Oskar Blues' cannery row. Photo: Ryan Dearth
By Will McGough, Wake and Wander
Growing up outside of Philadelphia, it was never much of a decision. There were no mountains to climb. We lived the city life and my upbringing was simple: Good beer came in a bottle, crap came in a can.
Flash forward a few years and I'm pacing the beer aisle in a store near the Front Range of the Rockies, my fingers still greasy from prepping my bike chain. Now immersed in an arena of outdoor activity, my priorities have changed—biking and bottles and backpacks certainly don’t mix. Ten years ago, this would have meant inappropriately pairing a light canned beer with a crisp, fall ride through the foliage. Today, I’m happy to say, we finally have options. Lots of them.
Bottles have long ruled the craft brew scene in the United States. But that's changing, largely thanks to Dale Katechis, founder of Longmont, Colorado-based brewery Oskar Blues.
"I won’t call out anyone in particular, but they were all pointing and laughing at the new kid in town," says Katechis, recollecting the reaction he received when he began canning his hoppy pale ale back in 2002. "They thought it was a joke, yet today they’re all canning beer.... Talk about funny."
That hilariously hoppy brew is Dale’s Pale Ale, a drink that has been widely praised by beer experts and easily recognized in stores across the United States in its red, white, and blue can. It’s true: Oskar Blues was indeed the pioneer of the U.S. craft beer canning movement. As it approaches its 10-year “CANniversary” in November, Osker Blues is now one of more than 220 American breweries that have followed suit, according to Craftcans.com.
When it comes to gear, from backpacks to tents to bikes to shoes, weight matters. Whether heading into the backcountry or on a leisurely day hike, no one wants to lug an ounce more than is necessary. The same goes for adult beverage choices: cans are lighter, smaller, and easier to pack out than bottles. So cheers for the trend in canned craft beer.
But we're not the only winners. Cans also offer significant environmental benefits.