May 7, 2013 at 10:28 AM ET
Boston brewer Samuel Adams has been a craft beer pioneer for decades, but there’s one area where they’ve lagged behind – offering their beer in cans.
That’s about to change with their new custom-shaped vessel, which is hitting stores just in time for outdoor fun in places where bottles aren’t allowed.
While it doesn’t look much different than a standard can, there are a few notable design differences that Samuel Adams claims will improve the drinking experience.
The “hourglass ridge” where the bottom lip meets the edge is deeper and more rounded than on a standard can. It’s designed to create turbulence as the beer flows over it and deliver the beer to the front of the palate, maximizing the sweetness of the malts.
The can’s opening is placed further inboard on its wide top to allow for better airflow while drinking, which means the beer’s aroma, a major component of flavor, has a little more room to breathe.
I decided to put the new “Sam can” to the test against some other notable canned craft beer offerings to see how this new vessel stacks up. Along for the ride were the pioneering new Sly Fox can, in which the entire top comes off, and a 16-ounce tallboy can of Heady Topper, a container which packs zero innovation, but holds one of the finest IPA’s on the plant.
First up was Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in both the new can and a standard 12-ounce unit that the brewery provided for comparison. A single sip from each revealed a clear difference between the two.
The easy breathing new can provided a fairly full-flavored Boston Lager experience; there’s a pepper of hops up front, followed by a lovely sliver of toasted caramel and another sizzle of hop bitterness on the back end.
In contrast, the standard 12-ounce can choked all the sweetness out of the beer, allowing the bitter soapiness of the hops to take center stage throughout the whole performance.
I let my wife try both cans, and she asked if they contained the same beer, a testament to the difference the new design makes.
While this new shape successfully unleashes the beer’s aroma, it’s nothing like Sly Fox’s new vessel with a lid that tears off entirely, turning the can into an aluminum cup. I recently reviewed it, so I’ll skip the full treatment here, save to say that its huge opening on the top allows the aroma of the beer to shine through.
Let’s move on to the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, widely considered to be one of the best Double IPA’s in the world, and one that comes exclusively in 16-ounce tallboy cans labeled with the words “DRINK IT FROM THE CAN.”
This 8.0 percent ABV Double IPA is so packed with character that you get an intoxicating whiff of sticky tropical hops as you bring the narrow opening of the can to your mouth. A sip brings an explosion of flavor, starting with resinous pine bitterness, followed by a rich gush of malt and a trail of sweet tropical fruit. This beer is so flavorful it easily transcends the limitations of the container in which it’s packaged.
Of the three beers, Heady Topper is clearly the best, but of the three can designs, I’m firmly in the Sly Fox camp, as it’s the closest you can get to a cup without dragging one along with you.
That said, the new Samuel Adams can is far and away superior to a standard 12-ounce unit, and they should be pleased that all of their hard work has clearly paid off. I can’t wait to try their Summer Ale in this new vessel.
Actually, I can't wait to try many beers in this new vessel. Samuel Adams has alerted the craft brewing community that they will graciously allow others to use their new can design.
Hopefully the folks who make Heady Topper got the memo. I wonder if they can make a tallboy version of this thing…