Ask a Midwestern craft beer drinker what they think of craft beer in a can and more often than not you will hear, "Bottled beer tastes better.” I thought the same thing for a long time, but in recent years I’ve experienced some great-tasting canned craft beer from other parts of the country. I didn’t think much more about it, until a phone call last fall that got me to do a little research on the subject.
The call was from a Tallgrass drinker in western Kansas. He had about 20 empty cases of IPA bottles and boxes stacked in his garage. I guess he really likes it. He wanted to return the boxes for us to reuse, but since he was so far away, picking them up was not an option. I asked him to recycle the glass and cardboard, but he did not have a local recycler. It would all have to go to the local landfill. This seemed like a huge waste, but what could we do? As a recovering environmental geologist, I still love to solve problems, so I thought about this one.
After a little research, I found out that bottles with paper boxes are just about the most wasteful, energy intensive, and hard-to-recycle things that can hold beer. On top of that, they are not even the best choice for the quality of the beer!
It turns out that the humble aluminum can is the best choice for a whole lot of reasons. Cans are better for the beer. Cans seal better than bottles and totally block sunlight, which keeps our beer tasting fresher, longer. Cans are more fun. You can take cans to the pool, concerts, lakes, stadiums, hot tubs, golf courses, and anywhere else you can’t take glass. Last, but not least, the aluminum can is WAY better for the environment than bottles.
Cans are 12x lighter than glass, which means it takes less energy to ship the same amount of beer. But the biggest advantage is how easy it is to recycle cans. A recycled aluminum can will be made into another can and back on the shelf in about 60 days. Recycling is an easy, efficient thing for can manufacturers to do. 50% of all cans are now recycled and that is expected to increase in the future.
After learning all of this, I have decided to change Tallgrass packaging from bottles to really cool cans that hold 1 full pint of beer. Think of them as little recyclable kegs that can fit in a backpack. Go ahead and enjoy Tallgrass with your friends. Drink assured that we will always walk the walk when it comes to doing the right thing, for our beer, our beer drinkers, and our little corner of the planet.
Jeff Gill, Founder, Tallgrass Brewing Company