Buckbean Brewing Company, a brewery that loves canning as much as I love art, is sponsoring a contest to send a lucky blogger to their "celebration of canned beer" in Reno, NV. All you (I) have to do is write a post on why you deserve to go, and then they compile the entries and people vote on them.
Normally, I don't do this stuff, because I don't like to bombard readers with stuff that's for me. But this is one area where I feel my ardent support for the can-as-art-surface is not only relevant, but has actually developed over the past few months to be a small love affair of mine. So here we go:
It is clear that many craft beer people are not sure what to do with the rise of the can. As I've mentioned before, some, like the great Oregon Beermeister Jeff Alworth, just think they're ugly, and can't get past the idea that a small, thin piece of aluminum could house robust, flavorful nectar. I would like to say I have no disrespect for this point of view, and that everyone's entitled to his or her opinion, but that would be a little bit of a lie.
Yes, I know taste can be affected by aluminum, although apparently there's some polymer we use in space shuttles or something that keeps this to a minimum now. And anyway, taste can be affected by lots of things, and we give brewers the benefit of the doubt all the time with respect to variables. I understand that canning is cheaper, and I'm in favor of anything that helps craft breweries get more beer out there. I don't know anything at all about the environmental impact, but smart people say cans recycle more easily. Cans, studies show, also do not break as easily as glass.
But this is a blog about art created by breweries. And on that score, I think I'm uniquely qualified to tout the benefits of craft beer in cans.
When it comes to art, cans win. Bottles have two ways of displaying art: the conventional label, and enameling or painting designs (which few breweries do). Both are extremely constricting in terms of space. You've got the area you can print/adhere, minus the space necessary for the information required by law, minus the space for the information you just want to convey. What's left is a small, rectangular canvas we all know and love.
As I've said before, cans offer an art area that is not necessarily larger in square inches, but qualitatively more interesting. The 360-degree can-vas allows for a panopticon of design, where the viewer or drinker has a different artistic experience depending on how he or she holds the can while taking a sip. A bottle just doesn't offer that opportunity. So far, I've gotten the chance to critique some of the efforts to take advantage of that, but it's been mostly through the Interweb, since A LOT of canned beer doesn't make it to PA.
If I get to CANFEST, I will get a chance to see a vast array of cans in person, and see how the work of brewery artists and designers actually does in reality. I mean, yes, sure, I'll also get to try some beer, but please, people, as Wu-Tang Clan implored us, think of the artists. They toil in obscurity. Quick, who's the main artistic force behind COOP Ale Works' canning? It's Mark Seibold. He's an architect. I know that, and I CAN'T EVEN GET HIS BEER IN MY STATE. Who's the artist for 21st Amendment Brewing? Okay, I don't know that, but wouldn't you be interested in hearing about how s/he plans for designs that bend around a can? Well, if I go to CANFEST, I can ask Nico Freccia all about it.
Look, wouldn't it be cool if, when you went to the cooler to buy beer, you started seeing not just small aluminum reproductions of labels, but explosions of color that embraced the entire surface? Well, if I go to Reno, the breweries and artists will know that someone is paying attention to their aesthetic efforts.
Plus, the whole point of this contest is to send someone who will appreciate the unique elements of CANFEST. Seriously, how many beer bloggers actually love the can as something more than a particularly efficient beer-delivery vehicle? Sure, it's an awesome feeling to hold a cold can of craft beer. And yes, there are all sorts of industrial advantages I probably don't know about. But when I say I think cans are better, I don't mean they're better because of what's stored in them. I mean that an actual can is superior, in my point of view, to an actual bottle. It just so happens that I love the craft beer inside of it, as well. Anyone can say they love cans, but I actually respect them in the morning. When they're empty.
So send me to CANFEST. I'll be a little different than your average beer blogger at a can festival, but hey, cans are a little different than your average craft beer imbibery mechanism. Yes, I'll probably get some quizzical stares when I talk about can-influenced design instead of (or in addition to) choices of malts, but I'm used to that by now. The important thing to remember here is that I appreciate the cans for what they look like, and not just what's on the inside.