It's that time of year again, folks: The Queen City is heating up, the pools are opening, and many craft beer enthusiasts are beginning to sweat more than just the muggy Carolina weather. The ever-present "no glass" rule is looming, significantly limiting which of your favorite libations you can stock up on for a day in the sun.
Until recently, cans were seen as suitable only for mass-produced domestic light lagers, but over the last decade several advances in canning technology have made people think twice about the ideal vessel for high quality craft beer.
While mountains that change color (Coors Light) and wider mouths are nice, the most important advancement in can technology has been in the interior lining. One of the biggest complaints levied against canned beer has always been the metallic flavor that inevitably creeps into the product, due to the beer being in constant contact with the can's exposed aluminum walls. But thanks to the invention of a water-based polymer lining that eliminates contact with the exposed metal, beer cans have become less like cheap, tin cans and more like miniature draft kegs, which are also lined to protect the product inside. Because the biggest enemies to beer are light, heat and oxygen, cans now have a one-up on brown glass bottles, which eliminate most, but not all, exposure to sunlight.
Because cans are now reliable craft beer containers, breweries are adopting them in droves. Some, like Oskar Blues, have even chosen to use them exclusively in their packaging. With that in mind, here are a few great craft can options for your day by the pool.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest
A crisp, Czech-style pilsner, Summerfest is clean, balanced and clocks in right at 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), making it a great choice for sustained day-drinking by the water. It is also a killer value in Charlotte, as you can buy 12-packs for as low as $12. This is a great, safe "everyman" beer that is both well-made and accessible to those who may be young in their craft beer journey.
New Belgium Snapshot Wheat
While it may look like your average summer wheat ale on the surface, Snapshot boasts a crisp, tart finish thanks to the infusion of lactobacillus, a lactic acid bacteria (not as weird or gross as you might think) that makes the beer more acidic and thus slightly tart. Think of it like adding a lemon (citric acid) to your water. The bready sweetness of the wheat malt and grains of paradise is balanced out by a mild, tart finish from the lacto, creating a uniquely refreshing flavor profile. New Belgium is famous for its sour program, and this addition to its lineup is a great place to start for those looking to cut their teeth.
NoDa Brewing Company CAVU
While most local breweries are not packaging in cans right now, NoDa took the lead by introducing first its IPA, Hop Drop N' Roll, and then its pale ale, Jam Session, in 16-ounce four-packs several months ago. The newest can release, CAVU, is a nod to owner Todd Ford's time as a pilot and stands for "Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited," a term used to describe ideal flying conditions. This blonde ale is smooth and drinkable at 4.6 percent and the larger volume cans mean fewer trips to the cooler on a hot day.
After 10 months of writing this column, I am sad to announce that this will be my last beer-based article for Creative Loafing. I have been fortunate enough to accept a position with Great Lakes Brewing Company, a fantastic craft brewery based out of Cleveland, Ohio. As a local sales representative for that brewery here in Charlotte, I won't be able to write about the Charlotte beer scene with the same objectivity that I enjoy now as an independent freelancer. It has been my pleasure to cover and promote our local craft beer scene, and I hope to continue to do so in other capacities moving forward. Cheers!