Nik Cvetich was behind the counter one recent morning folding hand towels, corners perfect, stacks deep. The bottle shop and pub at Capitol Beer and Tap Room were quiet and it gave the bartender ample time to discuss aluminum cans.

Specifically, Cvetich and Eric Newell, manager of six-year-old establishment in University Village on Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento, are enthusiastic about beer in cans.

The concept dates to 1935. Gottfried Krueger Brewing in Richmond, Va., in partnership with the American Company, delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale to faithful drinkers. Unlike with bottles, consumers didn’t have to pay deposits for cans. During World War II, U.S. millions of cans beer to soldiers station overseas.

Nik Vrevith and ? have hearty cheers to the freshness of beer in cans.
Nik Cvetich  and Eric Newell of Capitol Beer and Tap Room praise beer in cans. Image © James Raia/2018

In recent decades, with the proliferation of microbreweries and particularly hoppy beer with shorter freshness spans, distribution of beer in cans is back. Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colo., promotes itself as the original craft beer in a can. It began selling its flagship Dale’s Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans in 2002. The idea was to prevent light damage and oxidation and guarantee purity.

“Particularly with American ales, you really don’t want light,” said Cvetich. “It will diffract. It will mess up the hops, the residual will just be destroyed by the sun. That’s why cans are better. It just keeps the beer fresher and keeps it protected from the sun. It’s a little easier to cool and it’s little easier to store.”

Even in his short tenure at shopping center location, Cvetich has witnessed a drastic increase in canned beer buyers. It’s now about 75 percent to 25 percent cans over bottles in the dual-purpose business. Capitol Beer and Tap Room is among only a few beer establishments with retail and on-premise drinking options.

Newell remembers when it was difficult to acquire enough craft beer in cans to fill one of the bottle shop’s eight glass cases. Now, there’s not enough space for the variety of choices in the canned beer boom.

“I think there’s just something about having a can, maybe it’s even culturally, too,” said Cvetich. “It gives people a different feeling than tapping a bottle. In the last two or three years, you’ve seen it where you have the big breweries like Sierra Nevada and Firestone that have forever put their beer in bottles now putting it in cans.”

The phenomenon has fostered “can release parties.” Beer fanciers wait for hours taste a new batch of specialty canned selection. Crowlers, filled-to-order large cans, the aluminum siblings to glass growlers, are another booming concept. Canned four-pack, sometimes a collaboration different beers four different breweries.

“Tell me. When have you ever seen a four-pack of different bottles,” said Cvetich. “Breweries want you do drink their products within three months, but ideally within a month. That’s why breweries are more in your face with it, ‘Drink this fresh. Drink this fresh.’ ”

(Originally published 4/18/18 in the Sacramento News & Review)

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