The Tinny Renaissance

Amber Smith prises open the backstory behind the rise of the beer can.

I once read that champagne was the ultimate associative object because every time you open a bottle, it’s a celebration – so there’s no better way of starting a celebration than with a bottle of champagne. Well, if champagne is for celebrations then the humble tinny is for a party!

When you crack open a beer can you’re instantly transported to all the other good times you’ve had wing-manned by that tinny in hand. Maybe it’s a music festival, a grungy rock gig in an underground band room or even that summer you lived abroad and spent Instagram-worthy nights drinking cheap hipster beer on fire escapes while chatting to local men and flaunting your new, deeply cool Marlboro Gold habit … but I digress.

Regardless of what memories it evokes, I’m willing to bet that craft beer isn’t your first association. But over the past few years, the movement of good beer from bottles to cans has gathered pace as a thirsty new generation of beer drinkers start to reconsider the humble tinny.

Beer Cans
Some beer cans we like: Moon Dog’s Beer Can, Kaiju Krush! Tropical Pale Ale, Sailor’s Grave Milky Way, Hop Nation’s The Punch Mango Gose.

It used to be that the tinny section at the bottle-O was reserved for pre-mixed Jack & Coke and UDLs, with the requisite bulk shipment of VB and Carlton brought in for festival season. Needless to say, this offering was better suited to a frat boy than a craft beer lover.

As I began to notice more and more beer cans appearing in bottle shops I took to the Internet – because where else do you find answers for things in 2017? – to see who else had noticed this trend. Turns out I wasn’t the first person to observe this shift, shocking I know. I mean, there’s a reason the senior brewer at Moon Dog remarked, when they unveiled their first canned beer late last year, that they were “bravely going where most other Australian craft breweries have gone before.”

But what I did learn from the depths of Google is that there are actually some really good reasons breweries are making the switch from glass bottle to tin can. So in the spirit of innovation, discovery and all things beer I’m going to share with you the top six reasons why the tinny renaissance is here to stay.

They’re Flavour Savers

Beer cans eliminate something called “light strike”, which is a fancy way of saying cans limit the amount of light that can get inside and cause beer to take on a skunky flavour. Beer cans also have a tighter seal than bottles, which stops gases from entering or leaving the can, helping to reduce the rate at which the beer oxidises and prolonging a beer’s shelf life and flavour.

Their Chill Factor

Beer cans are the chillest mofos going around, no really! Beer cans chill faster than glass bottles, which means they need less downtime in the Esky before they can be enjoyed. These days, these “mini kegs” are made from aluminium which is much thinner than glass – in fact they can be as thin as a human hair! Aluminium is also a better thermal conductor than glass, so any changes in temperature are passed from the can exterior to its contents faster than you can say “pass me a tinny”.

They’re Green

Cans take less energy to recycle than glass and also have a higher rate of recycling. There’s also no limit to the number of times metal can be recycled, which means each tinny can be recycled again and again without any performance loss in the material. In fact, it’s reported that the average tinny today contains around 70% recycled metal. Best of all, all of this can be done pretty quickly and it’s estimated that a tinny recycled today can be back on shelves in as little as two months!

They’re intrepid travellers

Beer cans are the ultimate travel companions! Can are allowed where bottles and glass aren’t, so whether you love drinking beer at a festival or cracking open a frothy after a long hike to the top of a waterfall, cans can be your go-to. Aside from being break-friendly, beer cans are lighter and greener to transport. This is good news for you when you’re carrying home a slab – or two – from the bottle shop! This also means breweries can transport the same amount of product in fewer trips, reducing their carbon footprint and costs at the same time.

Beer cans are also much more efficient in terms of storage size. Two cans are roughly the same size as one bottle, so if you want to save on space and chill more beers at once, go with the can!

They’re Money Smart

A few months ago I went for a brewery tour at the Carlton and United Brewery. While we were touring the bottling line, the young guy giving the tour mentioned how much cheaper it is to produce cans versus glass bottles, and casually added, “Beer would be cheaper if we all drank tinnies”. Well, to paraphrase ’90s heartthrob Leo in Django Unchained: “You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.”

And it turns out it’s true. Cans are cheaper to produce and transport, so brewers can spend more money making the beer taste great! As the costs are significantly higher for independent breweries compared to macro brewing, keeping packing and transport costs down means there’s more room for innovation and improving the quality of the beer.

They’re a blank canvas

Cans are an ideal packaging format. While the traditional bottle label is fairly limited, cans have a greater surface area for branding. If you’re a design lover, this is great news as practically the whole can is available to be branded and can be transformed into a beautiful, eye-catching work of art. From a marketing perspective it also means the can is better for communicating a brewery’s message. And, let’s face it, who among us hasn’t picked up a new beer just because it had a beautifully designed label!

All in all, it seems like the humble tinny is carving out a pretty sweet space for itself in the craft beer scene. Cans are no longer synonymous with cheap beer and poor quality, and an increasing number of Australian brewers are making to move to the can side. So the next time someone tells you bottles are better than cans, I’d suggest you bet them a beer you can convince them otherwise. A tinny, preferably.

Amber Smith is a Melbourne-based writer. Read more of her work at  ambervsmith.wixsite.com/freelance

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