Sam Adams FINALLY Cans Their Beer: It Better Be Magical


Samuel Adams, long a pioneer in the craft beer world, recently announced that they are finally going to offer their beer in cans, starting early this summer with Boston Lager and Alpine Spring Summer Ale (oops! I had this wrong in the original post).

Several excellent craft breweries have been producing exceptional canned beers for years, so it begs the question – why did it take Sam Adams so long?

Jenn Abelson of the Boston Globe does a wonderful job of chronicling the long and tedious process, one in which Jim Koch and company rejected conventional cans and forged their own path.  They considered unique shapes, a can with a completely open top, one with two holes so you could smell the beer, and countless vessels topped with odd-shaped openings to address the main issue of drinking from cans – you can’t smell the beer.

Reading the Boston Globe article, it’s pretty clear that the folks at Ball, the new can’s manufacturer, have a huge amount of patience as design after design was rejected.  Jim Koch gladly takes the blame for dragging things out for almost two years, telling Jenn Abelson:

“I’ve been the holdout,” acknowledged Koch, who founded the company 29 years ago. “I’ve been the purist.”

Courtesy of Gary Dzen /

Courtesy of Gary Dzen /

In the end, the design isn’t that different from conventional cans, with the exception of a slightly wider mouth opening and a broader concave curve where the bottom lip meets the edge of the can. The combination gives the can a unique hourglass shape at the top, and will probably make drinking from the can more ergonomically satisfying, but what will it do for the flavor of the brew?

In the press release announcing the cans, sensory expert Roy Desrochers says:

“The flared lip and wider top of the new Sam Can work in concert to deliver the beer in a way that makes the flavor closer to drinking out of a glass. Although subtle, this can delivers a more pronounced, more balanced flavor experience – something that was very important to the brewers. The extended lip of the can also creates a smoother, more comfortable overall drinking experience.”

A taste will tell if it as worth the long wait, but for a brewer this large to wait this long to can their beers, I say it had better be very special indeed.

Right now, I use a plastic cup with me when I drink canned beer in places where glass isn’t allowed, as drinking from the can robs me of a big part of the sensory experience, the beer’s aroma.  If this can solves that problem (or simply makes drinking from the can better than bad) then I guess it was worth the delay.

If it’s the same experience, just with a different shape, I feel sorry that Sam Adams missed out on two years of canned beer sales, which probably is not an insignificant amount of duckets.

It looks like we won’t have to wait much longer to experience the difference for ourselves.

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Categories: Beer, News


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41 Comments on “Sam Adams FINALLY Cans Their Beer: It Better Be Magical”

  1. February 22, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Plastic? What are you doing at college parties?

    • February 22, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Ha ha – no, I use a sturdy cup we got from the Milwaukee Zoo that has nicely curved sides.

  2. February 22, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Morning Jim

    If they do hit their target and deliver a more satisfying craft beer experience I’ll be happy, though not overly so unless some of the other current craft canners follow suit and redesign their cans accordingly.


    • February 22, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Yeah, I’m hoping this pushes things forward for everyone as well

  3. February 22, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I’m very skeptical about the width of the rim contributing anything to more aroma. My bet is that whatever other ideas they came up with, namely a bigger opening, turned out to be cost prohibitive. They want to enter the can market so badly that they picked a design that was different, but not too costly, just to set themselves apart and justify Koch’s earlier concerns.

    I’ll just wait and see like everyone else. Too bad they’re not starting out with the ale first rather than the lager, I’ve never really been a fan of the lager.

    • February 22, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      I think you nailed it – its a compromise. They ran out of the and didn’t want to miss another summer noodling around with designs that weren’t economically feasible.

      I enjoyed Alpine Spring as a gentler beer, and that’s coming out in the cans as well, so at least there’s that…

      • February 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

        Duh – It’s Summer Ale, not Alpine Spring that’s coming out in cans alongside Boston Lager! I just fixed the original post.

  4. February 22, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I have to give Jim kock credit, he is always trying to innovate on the craft beer drinking experience. I kind of wish I liked more of his beers.

    • bdivvy
      February 22, 2013 at 10:19 am #


      • February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am #

        I’m sure he’s been called worse! 🙂

    • bdivvy
      February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      I’m not saying it will make a big difference, but I applaud the effort to ask “is there a better way to do this?”. It’s easy to do what everyone else is doing.

      I love cans for their utility and some of the best beers I’ve had have come from cans.

      • February 22, 2013 at 10:54 am #

        I hope it nudges the form forward. I’d love to drink out of a can, but it buries the aroma so much that the beer doesn’t taste as wonderful as it is. If they can help change this, I totally applaud the effort.

        One design they tried was a wide open top, akin to a mason jar. Everyone freaked out about spilling and bugs getting in, which is too bad – I think that idea has merit.

    • February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      I very much appreciate what he’s done and the value his beers represent. Every once in awhile I’ll have a fling with one of his brews. Last time it was Cherry Wheat, and lately I’ve had a hankering for Alpine Spring.

    • February 22, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      I feel the same way. He deserves a ton of respect for innovation (that nifty SA Lager Glass comes to mind in relation to the “new” can design) and for supporting independent craft brewers in the face of Big Beer. I also like what he did with resurrecting New Albion Ale – hence my blog post).

      That said, there are only a small handful of SA brews that I truly enjoy and I rarely seek them out.

  5. Diss Content
    February 22, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I just don’t get the advantage of the can for the consumer.

    Where the same brand of beer is available in cans and bottles, the price for a six-pack tends to be identical. I do understand the advantages of removing a labeling line and the extra storage available in the cold room with cases of cans, and the weight savings for shipping, but don’t know why anyone would choose a can over a bottle with the same price point.

    I will confess some snobbery on my part since the best beers I’ve consumed have always been in bottles. That plus I’ve got the Pavlovian experience of using my special bottle opener, stored in a back-lit case, which no one is allowed to look at directly (except other beer connoisseurs), to pry the crown off the bottle. Am I to simply forego that ceremony in favor of using a pry tab on a can?

    It’s a slippery slope when decorum and protocol begin to fade. Where will it stop? Boxed beer? 2 liter plastic? Bucket and dipper perhaps? I’m afraid.

    • February 22, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Ecological reasons. Backpacking. Shotgunning. Chilling. Biking.

      • February 22, 2013 at 10:52 am #

        I like the box of beer idea for many of these reasons, just on a grander scale.

    • February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      You can’t take glass into my lake, so good beers in cans is a godsend!

    • February 22, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Bucket and dipper is a better alternative than drinking straight from the can, as long as you drink it fast enough. At least the b&d approach allows for the aroma to be enjoyed.

      • February 22, 2013 at 11:44 am #

        Hmm..maybe I’ll fill a bucket in the parking lot at the lake this summer, and stroll in with my ladle like I own the place…

      • February 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

        The original growlers were actually buckets with lids on them, back at the turn of the last century. So a bucket of beer would actually be kind of hipster-esque. 😉

        • February 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

          Then never mind… 😦

        • February 25, 2013 at 11:05 am #

          Mmmm…some of them were, others were ceramic vessels. A buddy of man has his granddad’s growler from turn-of-the century Trenton. Its very ornate, with his name spelled out in a Gothic style of font.

        • February 25, 2013 at 11:07 am #

          That should say mine not “man”.

  6. February 22, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Well the proof is in the pudding as they say. We’ll just have to wait and see how it tastes.

    (BTW Jim, that’s ducats. ;^) )

    • February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      You say “ducats,” I say…a close approximation to that. 😦

  7. February 22, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Cans are this year’s beer trend… as much or more than barrel-aging has been in recent years… and skyrocketing ABV before that.
    I am fine with cans, since I’ll still pour into a glass. (I rarely drink straight from the bottle, so why would I suddenly do so with cans?)

    • David Little
      February 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      I don’t think craft beer in cans is a trend anymore than beer from a bottle was back in the 17th century when they finally made glass that could stand up to CO2. I simply think we’ve hit the point where technology, affordability and consumer acceptance have all finally come together. Cans are the best consumer-focused packaging for the beer. I like to call them “mini-kegs.” They allow zero oxygen and light to reach the beer, they are more efficient to recycle, can be taken to more places (ball parks, beaches, pools, Jim’s lake, etc.) and are significantly lighter so transportation costs are lower.

      This all being said, I am with you 100% on drinking from a can. I won’t do it unless I absolutely can’t get a glass. I miss the aroma and don’t like thinking about what might have crawled across the top of the can before I open it. The new “can carriers” that completely cover the can and or slowly replacing the old “dog bra” rings are helping there though they are still substantially more expensive for the brewery. I also like the little box approach used by breweries like 21st Amendment. In both cases I make sure to recycle both the carriers and the cardboard.

      Craft beer in cans is only going to become more common … and I think that is a good thing for is beer drinkers.

      • February 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        I agree with everything you say, David, except your first statement – craft beer in cans is a trend,because it’s an idea that’s gaining momentum. But that little semantical point aside, you’re spot on!

        • dplittle
          February 26, 2013 at 8:41 am #

          Point taken Jim. I was assuming Martin’s use of “trend” was more colloquial … more akin to “fad.”

          And you know what they say about “assume” ….

  8. Andy
    February 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Jim, Are you sure that they will be putting Alpine Spring in cans? I was not able to confirm that anywhere. It appears they will be canning the Lager and Summer Ale only.

    • February 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Yikes – you’re right! I have Alpine Spring on the brain.

      Excuse me while I rewrite history (or at least THIStory).

  9. February 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Have you already forgotten your Heady Topper post?

    • February 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      No – they don’t have a fancy, space-aged two-years-to-make fancy can at their disposal! Maybe this one will make beer from the can a viable option (but I doubt it – I’ll be dragging that plastic cup to the lake forever!)

      • February 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

        I hate those little plastic cups or bigger plastic steins they use at various kinds of tasting events. I tried bringing my own stein to a Brewfest once–they were very unhappy w/ me. But, like Martin, if given the opportunity, I always decant my beer into glass–its just an all-around better experience.

  10. Kevin Burke
    February 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    I used to love this blog. No Don in a while .. No comment on Makers watering down then reversing decision?

    • February 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Me too, Kevin. 😦

      Don’t been busy working on opening a beer oasis in Nampa, Idaho and hasn’t had access to a computer as he slaves away renovating the space he’s rented. I’m hoping he’ll be back with us soon, bug it’s already been too long.

      I almost wrote a piece about Makers, and how their “we don’t listen to anybody, we don’t follow trends,” ad campaigns have proven completely false, but I’ve been struggling to find the time to write about beer, so I let it go.

      But I’m with you. Big news in the whiskey world and no POV from Don. It’s a bummer.

      • February 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

        I know a Dan who writes about whiskey…

        • February 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

          I’ll deputize ya!


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