It’s no secret that flavorful craft beer is best enjoyed out of a glass, ideally a style-appropriate and beer-clean glass that beautifully showcases the flavorful liquid it holds. But with more craft breweries now offering their beers in cans, the temptation to just crack one open and start sipping direct from the pop-top is undeniable.
As a Certified Cicerone® and inveterate beer snob, I usually take a hard line against drinking straight from the package, be it can or bottle. In my view, there are not nearly enough pros to balance out the cons. Sure it’s convenient and I guess you won’t have to wash anything after downing your fill, but what about all that aroma (that stays trapped in the can)? What about the simple joy of watching a cascade of bubbles float up to create a fluffy head, or admiring the intricate patterns that the foam leaves behind on the sides of the glass as you sip? What about the off-kilter flavor profile that sipping from a can offers (to say nothing of the claim that beer sipped from a can will taste metallic)? In my mind, there is one good reason to drink beer directly from a can. I call it the outdoors exception: if the sun’s out, if you’re under blue skies or twinkling stars, if there’s a campfire or a body of water near by, then crack ‘em open.
Of course, I’m in the minority on this topic, and beer culture hasn’t quite caught up to wine or cocktail drinkers with regards to respect for proper glassware. Lots of craft beer fans have no qualms with eschewing a glass when drinking canned brews. And even the brewers — my go-to source for the best ways to enjoy beer — are often spotted going glassless.
In the spirit of being less of an unbearable snob on the topic of drinking from the can, here are a few brews that even I am okay with chugging right from the can.
Any American Light Lager
The most obvious brews to consume without pausing to find a glass are the ubiquitous adjunct lagers. Be it Coors or Bud or even Yuengling, these brews are practically designed to be consumed directly from the package; they are best when very cold and when consumed quickly. There’s not much aroma to lose, and the flavor profile of these styles take a backseat to their refreshing qualities and carbonic bite. They’re colloquially known as “lawnmower beers,” and who in their right mind would mow the lawn while holding a glass? Plus, since these brands pretty much all taste the same, the brewing companies use neat gimmicks like wide-mouths and vented can lids to help differentiate the products from the competition. Who doesn’t want to have to get our your car keys to finish opening a can of beer?
The Alchemist — Heady Topper
As much as I dislike the thought of not being able to enjoy the pungent aromas of a double IPA because they are all trapped inside a can, struggling to diffuse out through the can’s mouth, my respect for a brewer’s intentions trumps my own opinions. Alchemist Founder John Kimmich strongly suggests that his iconic brew be enjoyed from the cannister, and if you’ve ever ignored his suggestion and poured a tall glass of Heady, you know that it isn’t the prettiest of brews. I’m just a pretentious beer writer, if Kimmich says enjoy from the can, who am I to argue?
“Open Mike” Cans from Mike Hess Brewing
San Diego’s Mike Hess Brewing introduced a new type of canned packaging late in 2015. Dubbed the “Open Mike” cans, these 16-ounce aluminum cans feature can manufacturer Crown’s proprietary 360 Ends can tops instead of a standard pop top. These beers open more like a can of tunafish than a typical beer — pull the ring up and back after breaking the seal and the entire can top pulls off. It’s like converting a can into a pint glass with one tug, and not only do you get to enjoy the aroma of your canned beer, you don’t have to align the can’s small opening with your mouth. Of course you’re left holding a razor-sharp metal disk, but you can just toss that on the lakeshore while you enjoy your Habitus imperial IPA.
Whatever the Host Hands You…
When you’re at a house party and the hosts have stocked the fridge or cooler with craft beer, don’t be the guy to ask for a glass for your Fat Tire. I’ve been that guy, and I looked like a huge tool. Then, when my host found me a highball glass for my ale, I discovered that maybe they didn’t have the same definition of “beer clean” that I did — there was a salad’s worth of dried greenery stuck to the inside of the glass, and the whole thing had a very off-putting odor. I thanked my host profusely, then ended up just sipping from the bottle anyways and hoping nobody noticed.
While most styles of craft beer are improved by pouring into a glass, especially those in the ever-popular IPA family, there are some styles that handle service sans glass better than others. Think about styles that don’t have a huge aroma impact, since unless you’re into trying to stuff your nose into the mouth of the can you’re going to be missing out on much of the aromatics. Also consider brews that don’t have the greatest presence in the glass, whether it is haze or a lackluster head.
Craft brewed examples of blonde ales, kolsches and the related lighter flavor options do pretty well from a can. Beers such as Firestone Walker 805 (a crisp, clean and lightly sweet blonde), Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde Lager (a hazy, slightly bready helles style), or Ballast Point Yellowtail (a light and grainy kolsch) are all canned sippers that don’t loose much if you forgo the glass.
The trendy gose-style wheat beers are another good option when ditching the glass. Nobody seems to know what the best glassware for a gose is anyways, and their character is defined by tartness, texture, and that curious salinity. There are also many excellent canned examples of the style such as Westbrook Gose, a few options from Anderson Valley Brewing Co. (Blood Orange Gose in particular) and Sierra Nevada’s adventurous new offering Otra Vez. These are some of the most refreshing craft brews around, and they pair great with all manner of outdoor activities.
Whatever Is in Your Fridge
Just because I prefer a stemmed tulip or delicately flared pilsner glass when enjoying my favorite brews doesn’t mean that you have to. If you dig the down to earth vibe of cracking a can and gulping it down, even if it’s a can of aromatic Resin from Sixpoint or a pungent tallboy of Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s, don’t hesitate go glassless. Not every beer has to be dissected and “fussed over,” sometimes you’re just thirsty. Just do me a favor; don’t write a review or leave a bad Untappd check-in on a beer that you haven’t tried from a glass. That’s just not fair to the brewers.
A quick postscript: as a counterpoint to the “it’s okay to drink from the can” idea, do not hesitate to ask for a glass if you order a craft brew at a bar, especially if you’re at one of those hipster bars with a list of “canned brewskis” that’s half adjunct lagers and half craft brands. Sure, the mustachioed and vested bartender is going to roll his eyes when you ask for a glass, but if you’re paying $8 for a pint can of something delicious you should be able to enjoy it they way you want to.