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TheStreet Open House

With Some Tweaks, Cans Make Comeback In Craft Beer

By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) â¿¿ Nearly 80 years ago Richmond revolutionized the beer world. For it was in this Southern city in 1935 that canned beer â¿¿ complete with how-to instructions â¿¿ was first sold.

Krueger's Cream Ale and its punch-top can became an instant hit, propelling the humble beer can to iconic status. That is, until Americans returned to bottles and the beloved craft brews they contained, a cultural turn that left canned beer looking decidedly low-brow.

But more recently craft brewers rediscovered cans, realizing they weren't just retro-cool, but with a few tweaks might even be able to kick bottles in the can.

Welcome to the beer can revolution, 2013-style. Technology once again is transforming how Americans drink their beer.

Today, Budweiser sells a bow tie-shaped can that mirrors its iconic logo, Miller Lite sports a punch-top can, drinkers know their Coors Light is cold when the mountains on the can turn blue, Sam Adams Boston Lager comes in cans designed to improve the taste, and now Sly Fox Brewing Co. sells beer in "topless" cans designed to turn into cups when opened.

"It's not your father's beer can anymore," says Jim Koch, founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Co., the maker of Sam Adams.

Both craft brewers and craft beer drinkers are coming around to the idea of cans. More affordable supplies and canning equipment also are helping the boom. In 2002, just one craft brewery was using cans. Now around 300 different breweries offer close to 1,000 beers in cans, according to CraftCans.com, a site that tracks the canned beer revolution.

"Craft beer in cans is becoming more mainstream each and every day," says Brian Thiel, regional sales manager with packaging firm Crown Holdings. "The stigma that has existed continues to get lifted."

Koch, a self-proclaimed purist, at first "stubbornly resisted" putting Sam Adams in cans. But after spending more than two years and $1 million developing a couple dozen prototypes, the "Sam Can" was born. Koch says that with a bigger lid and a more defined lip, the redesigned can forces your mouth open more and puts your nose closer to the opening, creating a better flavor experience.

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