THE COOLEST CRAFT CANS

The original craft can.

The craft canning revolution is upon us. Thanks to the pioneers at Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colorado (the first craft outfit to wholly embrace the beauty of the humble aluminum can), the rest of the craft beer industry is slowly coming to realize the superiority of cans to bottles. We’ve talked endlessly about the advantages of cans (easier to stack, easier to store, recyclable, light-proof, shatter-proof, etc.), but one thing we’ve failed to mention is that they just LOOK cooler than bottles. Graphics and marketing on a glass bottle are limited to the size of the label…but with a can, the entire container is your palette. This benefit has allowed craft breweries to design and produce some of the best looking beer label art EVER on the surfaces of their aluminum offerings.

Thanks to the good folks at CraftCans.com, you don’t need to look far to find a comprehensive database of these cylindrical brews (of course, it helps that there still aren’t THAT many craft cans out there…although new ones are being produced seemingly every day). I was able to use their database as a one-stop shop for perusing all the craft cans on the market and then culled that list down to a 30-pack of the coolest. Many of these reflect my own personal biases towards simple, clean design. But some of them are outrageous, gaudy, or just plan weird. Regardless of their aesthetics, they’re all worthy of celebrating:

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30. Magic Hat #9: OK, so it’s technically not really craft anymore, but it’s day-glo orange and says Drink Me. I’m not made of stone.

29. Bomb Lager: Can’t speak for either the beer or the brewery, but that’s a trippy damn can.

28. Eclipse Black IPA: No craft can resembles an energy drink quite like this one. I’m sure it’s just loaded with taurine.

27. New England Gandhi-Bot: What’s the second easiest way to make a list of coolest craft cans? Put a mechanical Gandhi doing the robot on your label.

26: Farmer Ted’s Farmhouse Cream Ale: And the easiest way? An R. Crumb farmer holding a beer and a pitchfork.

25. DC Brau The Public: The first of a trifecta of clean can designs. Nothing fancy, but they get the job done.

24. Tin Roof Perfect Tin: Strikes a nice balance between an old, 70s beer can and modern graphic design.

23. Upslope IPA: Upslope keeps it simple. Every can looks the same with the only difference being color scheme. I like the literal logo too.

22. Cigar City Hotter Than Helles: Sometimes you just need to sear your customers’ retinas. Good luck ignoring this one at the package store.

21. MillKing It Axl: One of the best aspects of craft can graphic design is that you can make the name of your beer take up about half of the label space.

20. Dolores River ESB: Only the tongue color changes for Dolores River’s different offerings. Very distinct.

19. Revolution Anti-Hero: Who knew that the Hulk was a Black Panther?

18. Two Brothers Outlaw: A nod to Kid Carboy who would have felt mortally offended if I didn’t include his hometown brewery.

17.: Finch Threadless: If Wes Anderson designed a craft can.

16. Midnight Sun Kodiak: Nothing more relaxing than cracking open a brew and seeing a raging, red-eyed bear trying to eat you.

15. Sixpoint The Crisp: I love all the Sixpoint can designs, but the Crisp has the best color scheme.

14: Joseph James Hop Box: The closest thing to an old-timey medicine bottle that you can find amongst craft cans.

13. Good People Snake Handler: Supposedly the good people at Good People were inspired by old-fashioned oil cans for their graphic designs. This is my personal fave.

12. Ska Modus Hoperandi: Hops. Skeletons. Nod to Reservoir Dogs. It’s got it all.

11. Tallgrass Velvet Rooster: I…I don’t even know what’s going on here. But I love it.

10. Two Beers Evolutionary IPA: Few breweries match their overall design package to their beer as effectively as Two Beers. Their focus on simple, sessionable, subtle brews is perfectly matched by their almost serene, pastel cans. Really solid beer too.

9. New Belgium Shift: New Belgium has always marketed well, but this one is inspired. Just a gorgeous use of color and iconography.

8. Devil’s Canyon Kaleidoscope: Canned by our friends at the Can Van, the Kaleidoscope is proof that the humble can can be a canvas for beautiful works of pop-art.

7. Sante Fe Imperial Java Stout: It doesn’t get any more effective than this. Simple and sophisticated.

6. Westbrook IPA: Whimsical fonts, graphics and big, bold colors. Westbrook combines almost child-like design methods with professional graphic design principles.

5. 21st Amendment Monk’s Blood: Hard to choose the best 21st Amendment can, but this is my favorite. It just looks like it would kick the asses of every other craft can on the shelf.

4. Brewery Vivant Solitude: All of Vivant’s designs are epic, but the sparing use of vivid purple on the Solitude makes it stand out.

3. Surly Wet: It’s a can that looks like a hop flower. That’s my explanation.

2. Half Acre Daisy Cutter: A thing of beauty both inside and out. Wish I had one right now…

1. Crow Peak 11th Hour: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for this beholder the 11th Hour is as striking and eye-catching as any craft can out there.

What do you say Alehead Nation? What other craft cans do you love? Any new ones on the market we should look for? Thanks again to CraftCans.com for doing all of the heavy lifting for us!

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17 comments

  1. Anonymous · ·

    Sun King has some nice cans.

    1. I was thinking that as well. So does Great River Brewing in Davenport, Iowa. Check out the Hop-A-Potamus. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WveFTt0UEoc/T6rW5CicQLI/AAAAAAAABN4/0VGi9E626yo/s1600/IMG_3117.JPG

  2. I’m not arguing with the Monk’s Blood, but Allies win the War is a cracking design from 21st Amendment.

    I would edge towards the simpler designs like Upslope or Santa Fe – Midnight Sun’s rabid bear just has too much going on! Although, the good thing about cans is that (providing you aren’t being all craft-prissy and using a glass) you don’t really see the can once the thing’s been cracked open…

    1. Yeah, it was very difficult picking a sole 21st Amendment offering. I like the Fireside Chat too. I just thought the Monk’s Blood was the most dramatic and it’s definitely the one that catches my eye the first in a package store.

      I’m always craft-prissy and use a glass. I usually have my domestics pour my beers for me (while wearing white, linen gloves, of course) into a crystal chalice. Occasionally I’ll deign to hold the glass myself, but more often than not I have my man Reginald handle those duties. I’m a busy man and can’t be bothered with such trivialities as pouring and holding.

  3. Nice post Brother Barley! I definitely agree with some of these picks, especially Gandhi-Bot and Snake Handler…those two are awesome. The folks at Austin Beerworks have done a nice job with their cans and the new Maui/Jolly Pumpkin collaboration can is sweeeet! Cheers! Viva la Can!!!

  4. LadyJay · ·

    Tall Grass’s packaging is solid across the board. Their 8-bit Pale Ale almost makes me wish I liked that beer. Almost.

  5. Anonymous · ·

    Love this!

  6. Check out Straight to Ale’s Monkeynaut IPA can. They’re in Huntsville, Al and just started canning a month or so ago.

  7. I’ve been partial to Good People’s IPA can ever since you sent one up to me Barley. Simple, basic, classic – All that’s missing is a pull-tab and a pack of Lucky’s to roll up in your sleeve.

  8. We need a podcast!!!

  9. DoctorB2B · ·

    No heady???

  10. Monkeynaught from Straight to Ale

  11. [...] The Coolest Craft Cans (aleheads.com) [...]

  12. [...] I’m never going to get tired of beer can packaging [...]

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