All in good spirits

The hottest trend in craft beer — really cool cans

By Paul Viau | Jun 25, 2014
Courtesy of: Oskar Blues Brewery GET CAN-TAKEROUS — Celebrate beer in a all its many shapes and sizes at Oskar Blues 'Burning Can' Beer Fest.

Just before Asheville Beer Week, I had an opportunity to sit down with Billy Pyatt, owner of Catawba Brewing Company — over a sneak-preview taste of his new release of King Coconut Porter.

Like so many of the area’s craft brewers, Pyatt got his start as a home brewer in 1993, and by 1999 opened the doors of Catawba Valley Brewing Company in 1999, beginning with a modest 5-barrel brewing system.

North Carolina beer lovers quickly developed a taste for Catawba’s creative offerings, and the demand brought Pyatt face-to-face with one of craft brewers’ biggest dilemmas — distribution.

With the price of kegs increasing and the high cost of shipping bottled beer weighing heavily on his mind, co-owner Scott Pyatt embraced the oft-maligned idea of beer in cans.

For decades, canned beer has been the exclusive domain the low-cost, watered down beers of the blue-collar workers. From Schlitz to PBR, Coors Light to Old Milwaukee — the can was cheapest and quickest way to “throw back a cold one.”

But inventive craft brewers saw cans in a different light.

My own home state of Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery was the first American craft brewery to put their finest beer craftsmanship into a can. They were quickly followed by Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium.

Catawba’s Billy Pyatt embraced the idea of beer in cans ‘with gusto.’

“Cans are like small kegs. They have a tighter seal than bottles, don’t let any light in, and overall, the beer is better protected,” said Pyatt. “And they have a real presence.”

Moreover, next to paper, aluminum is the most widely recycled material — more than 90 percent of aluminum is recycled. So cans are ‘green.’

The Pyatt bothers have done their research about distributing beer in cans instead of bottles, including my personal favorite — “With cans, you can fit more beer in the refrigerator.”

OK, I’m sold. And Catawba Brewing Company is not the only area brewery to adopt the ‘can do’ approach.

Many local breweries will be showcasing their beers — canned and otherwise — at Oskar Blues Brewery’s upcoming Burning Can Beer Fest, Sat., July 5. In fact, at the time of this writing, nearly 30 breweries are already onboard.

The Burning Can Beer Fest kicks-off at 7 p.m. Friday, July 4, with a free concert at Oscar Blues Brewery in Brevard, with music provided by Sol Driven Train.

I previewed the band’s music online, and it is way more soulful and much more easy listening than the techno sound driving Nevada’s Burning Man Festival. My thanks to the promoters.

The main event — the beer tasting —at Oskar Blues Burning Can Beer Fest is also at the brewery in Brevard, from 1-6 p.m., Saturday, July 5. Music will be provided by The Marcus King Band, The Shadowboxers and The Jeff Sipe Trio.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Designated driver tickets are $15. Tickets are available online, so ‘get off your can’ and get your tickets.

For more information about Oskar Blues Burning Can Beer Fest, visit —

Comments (1)
Posted by: Larry Rice | Jun 26, 2014 08:48

Thanks for your articles on craft brewing Paul - always happy to see them.  The hottest trend in craft brewing is canning because it is raises the brewers profit margins. For me, I'll take a fresh pint or growler from one of our three fine local brewers over a can from the bigger brewers any day.

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