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Can It, Yukon Brewing!

Yukon Brewing (onbeer.org’s honourary prairie brewery) was profiled last week on craftcans.com, a website devoted discussing and reviewing craft beer found in cans (yes, you can find a website devoted to almost anything on the inter-web…). The site does a Q&A with Yukon’s Bob Baxter looking at their decision to adopt cans along with other interesting tidbits about the brewery. Currently the cans are only available in Yukon.

I found the interview interesting for two reasons. First, I liked the glimpse into the very unique Yukon beer market (imagine how revolutionary it would be to have Alley Kat, Wild Rose, or Half Pints have the single biggest selling draught beer in their respective cities?). Reading about Baxter’s process for the can decision is also informative.

Second, it draws me back into my personal debate about cans vs. bottles. I, generally, have not been a fan of cans. In part because traditionally only lousy beer was found in cans. But that is falling by the wayside as more and more craft brewers opt for canning lines instead of (or more likely, in addition to) bottles. Yukon is one obvious case in point. The other is Central City’s decision to can its Red Racer line (ESB, Pale Ale, IPA). The B.C. brewery’s IPA may be the best one I have tasted in Canada.

Baxter makes some valid, consumer-oriented points – safer for outdoor use, easier to transport, cool, etc. However, my reluctance remains. I hold onto the theory that bottles – on the whole – are more environmentally sound than cans. I realize this is a VERY complex area (and I need to do more research on the subject), but I am persuaded by the re-usability of bottles vs. the single use can. Refilling a single bottle dozens, possibly hundreds, of times tops the recycling approach of cans. My collection of stubbies is a remarkable example of that. These bottles are decades old, re-used lord knows how many times before ending up in my basement, where they will be used for decades to come.

On the flip side I realize cans weigh less for transport, creating fewer greenhouse gas emissions. So if the bottle comes from far away, the scale may tip. (Of course, drinking beer on tap from a keg is hands down the most environmentally sound way to drink beer – especially if the beer is local. But I digress.)

Plus, all beer cans are lined with BpA – the type of plastic banned from baby and water bottles due to its tendency to leach toxins into the liquid. Apparently alternatives are being researched, but nothing yet has appeared. I realize debate rages about BpA as well, but I know I switched to metal water bottles a few years ago to avoid it. Not sure I want it encasing my favourite beverage.

Then there is the taste issue. Does the can impart flavours into the beer more neutral glass does not? I don’t have an immediate answer to that one, but plan on doing an experiment someday soon.

Added to the mix is the knowledge that consumers in the West prefer cans, while in the East they lean toward bottles, so a brewer has to factor that in as well. There are many layers to this issue, which is why the debate continues to rage for me personally – and likely others.

We will all continue to stumble along, buying the beer we desire in the format the brewer produces it. But it is good to stop once and a while and contemplate the consequences of those decisions. Clearly the Yukon interview was food for thought for me.

7 comments to Can It, Yukon Brewing!

  • Chase

    I read an American article recently that almost all bottles are one-way, they get remelted every time.

    • Hi Chase,

      That is the case for most breweries in the US. However, in Canada we have a system where the standard bottle – you know the shape – is cleaned and re-used. Labatt, just as one example, takes dirty bottles straight from the recycling depot and within 45 minutes has cleaned, sanitized, filled and capped them.

      It makes the bottle a far more environmentally sound option, as it is re-used (sometimes dozens of times) rather than recycled.

      Why the Americans haven’t figured that out is beyond me. It is probably Ms. Palin and her Republican compatriots.

      Jason

  • Steve

    Bottles, even one-way glass bottles, are the best option for the world. Here are my reasons: Glass bottles are made from a very abundant source: silica (sand) and the processing of silica into glass is fairly simple, clean, and when compared with something like aluminum, energy efficient. Aluminum is in contrast complex, dirty, and energy intensive. Aluminum is made from the refining of Bauxite. Bauxite is smelted with electrical energy and, in fact, accounts for 3% of all the electrical consumption in the world. Making one ton of aluminum consumes roughly 14,000 kWH of power.

    Every ton of aluminum produced also leaves behind 5 tons of acidic red sludge, while glass has negligible waste product. Lastly, beer cans are lined with Bisphenol-A plastic. This is the chemical which is on the verge of being banned by the Federal government. Industry may force an exception to this ban for beer cans, but we know glass is safe for foods.

    Glass bottles become fiberglass insulation eventually.

    • Steve,

      Thank you for the comment. You offer a crucial technical perspective regarding energy inputs and overall impact of the product. I was aware of many of the things you mention, but lacked the space to mention them, but there are some things that are new to me – like the acidic red sludge.

      This will undoubtedly help me resolve my internal debate.

      Thanks again.

      Jason

  • Denis

    We vacationed in Yukon this Summer and picked up Yukon Gold & Lead Dog Ale in cans from the brewer while in Whitehorse.
    The cost of shipping is dollar$$$$ per pound when your flying this product around to mining & fishing camps & other remote places, especially in the north. Cans make sense…both ways. I cheer for bottles as well but cans fit better in my truck camper when travelling.
    Denis

  • Ernie

    Maui Brewing lists a number of benefits of cans over bottles on the “back” of each of their cans, as a way of reducing the “stigma” that cans have long had.

    On one hand, I don’t care too much about the bottle vs. can debate, because I’m going to pour it into a glass so I can see it and smell it anyway.

    As a beer drinker, I like cans because stuff I can’t get here is more easily stashed in someone’s suitcase to bring back to me with less risk of breakage, and you don’t have to worry about skunkage issues either.

    As a homebrewer, I like bottles because I can recycle them by bottling into them myself.

  • […] and has been slowly expanding their distribution. The choice of cans, as I have discussed before in this post about Yukon adopting cans, is complex, and one with which I don’t fully agree (I still want to do that side-by-side […]

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