By: Mike Walls, Certified Cicerone®, Operations & Beverage
It is estimated that around 80 percent of what we perceive as taste comes from smell. The tiny opening in the top of the standard beer can restricts the escape of many of the volatile fruity esters (substance that evaporate quickly at normal temperatures) that brewers and beer enthusiast say is an integral part of the drinking experience. More small brewers are moving towards making their previously draft only product available to consumers in aluminum cans, a more environmentally sound, cost effective and shelf stable storage method of beverage packaging over bottles. However, drinkers often find themselves settling for an incomplete experience when enjoying straight from the can. This great barrier to properly enjoying a fine craft beer from a can has finally been addressed.A company in Illinois called Crown Holdings, responsible for the invention of the bottle cap over 100 years ago, has solved this issue with the “360 End” full aperture can. The “360 End” is a can whose lid can be completely removed, essentially turning the can into a cup. Crown released the “360 End” in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup This can has made periodic appearances in the SABMiller and InBev line ups in China and Brazil until Sly Fox Brewing brought it into the US craft beer world a few years back.
However, 1970’s restrictive liquor packaging legislation that had to do with removable can tabs becoming litter, has been Crown’s greatest barrier to getting the “360” in the US craft market. A small brewery called Noon Whistle Brewing in Lombard, Illinois wanted to bring the improved can drinking experience to their patrons and supporters.They took their project to State Representative Peter Breen, who reportedly saw this as an easy win and an easy way to help a small local business, a cause which he is very passionate about. With Breen on their team and the Craft Brewers Guild lobbyists by their side, Noon Whistle headed to Springfield to draft a bill that would allow them to distribute their product in the new vessel and open the gates for other local breweries to do the same. Mike Condon of Noon Whistle Brewing said it was an eye-opening experience for him to see how much he could effect change with his local government and how willing they were to go to bat for him. With the help of their supporters the bill was unanimously passed and Illinois became the 13th state to allow the use of the new type of can.
Noon Whistle Brewing has now released their beer utilizing the full aperture tech to the delight of their fans and the reception has been excellent. Condon says the cost of the new can lid is negligible as it attaches to the same can base they have always used. The only expense the brewery incurred was the purchase of a part for their existing canning machine that fits the new lid, an investment that the brewery feels was well worth the cost. Moving forward, all their retail brews will be released with the full aperture can, “a selling point and major differentiator in a saturated craft beer market,” says Condon. The brewery has already seen a spike in sales from curious patrons interested in testing out the new can, though they do predict this leveling out as the market gets used to the idea.
Another perk is that the can could have significant waste reduction implications in venues like stadiums, where the vendor in the stands opens a can, pours it into a plastic cup and walks away with the empty can to be discarded. Picnickers, stadium goers and drinkers on the go in Illinois will now be privy to an unparalleled craft beer aroma experience as this technology (hopefully) begins to gain some traction. Though the Noon Whistle crew believes you should always use appropriate glassware when available, their “360” can is the best option when it is not. Condon’s advice to other breweries and all those who enjoy Noon Whistle’s to-go offerings is to get involved in your government because you might be surprised by what you can accomplish.
As a Certified Cicerone, I have spent years enjoying and analyzing great beers in interesting locations from any number of unique vessels. My first beer with the “360” was Noon Whistle’s Hop Prism Blue IPA, of course drank straight from the can. The way my nose sits just inside the opening when I take a sip sends those aromatic hops just where the brewer intended and brings the whole experience to another level. Without giving a full review of the beer, I can safely say that this is the best straight from the can tasting I have ever experienced.