Cans are the "killer app" for craft beer. The advantages over glass bottles are almost too numerous to list; if you don't know by now, you are well behind the craft beer curve. With the costs of canning stock and canning equipment falling, more and more established and startup breweries are adopting aluminum over glass.
Dallas' Four Corners Brewing has raised the bar even further by bypassing bottling operations entirely and going with a revolutionary new can design for their canning lines (see photo). The design is unofficially known as "360 Lid," and instead of a rocker tab punching a sharp lip-hole in the top as most cans do, the entire lid is removed. What is left is a 1.75-inch round opening and a lip-friendly soft edge for drinking straight from the can as you would from a glass.
The design was adopted last year by Pennsylvania's Sly Fox Brewing, the first brewery in the U.S. to do so. (The original design is from SABMiller and debuted at South Africa's 2010 FIFA World Cup.) Four Corners is the first brewer in Texas to use the 360 Lid but the appeal is spreading quickly. Currently, only three of their beers are packaged in this design -- Block Party, El Chingon and Local Buzz -- but the genie has been released from the bottle (so to speak).
Why is this design such a game-changer? It finally converts the package, the stock aluminum can, into a legitimate drinking vessel. No more objections to "tasting metal" as the entire lid is removed; no more material contacts your mouth than it does with any glass or plastic cup. The opening also allows aromas to meet your face when taking a sip for a complete and full flavor experience, the biggest complaint against bottles with their narrow drinking spouts.
This new design aside, aluminum cans are what will launch craft beer to the next level. Cans go where bottles can't, where restrictions on glass have limited your beer choices until now: public and state parks, entertainment and sporting venues, festivals, school events, beaches, hiking trails, floating the river. Lighter than glass means cans are easier to carry in/out, and this new 360 Lid design even forgoes the need to pack separate glassware.
Let me know what you think of the new cans, and where you see them pop up next.