Modern beer's artistry isn't relegated to the liquid alone. No, breweries are enlisting artists to turn cans into visual billboards, a trend I tackled for travel magazine AFAR. Trust me: It's an art to write 30-word blurbs.
As consumers turn away from bottles and embrace cans, producers are left in a pickle: How can they compete in this heavy-metal marketplace? Easy: By cracking the code on can-conditioning, packaging volatile sours, super-effervescent saisons, and beers teeming with wild yeast in 16-ounce cans, bringing bottled-beer experiences to the beach koozie. Interested? I was! This was one of those ideas I got from staring at a beer cooler for far too long, till the idea started to coalesce in my hops-addled brain. Curious? Here's the story.
I used to have an alcoholic roommate who loved nothing more than sipping 16-ounce cans of crappy American beer by the six-pack. "Come on, put a pint in your palm," he'd say, passing me Bud or Coors or whatever was cheapest at the corner bodega.
Who was I to turn down free beer? I'd join him in drinking one 16-ounce can after another. He'd continue to six, sometimes 12, multiplying his hangover with each emptying can. I would tap out at four pints. Four was a respectable number of pints, the perfect amount to sip and not spend the next morning crunching Tylenol as if it were candy.
Methinks New York's craft beer industry also understands the power of four. The last few years have seen local darlings Sixpoint strike it big with their striking, cube-shape four-packs of pint cans. Most every bar and bodega worth its salt stocks them in their coolers. Now, this week marks the arrival of the city's next cube of craft beer: Bronx Pale Ale.
Over the last year, Bronx Brewery has carved out a swell little spot for itself with its variations on the pale ale theme. There's the Black Pale Ale, Rye Pale, Belgian Pale Ale and a host of other barrel-aged one-offs. But everything circles back to the easy-drinking base beer that's doctored with plenty of citrusy, floral Centennial and Cascade hops. To date, the beer has only been available on draft.
"Growlers are really expanding, but they’re not ubiquitous," says Bronx Brewery general manager Chris Gallant. "Cans give people the ability to take the beer home with them."
To make that a reality, the brewery began searching for a canning facility, settling on City Brewing's La Crosse, Wisconsin, plant. Head brewer Damian Brown headed to Wisconsin to make sure the facility had the recipe nailed down, then the 16-ounce cans started rolling off the line.
This move is important for several reasons. With the Wisconsin brewery handling production of the core brand, the Bronx Brewery can instead focus on their specialty beers. "It frees us up to do the innovative stuff in the Bronx," Gallant says, such as the forthcoming Summer Pale Ale made with experimental Hopsteiner 04190 hop. And the beers will be brewed in the Bronx. Currently, Brown crafts them at Connecticut's Cottrell Brewing, but plans are charging ahead for the Bronx team to open its recently ordered 20-barrel brewhouse and tap room in the BoogieDown borough, hopefully by the end of the year.
Architecture plans are currently being finalized, Gallant says, but in the meantime the brewery is expanding across the state. Drafts and cans can now be found in Westchester and Long Island, and Bronx beer has also hit Albany and across the Capital District—heck, all the way to the Canadian border.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx Brewery is on fire.
Look for Bronx Pale Ale at Whole Foods, Fairway, Trader Joe's and everywhere that better beer is sold. They should run you $9.99 a four-pack.