To satisfy beer geeks, trading is on the rise

There are now more than 2,700 breweries in the United States (probably 2,800 by now, given the almost daily brewery opening). We could easily pass the all-time mark of 3,286 (from 1870) this year or next, given that there are more than 1,700 breweries in planning. Since breweries are popping up like dandelions in the spring, eventually every mid-sized city will have a brewery and local beers will be available anywhere in the nation.

This unbelievable growth makes it near impossible to try everything. There are simply too many options, and too many breweries and brewpubs that are only available in a few zip codes. Rare beers, and the booming online beer culture, has led to a rising tide of beer trading. Continue reading

Style profile: IPAs keep pushing the envelope

India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are like your your quick-witted buddy from school who always has a sarcastic zinger AND your back in any battle – they keep you on your toes, and keep you coming back for more. Always hoppy, often bitter, usually sharp-tasting, and occasionally tongue-punching, IPAs are the current kings of American craft brewing. There are three basic types of IPAs: English IPAs, American IPAs, and Imperial IPAs (in order from mild to powerful). Continue reading

The benefits, and hazard, of canned beer

I write this column while enjoying the complex, yet easy-drinking Barstool American Golden Ale by the extremely promising Foolproof Brewing from Pawtucket. The beer is unusual not because they manage to squeeze so much flavor into a 4.5% sipper, but because the beer is poured from a can.

That’s right, the can is making a comeback. Long-vilified in craft brewing as the realm of 30-packs of light, flavorless brews, canned craft beers have become as popular as the guy that brought a keg to the party.

Suddenly, craft breweries across the country are selling their beers in cans, and some sell ONLY cans and kegs. Foolproof distributes their top-notch offerings in cans and kegs only, as does Maine’s Baxter Brewing, Vermont’s amazing Alchemist Cannery, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint and dozens of other breweries across the country.

Heck, Sam Adams now sells its flagship Boston Lager and its Summer Ale in cans. Fellow local brewers Harpoon, Cisco, Berkshire, Newport Storm, Narragansett, Gray Sail, and Wachusett all began offering some of their brews in cans in the last several years.

The advantages of cans are numerous: they’re cheaper, can be stacked and stored easily, block skunky-beer-inducing UV rays, are lighter, are easily recycled, and are simply more convenient for the user. And these aren’t your dad’s cans – the beer contained within don’t taste metallic thanks to advances in can technology, so they usually taste just as good as their bottled counterparts

Unfortunately, that same technology has a dark side: the cans contain BPA (bisphenol-A), an amazing bottle protector that also an endocrine disruptor (Google it). BPA keeps the beer from leeching metallic flavors into the beer. That’s good. It’s also a health risk. That’s not so good.

BPA has been loosely linked to a host of medical issues, including obesity, diabetes, neurological issues, and cancer (among other things). It’s been banned in baby bottles and sippy cups in the US, and studies have shown that it does leach into beer in very small amounts.

It’s obvious that BPA has come to the attention of the nation because most reusable water bottles now read “BPA-Free.”

Most brewers completely ignore the issue, and those that address it do so in a very general way. New Belgium, the country’s 4th biggest brewery and a leader in green brewing, basically says that it’s up to the consumer to decide their own risk. Most of the others completely ignore the issue.

In the end, the majority of BPA leeching risk comes from exposure to heat and long-term exposure to the BPA. Therefore, I definitely drink fresh local canned beer, but am slightly wary of canned brews that have been sitting on the shelves for months and shipped across the country.

Originally published on August 15, 2013