Canned beer is making a comeback. Sure, we know that for the past two decades bottled brew has ruled, while canned beer had gotten a reputation for being cheap swill. But the times, they are a-changing, as everybody — from the big boys like Budweiser to many of the popular craft breweries — has started canning their beers again.
There are a number of reasons for the canning craze. Besides the retro-chic appeal of the cool-looking containers, cans are lighter and easier to handle than bottles (not to mention cheaper to produce and better for the environment). And it turns out that they actually may be better for beer quality and taste, too, as they do a superior job of keeping out light and air.
Still, it’s been hard to find local bars that are serving canned brews — that is, until Quinn’s opened on Beacon’s Main Street late last year. Owner Tom Schmitz transformed a longtime vintage luncheonette into an über-hip nightspot — while barely changing a thing about the ’70s-style interior; he currently offers more than 40 canned beers, all of which are displayed in an old pie case. “It’s a very beautiful old case, and I figured I would try to make use of it,” he says. “The beer cans ended up fitting inside it so perfectly, and it just coincided with the fact that a lot of quality beers are starting to be put in cans again. It seemed like a nice fit.”
The customers seem to think so, too. “The reaction is usually, ‘Oh my God, look at this, this is so cool,’ ” says Schmitz. “I might have had one or two people say, ‘Can you really get good beer in a can?’ The answer is yes, you can.”
Schmitz says that it’s hard to pinpoint which canned beers are the most popular. “Well, the Sculpin Ale is always a good seller,” he says, referring to the pale ale from the popular San Diego-based brewery, Ballast Point. “But it’s really one of the best beers out there — can or not.” He has two Brooklyn Brewery beers in cans that fly off the shelves, too; other aluminum options include classics like Pabst, Genesee Cream Ale, and Heineken, as well as craft creations from places like the highly rated New England Brewing Company (which claims to be the first Connecticut brewery to use cans for their year-round beers) and Oskar Blues in Colorado. “People come up to the bar, want to see the cans, and often try what their friends are having,” says Schmitz.
The tavern’s retro vibe is complemented by a small but ever-evolving menu that is divided into Japanese specialties (like edamame and Japanese curry); gringo specialties (like hot dogs); and tapas, which is dominated by the popular sardines in olive oil. Sake is also a big seller at Quinn’s, which has live music most nights of the week. And Schmitz remains hopeful that local breweries may soon start to can, too. “It is becoming economically feasible for the smaller companies to do it,” he says. “The whole perception of canning has completely changed.” Want to see more colorful cans? Our editors weigh in on the art at www.hvmag.com/beercans.