What the ‘Craft Can’ Means

St Austell Korev in cans.

St Austell have announced that they are putting their lager, Korev, into 330ml cans.

In their press release, they explicitly present this as an embrace of ‘craft beer’:

The craft beer revolution continuing to sweep America has now resulted in the unexpected return of the humble beer can as the container of choice for over 400 US breweries – and now this trend is crossing the pond.

Canned beer certainly isn’t new and you can go into any supermarket in Britain and find shelves filled with tins of London Pride, Bass and other somewhat interesting beers. But those are 440ml or 500ml containers, and have long been the budget option in a market where the upmarket choice is a ‘premium bottled ale’ (PBA).

The new generation of ‘craft cans’ are materially identical but look like soft drinks — cute little R2-D2s which sit neatly in the hand, and slip easily into rucksacks and handbags for train journeys and trips to the beach. And for stronger beers, or those that are more strongly flavoured, 330ml is plenty. Some people even report that beers taste fresher from cans, perhaps because they are better protected from the light.

Their real significance, though, in our view, is cultural.

If the Campaign for Real Ale liked traditional pubs, ‘craft beer’** likes chrome’n’neon bars; ‘craft beer’ rejects cask-conditioned ale in favour of keg; it chooses IPA over best bitter; and now it is embracing cans over the 500ml bottles which seemed so exciting when they appeared in supermarkets from the late 1980s onward.

In the post-BrewDog era, cans are yet another way to underline the changing of the guard. But they are also a way for the old guard to take a slice of the cake. After all, they do own most of the canning lines in the country.

** We’ve updated our page explaining what we mean by ‘craft beer’. In this case, we’re using 2: “…used to describe a ‘movement’ arising from c.1997 onwards which rejected not only ‘mass-produced’ beer but also the trappings of established ‘real ale’ culture”.

11 thoughts on “What the ‘Craft Can’ Means”

  1. What a load of tosh.
    Canning is cheaper to do, cans are cheaper to transport because they weigh a lot less, they keep beer in better condition than bottles and 3rd party canning is only as much of an issue as 3rd party bottling is anyway.

    1. I feel like you’re annoyed at something we haven’t said.

      Can’t argue with the practical advantages of cans from the supply side — they’re easier for shops to stack and store, too — but that’s hardly why beer geeks are getting excited every time a brewery such as Camden announces they’re going to start using them.

  2. Is a “crafty” defined as someone who is prepared to pay over the odds for beer in trendy child-sized bottles or cans? Korev is basically a premium competitor to Stella – it’s not exactly Hardcore IPA.

    1. “Korev is basically a premium competitor to Stella – it’s not exactly Hardcore IPA.”

      No, and nor is Camden Hells, which is one of the other UK beers that’s made it into this style of can.

      Why did Korev not go into 440 or 500ml cans? Because they’re naff and down-market. Why are they naff and 330ml cans aren’t? Prejudice and fashion.

      1. 330 ml? What kind of weird metric measure is that? Real craft beer comes in a 355 ml can (or bottle), because.

        If the Campaign for Real Ale liked traditional pubs, ‘craft beer’** likes chrome’n’neon bars; ‘craft beer’ rejects cask-conditioned ale in favour of keg

        When you spell it out like this it all looks a bit… silly, somehow. Generational, if you know what I mean.

        1. A lot of this reminds me of when young, go-ahead drinkers rejected fuddy-duddy dimpled tankards for sleevers. And then the next generation of hipsters took up the dimpled mugs again…

  3. Interesting. In Denmark, the standard can is 330 ml and has been for a long time. Bottles are mostly 330 ml for standard beer (which in Denmark is Carlsberg, Tuborg, Royal Unibrew and countless discount offerings). Both bottles and cans for microbreweries are usually 500 ml. In other words, the trend is completely opposite the UK trend!

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