I’ve been a huge proponent of canning for years, ever since popping the top off my first Dale’s Pale Ale over a decade ago. The method keeps precious beer fresh, bubbly and free from damaging sunlight, and the aluminum can’s size, durability and recyclability results in a much less environmentally harmful product. And with increased access to mobile canning units, breweries both large and small–or tiny, in the case of many NYC upstarts–are now able to experiment with releasing cans without committing to a massive automated canning unit or trashing their bottling program entirely. In light of all these factors, we can all bid farewell to the days when the mention of a can of brew immediately conjured up the skunky scent of cheap yellow swill.
While quality canned beer is thankfully nothing novel these days, a new brewery signing on to the craft can revolution is still something to celebrate. And, as of August 11th, Manhattan’s Radiant Pig will do just that, pushing out a batch of their super juicy and previously draft-only Junior IPA in a bounty of shiny blue cans marked by a sweet hop-head illustration. Junior, a session IPA, is co-founders Rob Pihl and Laurisa Milici’s first foray into any kind of off-premise packaging, and it’s the perfect candidate for canning–pleasantly fruity, supremely crushable and with a lively carbonation ideal for beachside imbibing.
On the eve of their big release, I sat down with the Radiant Pig pair to get a little insight into their decision to join the aluminum-clad movement.
How long have you guys been kicking around the idea of canning your beer?
Rob: From the beginning, we knew we wanted to can it. We just wanted to make sure we could do it the right way, which for us, was by using an in-house canning line, as it’s more cost effective. We also wanted to keep it relatively local–we weren’t interested in canning and shipping it halfway across the country because we want to keep it as fresh as possible.
Do you generally prefer cans to bottles? Why?
Laurisa: Yeah. I think they’re easier to travel with and are better for the environment, since they’re easier to recycle. Also, since it keeps light out, it’s typically better for the beer. Also, our beers are unfiltered, so that was definitely an important factor when we were deciding to how package them.
Rob: I like cans better than bottles. They’re better for the beer, and you don’t have to worry about breakage. There’s nothing worse than reaching in to a cooler and finding a shards of glass from a busted bottle!
What are some of your favorite canned craft beers?
Laurisa: My favorites are definitely from 21st Amendment. Their beers are amazing and I love the design of the cans. Their illustrations were actually part of the reason why we decided to do some interesting artwork on our cans instead of just using the logo.
Rob: One of my favorites has to be Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA–I love that beer. But the art school geek in me thinks the designs for the Speakeasy cans are pretty tight.
What styles do you think work best in cans? Are there any that wouldn’t work as well?
Rob: I don’t think there are any limits to what beers work in cans. I don’t know how aging or conditioning a beer in can will be versus bottles, but I’m sure we’ll see that sooner than later.
Do you see craft canning on the rise, either locally or nationally? And do you think the trend will keep growing?
Laurisa: Yeah, I definitely see craft canning on the rise NYC and everywhere else. It’s better for the beer and the environment. It’s an all around win-win situation that’s hard to argue with. I also like that there’s more creative real estate when designing labels for cans.
Rob: I think craft canning will only continue to grow. There’s not a whole lot of negatives about canning–they’re lighter, and they’re much easier to recycle than glass. I think there was a perception for a long time that canned beers were cheap, but once craft beer drinkers warmed up to the idea, it really opened up the whole market.
Find Radiant Pig IPA in cans starting August 11. The big party to celebrate the release will be at ABC Beer Co in Manhattan on August 14th at 7 p.m., complete with free Radiant Pig koozies.