Legacy LR Blog
In the world of craft beer there is a growing trend that is being debated among enthusiasts. Canning has become more and more popular throughout the past several years, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Oskar Blues out of Colorado. Now breweries across the country are trending more towards canning their beers over bottling. So, the question is, why?
- 1.Lining Technology – One of the biggest complaints about canned beer in the past has been that the cans impart a metallic flavoring to the beers. While this was certainly true in the 80’s and early 90’s, now a new water-based polymer lining technology prevents the aluminum cans from coming into contact with the beer. Numerous blind taste tests from around the country have found no noticeable metallic flavor in one beer over the other.
- 2.Oxygen and Light – The two biggest killers of beer flavor are oxygen and UV light. Cans block 100% of UV light from affecting the integrity of the beer and while the seal on the can doesn’t provide an infinitely impermeable seal against oxygen, it is as close to perfect as one can find with the added bonus of having a seal that is harder to break than a bottle.
- 3.Weight and Storage – Cans are lighter and easier to store than bottles, which reduces shipping costs for the breweries. Cans don’t shatter in transit and while they do rupture, the danger is minimal versus the risk involved with exploding bottles.
- 4.Flavor – While this ultimately should and hopefully does remain in the domain of the subjective, one large point needs to be brought to the attention of the curious consumer. Cans represent the beer in its truest form. Temperature fluctuates less, light is kept out, and oxygen is left seething at the door. Think of cans as really small kegs, if you’ll have it that way, and you can see that beer out of the can tastes the closest to how the brewer intended the beer to taste.
- 5.Fun and Sun – Canned beer over bottled beer is a necessity when experiencing the great outdoors. Cans cool off faster, stay cool longer, and are more conducive to any outdoor environment, whether it be floating a river, sitting on the beach, or hitting a ballgame.
I’ll admit that there are definitely some small subtle differences in the appearance, aroma, and flavor of canned beer versus bottled beer. For instance, canned beer often has more pronounced head, clean, crisp aromas, and vibrant flavors when compared to the bottled variety of the same brew. And, yet, despite the fact that blind taste tests and most breweries tend to side with cans over bottles, the stigma that surrounds canned beer (that it is somehow inferior or cheap) persists. Personal preferences aside, this needs to stop. Cans and bottles both have their place in the craft beer world and we can all do a little more in making sure that they exist as equals. And whether it comes in a bottle or a can, pour it into a glass and drink it in good company.
As I sat down to formulate this list of holiday beers, I began to lament the one that I wanted to put on the list the most. Now most of the beer geeks out there that know me well have made fun of me for this fact for years, but I remain unabashedly in love with fruit beers. Do I think that they are most well-crafted beers in the world? Absolutely not, but if I am sitting around on a hot summer day and someone offers me an Abita Strawberry, I am going to absolutely crush it. And I am going to love every single second of it. But there is a beer that once upon a time was both well-made and crushably fruity. That beer is New Belgium Frambozen, a decadent brown ale brewed with a heavy dose of ripe raspberries. It is quite possibly my favorite holiday beer of all time and, as you’ll soon read, that is really saying something.
I tried to stay as close to holiday inspired beers as possible in making this list, so a few winter stalwarts were pushed aside in favor of beers more in tune with the season at hand. I think that the list I put together is both stylistically diverse and representative of Christmas spirit and holiday cheer (but, love for fruit beer notwithstanding, no Shiner Cheer), just know that I would trade any of them for one more New Belgium Frambozen. So here we go, in no particular order, this is my holiday six pack.
- 1.Sierra Nevada Celebration – Am I cheating right off of the bat here? Yes, but I don’t care. This fresh hop IPA is not brewed to celebrate the Christmas season but instead to celebrate the annual hop harvest. Not to be confused with wet-hopping (which is the practice of pulling hops straight off of the vine and dropping them into a beer within 24 hours), this beer is brewed with the first run of dried hops from the harvest, typically a turnaround time of seven days. The result is some of the freshest and crisp hop flavors present in any beer in the market. Rich resinous pine meets fresh citrus as some of the most tried and true hops blend together to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
- 2.Anchor Christmas – The old guard in American brewing tradition trots out its 41st iteration of its Christmas ale this year. While the recipe and label change from year to year the beer stays very close to its stylistic origins as a winter warmer. Despite some fears to the contrary due to its low abv, this beer ages nicely if stored properly with some of the spicier elements muting out in favor of roasted grain and subtle flavors of toasted caramel. The real standout here is the ever-evolving spice profile which brings classic Christmas spices into play with low-key piney hops.
- 3.Charleville Whiskey Scented Santa – This holiday imperial porter from St. Genevieve, Missouri, eschews classic winter spices in favor of my personal favorite winter spice, whiskey. Not barrel aged, this beer is infused with whiskey soaked oak chips which impart vanilla and some light woody flavors along with boozy spice. Bourbon dominates the nose but in the flavor it blends nicely with notes of semi-sweet chocolate and coffee from the heavily roasted grain bill and at 11.5% it is a beer that cuts into the winter chill.
- 4.Boulevard Nutcracker – The mid-west bad asses in Kansas City continue to churn out great beer year after year. While I was tempted to include their newest addition to the winter beer scene, the incredibly packaged and delicious Snow and Tell, I chose their classic winter warmer instead because it is simply a delicious beer. The holiday spices are more subtle here, where the focus is more on the heavy malt flavors or brown sugar and molasses. The finish is rounded out with herbal pine from an addition of Chinook hops and 7.8% it is a disturbingly easy to drink Christmas beer.
- 5.Prairie Christmas Bomb! – Prairie Bomb, despite its healthy price tag, is one of my favorite imperial stouts on the planet. If there is one way to my heart (other than someone making a raspberry brown ale) it is adding gingerbread spice to a stout. I can’t help it, I just love it. This year’s recipe has seemingly dampened down the espresso flavors that dominated last year’s effort and allowed the bouquet of herbs and spices to shine through a lot more. The result is a beer that drinks like someone drowned a gingerbread man in a glass of Prairie Bomb, which is to say, amazing. Like its base beer, it is a boozy beast with hints of peppery spice, but with cinnamon, gingerbread, and nutmeg to round everything out nicely.
- 6.St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – No list of Christmas beers can properly exist without at least an acknowledgment of this masterful Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It is incredibly complex with different flavors popping out with nearly every sip. Clove and Belgian candi-sugar are in the forefront but slowly give way to dark cherry, figs, and plums which in turn transition into candied raisins and warming alcohol in the finish. As it is a perfect night cap, it also seemed fitting to cap this six-pack.
Cheers, all! Stay warm, be safe, and enjoy the hell out of your holidays.