WHY HAVE BEER WHEN YOU *CAN* HAVE CIDER?

“The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true”

It has been trending for at least two years — craft breweries are not just bottling, but canning their most popular brews. There are can-fans (even canned craft beer festivals) and of course, opposers. Beer’s fruity cousin, cider, is no exception.

Though Woodchuck Cider doesn’t quite fit into the “craft” category, it does have a nearly cult-following. Woodchuck President and CEO, Bret Williams, announced May 1 that their amber hard cider would now be available in cans.

The can craze has been met with mixed reviews by consumers across the alcoholic-beverage board. This particular topic has been bouncing around Chicago in particular as our local breweries expand to meet demand. There was quite the uproar after Goose Island started canning their 312 Urban Wheat Ale in March and now Two Brothers is canning their Outlaw IPA. Chicago Craft Beer Week is bringing this particular battle to light as both bottled and canned beverages are highlighted throughout the city.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on the bottle/can debate: we all know that a can makes for an entirely different drinking experience than a bottle. I suggest pouring it into a glass regardless of the vessel it comes in.

All Aleheads might not be ciderheads, but I think Woodchuck’s amber cider is really quite good. It’s nice in warm weather, especially when you don’t want something too heavy. It’s especially useful in social situations: for example, if you have friends who “don’t like beer” or, my personal favorite, “can’t drink beer,” cider of any kind is a great alternative so they won’t feel left out at your beer-nerd events (though, why do we invite them in the first place?). It’s also gluten-free for those people who unfortunately can’t digest gluten, or are just into that whole trend.

The idea for the Woodchuck cans apparently came from fan suggestions. Proof that they really do read your suggestions; or at least that they notice when hundreds of people suggest the same thing. According to the website, 12oz cans are available in 12 packs for $14.99 (SRP).

The announcement came in one of their “Woodchuck Hard Cider’s Cider Maker’s Corner” overly-produced promotional Youtube videos — #5 to be exact, which was uploaded and linked in a Tweet by the company on ‘May Day.’  Also according to the site, the can production process included installing a “Cask Canning Line System” and a “custom made 4,650 gallon Feldmeier Bright Beer Tank” in the Middlebury Cidery.

While the cans are the newest addition to the Woodchuck line, the bottles aren’t going anywhere, but they have changed. You might have noticed that brown bottles have replaced the green ones. Ironically, the brown bottles are “greener” than the green.

If you’ve never seen Woodchuck’s CEO, he’s exactly the kind of guy you would imagine having such a passion for cider. It’s worth watching the video just to see him sitting at his desk, flannel shirt, baseball cap and all, cracking open a can and taking a sip before exclaiming “Wow, that tastes good.”

So, is it better in the bottle or the can?
I’ll let you be the judges.

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20 comments

  1. The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon!

    1. Wait… I thought it was in the vessel with the pestle?

      1. The pellet with the poison is definitely in the vessel with the pestle.

  2. Jimmy Hoppa · ·

    The cans are clearly just a ploy to appeal to a more mainstream audience and not just the soccer hooligans / hippies demographic.

  3. I can’t comment on the difference between canned and bottled Woodchuck since I’m sure the last time I drank a Woodchuck was in high school (I have nothing against cider, of course…it’s beer’s first cousin once removed).

    However, I am a firm believer in the superiority of cans over bottles. Beyond the obvious stuff (cheaper for breweries, easier to recycle, easier to stack, lighter for transport) there’s this: I have almost never had a skunked beer from a can. But I’ve had many skunked bottles of Bell’s, Founders, Dogfish Head, Stone, Cigar City, etc etc.

    In my opinion, if you’re a brewery in 2012 and you’re not making the switch to cans, you’re doing your consumers a disservice.

    1. I’d have to agree. And from a purely business-minded perspective, I think the next great wave of marketshare increases will come from canned offerings. Craft has a lock on the “gourmet” aspect of taste, so now we’ll continue to see the “accessibility” of cans and craft collide (which will only further erode the macro stranglehold.) I think the only thing keeping the Boston Beer Company from reaching that next level is their credo (manifesto?) against cans (and they’re losing out on that next great revenue stream as a result..)

    2. I don’t think it’s possible to have skunked beer in cans. Skunked beer is only the result of the light exposure, I think. I am not a scientist though. I haven’t even stayed in a hotel in like 6 months.

      Unless you’ve found clear cans, which would be awesome, except for the skunking thing.

      1. Two words… transparent aluminum.

        1. caucasian1975 · ·

          We have to wait for scotty to come back and save those damn whales

      2. You’re right…you can’t have traditionally “lightstruck” skunked beer in a can. But hop oils degrade in cans just like they do in bottles, so you can still have a “skunky” can caused by deterioration in the hop flavors. But it’s MUCH less likely.

        I think the difference (for me, at least) is that beer gets exposed to light so often during the distribution process. While being moved from brewery to trucks…while being delivered to stores…while sitting on shelves under fluorescents (sometimes for months). The system is so messy these days depending on how good your local distributors and retailers are in flipping their stock. There’s a good chance that six-pack you purchased will have been exposed to light for hundreds of hours by them time it gets in your fridge. Why take the risk with bottles when cans are so much more shelf-stable?

    3. Your point makes sense, but many consumers (including myself) prefer bottles over cans.
      Cans feel cheap and don’t make the nice “glass on glass” – sound when cheersing.

      That being said, I don’t mind the occasional can of beer, but I’d prefer a bottle anytime.
      I do think that the introduction of cans (giving people a choice) is a good idea.

      1. Polite disagreement from me, David. I think Aleheads everywhere have become savvy enough about craft cans that they know they’re getting the same quality from cans as you do from bottles. As to your “cheersing” explanation, that’s valid only if you’re drinking directly from the bottle or can…which you should never do unless there’s no glassware available. Beer geeks ALWAYS pour their brew into a glass first, regardless of whether it’s served on draft, in a can, or in a bottle.

        1. davidpbc · ·

          Good point, Barley. The “cheersing” argument wasn’t very good since it doesn’t apply in most cases, I agree that drinking from a glass is always preferable.

          Probably the main reason for my different opinion is that I’m from Europe. Cans have a very low level of acceptance in places like Bavaria or Czech Republic, but also in Asia. Concluding that cans are less popular than bottles in the US just because they are in Europe is a logical fallacy.

          So my point is: To me as a European (and many of my beer-loving European friends) cans still feel cheap.

          David

          1. Ah, say no more David. It’s a totally different beer world in Europe. They haven’t come to embrace “craft canning” as we have in the States, so I completely understand why beer cans still have the stigma of being cheap swill. I wonder if a more forward-thinking European brewery like BrewDog or Mikkeller would ever start canning their offerings?

  4. Kid Carboy Jr. · ·

    Speaking of cider, I will be trying Greg Hall’s new Redstreak for the first time tomorrow when I’m in the city for Chicago Craft Beer Week. I will report back.

    1. You definitely have to report back on that one.

  5. Couple things…

    #1 – Although I haven’t had a Woodchuck in quite some time, I have fond memories of their cider. There’s a fancy little hipster Crepe place in Philly called Beau Monde, and I must say, I had some very good meals there (10+ years ago, so I can’t say whether it’s still any good), and I washed them down with some Woodchuck. Their pear cider was particularly tasty. Keep in mind that Craft Beer was not yet on my radar, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt. Or a heaping portion of Nutella on your craft crepe! And add some sliced bananas. #NOMNOM

    #2 – Cans may not have the sex appeal of bottles, but you can’t beat their convenience. Lightweight. Stackable. HIGHLY transportable. As far as the green aspects, there have been a few articles that weigh the greenness of aluminum vs. glass. Tough to say which is greener (here’s the Slate article that I’m referring to. Turns out draught beer is the greenest of all!). And as far as taste goes, I haven’t noticed a difference between canned or bottled craft beer. When shipped and stored under the right circumstances, they are both great. But like you said, pour it into a glass and it’s a non-issue. Or a Red Solo Cup.

    Cheers!
    G-LO

  6. jf1smith · ·

    I first encountered WoodChuck some 20+ years ago, well before kids, right after wife and I bought our first house together. Midtown Art & Music Fest in Atlanta. Woodchuck had just come to ATL and were handing out nice cold samples FREE on a typical hot summer Atlanta day.. I was thrilled.. That was back when the closest to “craft” beer in Atlanta was MIchelob !! as opposed to Bud or Coors… I’d have to agree that it’s a hot weather beverage and yes by all means, a chalice is required, brown glass, green glass or can…

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