My Beer Can Is Better Than Yours: Aluminum Can-ovations for Better Beer Drinking

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You might think that one beer can is the same as any other. Big beer companies and craft brewers alike say different, and they’re rolling out new cans with wider mouths and funky designs that they claim make for vastly superior beer drinking.

Beer makers around the U.S. are trying to draw the attention (and thirst) of drinkers lately with something of an aluminum revolution. The most talked-about new beer vessel has to Budweiser’s angular “bowtie” can, which kinks in at the center—and, interestingly, holds less beer than the usual can. This spring and summer, Anheuser-Busch InBev will also be selling Budweiser in limited-edition “patriotic packaging”—red-white-and-blue American flag cans (and bottles)—with a portion of sales going to benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation, which gives scholarships to families of American soldiers killed or disabled in service.

Anheuser-Busch executives say that the bowtie can is meant to appeal to consumers who are “looking for new things, the trend-seekers.” No one is claiming that Budweiser will taste any different in a bowtie can, or in an American flag can for that matter. On the other hand, most other brewers that are introducing new cans at least make an attempt to argue that the new design somehow enhances the drinking experience.

Coors Light has been mocked in the past for its beer can “innovations,” which included a vented wide-mouth can for “easier drinking” and the “cold-activated” can, in which the mountains on the logo turn blue when the can is chilled. Now, the brand is simultaneously mocking itself while introducing yet another “can-ovation” of dubious purpose.

(MORE: Budweiser’s New ‘Bowtie’ Can Design: More Aluminum, Less Beer)

Coors Light’s new “double vent wide mouth” design—if a regular vent wide mouth was good, then a double vent must be doubly good—is being billed as “The World’s Most Refreshing Can.” In one intentionally ridiculous ad, the can is compared to rapper-director Ice Cube; in another, a giant multi-armed robot machine toils to create the fancy new can, while a scientist in a white lab coat does an over-the-top movie-preview type voiceover proclaiming that the design will “revolutionize barbecues, beach parties, and tailgates” and “eliminate oppressive heat around the world.” What’s brilliant about this hyperbole, as the Chicago Business Journal noted, is that Coors Light is enticing consumers to want to try out this can while acknowledging the design is basically absurd.

It’s not just the world’s giant beer makers that are toying with can designs. A special “topless” can design was introduced recently for Helles Golden Lager, a craft beer made by the Pennsylvania brewery Sly Fox. The can “drinks like a glass” because the entire top peels off in soup can-like fashion, allowing the drinker to enjoy the aroma of the beverage, supposedly enhancing the experience.

Earlier this year, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams, had spent two years and more than $1 million trying to come up with a can design that would be approved of by company founder Jim Koch. The result looks, well, it looks mostly like a regular 12-ounce beer can, but with subtle differences noted by the Globe:

The bigger lid forces people to open their mouths wider, allowing more air to pass through and go up into the nasal passages. This increased exposure to the smells brings out the flavors of the beer — the hops, the grains, the fruitiness — earlier in the drinking experience, which is what consumers associate with a fresher beverage, according to [professional beer taster and consultant Roy] Desrochers. And the outward-turned lip pours the beer directly on the palate, maximizing the sweetness from the malt.

(MORE: Strange Brew? When the Bottle Matters More Than the Beer Inside)

Samuel Adams’ traditional Boston lager and Summer Ale are being sold in cans for the first time ever this spring.