I guess that my first experience of canned drinks was when I used to go and watch the cricket at Old Trafford back in the ’60s armed with my meat paste sandwiches and a can of shandy. In the early days you had to remember your opener which pierced a hole in the can, or if you had been paying attention in science classes, two holes so the air could get in as well as the liquid out.
Later came the ring pulls which littered the countryside when discarded, before the advent of the current style which stay attached to the can after use.
As I graduated on to the stronger stuff, canned beer was what you took to parties. Some of you will remember the large cans of Watney’s Red dubbed party four or party seven depending on the volume. Boddingtons, which was then a cult beer, also did a party size can which had a rubber bung as a stopper, and I suppose that in our late teens the thing that mattered is that the beer did the trick, rather than tasted great.
More recently canned beer seems to have become associated with street drinkers. It does cross my mind to do a scientific study of the best-selling beers based on the empties I observe around The Walks and especially on the footpath leading through to the Hardwick industrial estate.
A rough impression is that they are either super strength brands or cheap lagers and ciders where the alcoholic content is perhaps more important to the purchaser than the quality.
So is it fair to say that the discerning drinker who wants a take out for home consumption chooses bottles? Until recently I would have thought so, but the news that Adnams are launching Jack Brand Crystal Rye IPA in cans made me think again.
They are not the only ones. As with many recent beer innovations, the use of cans for premium beer started in the USA when craft brewer Oskar Blues in Colorado started canning their Pale Ale in 2002.
It took a while to take off, but sales of canned craft beer in the USA are reported to be up 89 per cent year on year. In Britain, the increase is even more rapid, with specialist beer distributor James Clay seeing an increase of over 250 per cent in canned beers.
For the brewers the cans are lighter, easier to transport and take up less space. They cool more quickly in the fridge and are less prone to breakage. They protect the contents and in theory are 100 per cent recyclable.
For drinkers, the objection has often been about the taste, with many suggesting a metallic flavour. In fact this should not happen as the cans are lined with a thin water based lining to prevent contamination. One tip is to pour into a glass so that you can fully experience the aroma, which enhances the flavour. Will I rush out to buy a few tinnies? I’m not convinced but might organise a blind tasting.