Gear Guy

Is There a Better Beer Can for Camping?

I know beer cans are easiest to pack in and out of the camp site. But I’ve heard rumblings of new can designs to make it taste better. Is there anything to it?

Bob Parks

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Is there a can for tastier beer? Unfortunately, we’ve spoiled our taste buds through years of drinking skunk. To answer this question, we tapped our favorite expert on the topic, Tim Brady, the brewer at southern Vermont’s Whetstone Station and writer for the blog

There are several new beer can designs that claim to improve taste, one of which is Sly Fox Brewing Company’s flip-top called the 360 Lid, which debuted in April. To test small-town brewer Brady’s skills, we presented him with another contender, Samuel Adam’s Sam Can, which goes on sale this month.

According to Boston Beer Company, the new can cost over a million dollars and two years to design and realize. The company says the can’s flared lip and wider top makes their beer taste better.

Brady scoffed at these assertions. He noted that while cans are a better container than bottles for transporting beer—they keep out UV light and oxygen—the best way to enjoy a canned beer is to pour it into a glass.

“Cans don’t smell good and you subtly pick up on that with an astringent taste, but once it’s in a glass, you generally can’t tell whether it came from a new can or new bottle,” he explains.

For camping, of course, extra glassware defeats the point—we bring cans because they won’t smash inside a backpack, and because they conveniently squash down to carry out.

To see if there’s any hope for enjoying canned beer the way nature intended, we placed Brady in front of two cans—one with Boston Lager in a regular can and one in the million-dollar Sam Can. Visually, the containers are almost identical, with the main difference being that that round top gives the Sam Can a slightly larger diameter, pushing the opening away from the edge.

“Huh,” he considered on first sip. “It drinks faster, but the opening is the same size. It’s farther away from the lip, so makes you open your mouth further, you get more aroma and more flow.”

Brady’s surprising conclusion: The new can actually did change the flavor. “I can’t believe there’s a difference at all. But there is,” he said. “It’s more of a draft experience.”

Just to make sure, we filled both cans with Boston Lager from Brady’s own taps to rule out any difference in the contents. Still, he discerned a perceptible change in the flavor. “It’s definitely smoother,” he said.

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