed by a bitter and resinous bite that blitzes the taste buds and dominates the palate.
6. The Waen Brewery Dangermousse 6%: £3.30, eebria.com
Dangermousse is this awarding-winning Welsh brewery’s first foray into the canned beer market. A supercharged version of its 4.2% golden pale ale Pamplemousse, it is chock-full of classic American Pale Ale flavours, with fruits such as orange, grapefruit and pineapple all featuring on the palate.
7. Brooklyn Brewery Lager 5.2%: £2.25, beermerchants.com
If you’re looking for lager, it’s hard to go wrong with the offering from New York’s Brooklyn Brewery. Reportedly brewed using a pre-prohibition recipe, its 5.2% flagship lager is a golden amber in colour and surprisingly malty. Floral and grassy on the tongue, the Viennese-style beer is refreshingly uncomplicated but interesting enough to warrant another sip. It’s great alongside spicy Mexican dishes such as fajitas.
8. Firestone Walker Brewing Company Easy Jack IPA 4.5%:£2.99, therealalecompany.co.uk
Easy Jack, Firestone Walker’s session IPA, was originally brewed using entirely new varieties of hops. Mandarina Bavaria, the primary hop, and Hull Melon, the secondary, were only put into production in 2013. As a result, when the beer was released, it sold out in eight weeks as all the hops had been used up. Now firmly on its roster and available in cans, it’s a full-bodied, orange-y offering with a malty backbone and a delicious, slightly earthy aroma.
9. Dark Star Brewing Co American Pale Ale 4.7%: £2.20, alesbymail.co.uk
Another new entrant to the canning scene, Dark Star brewery was labelled a pioneer when it launched this classic American Pale Ale in 2002. The East Sussex-based brewery is famous for its cask beers, but has now jumped on the can bandwagon. American Pale Ale is a dark-gold to amber in colour, and brewed using Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. The result is a crisp, slightly dry and punchy pale, with a bitter, citrusy finish.
10. Flying Dog Brewery Snake Dog IPA 7.1%: £2.50, therealalecompany.co.uk
For our money, Snake Dog, a 7.1% IPA, is the best of maverick, US-based Flying Dog’s brews. The use of Columbus hops creates powerful grapefruit notes, while Warrior hops at the bittering stage ensure that the beer is dry and bitter in the finish. This is a well-rounded, strong IPA. The can looks great, too – like all the breweries tinnies, it’s decorated by Ralph Steadman, best known for illustrating Hunter S Thompson’s works.
Our first choice would have to be the moreish Beavertown Gamma Ray, but keep an eye out in the future for Magic Rock Brewery, whose fantastic beers are set to be released in cans sometime later in the year.