Canned Craft Beer

Give Me A Beer In A Can!

Craft Cans

I’m a big fan of craft beer in cans and on the Hop Cast we’ve been promoting it for years. At this point we all know the benefits; lighter to ship, more likely to be recycled, immune to sunlight, etc…

But I have another thought about canned craft beer that’s a bit more psychological than just the visual benefits.

I grew up drinking soda that was primarily in the can, sometimes we’d pick up a bottle, usually when we were in the car and didn’t want to spill it. Most of the drinks I remember seeing were in cans, once in a while people would drink a bottle of coca-cola; even today I only see bottles of coke if someone had grabbed some of the mexican coke from Costco. So when I turned 21, would I grab a six pack of bottles or would I reach for cans? Actually, most of the time we’d pick up the cheapest thing we could get, often in a package that resembled a 24 pack of canned soda. Why? Well, it was cheap but it was also very familiar. I have a sneaky suspicion that the marketing folks for the big beer brands know this.

Well, like many other people, I grew out of buying beer by the case and got some more money and started exploring and trying craft beer. Craft beer until recently pretty much all came in bottles and there was a stigma that cheap, bad beer came in cans. Canned beer was the beer your dad drank. Canned beer was the stuff you used to buy in bulk to get drunk with your buddies before you knew about the good beer; now you like something better. If you look back, canned beer came before canned soda. Canned beer made it’s debut in 1935 but canned soda didn’t take off till the late 50’s.

Now the shelves of the beer stores are lined with brown bottle after brown bottle of craft beer. Heavy to carry and often breaking if you’re traveling with them. However, slowly breweries are making canned beer cool again for craft beer lovers. Often with unique designs and in a larger format, something that resembles the can you see at the gas station next to the soda, not your dad’s beer.  That’s right, energy drinks. As the craft beer revival was happening (or rather a bit before that) soda was on the downturn and energy drinks were taking it’s place.

The Rise Of Energy Drinks

What do you see and hear about kids drinking these days? Cans of soda? Nah, they want something more, energy drinks… Monster, Red Bull, Rock Star. And these are all in cans. Energy drinks had 13.3% dollar sales growth in 2010. Most of these cans have attractive packaging and catch your eye when you walk past them in the cooler. This is what the smart package designer wants. Now think about those hip canned craft beers and the energy drinks you’re seeing everyone downing one after another. Boy do they look similar…. Heck, if I saw someone drinking a 16 oz tall boy of craft beer in public I’d probably assume it was just some new energy drink, unless I took a second look.

When kids these days turn 21 are they going to look to buy a six pack? Bottles no way! Cans! Bottled craft beer is what their dad drinks. Currently canned beer accounts for approximately half of the $20 billion U.S. beer industry, I have a feeling we’re going to see that number rise even more as the next generation of drinkers become of age.

HopCast Episode 210

Episode 210: B. Nektar Meadery Necromangoco & Zombie Killer

In episode 210 of the Hop Cast, Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder are joined by Sergio Salgado. In this episode the three of them crack open some mead or honey wine… yes you heard that right. Both of these tasty beverages are from B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale, Michigan. To start off they open the Necromangocon, a 6% ABV mango & black pepper honey wine. Next they move on to one of Brad’s families favorites, the 6% ABV Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser. A cyser is a blend of honey and apple juice fermented together.

A bit of a departure from what you usually see on the Hop Cast but being able to explore new and different beverages can really open you up to some new flavors. Both of these are fantastic and worth picking up if you can get your hands on them, we know they tend to disappear from shelves fast.

Cheers and thanks for watching the Hop Cast

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Emporium Arcade Bar

Craft Beer, Pinball & The Rise Of The Barcade

Emporium Arcade Bar

In Chicago, craft beer has an incredible presence, it’s hard not to find something “crafty” on tap when you walk into a bar. Since the explosion of craft beer in Chicago, its becoming increasingly important to offer more than just good craft beer to get people to crowd into a bar. Whether it’s a bunch of TV screens so people can watch the game, some great food, or even some arcade games.

I went to the arcade pretty often growing up. Many of those arcades were attached to a bowling alley where my parents were bowling with their league. The arcades of yesteryear don’t really exist anymore. The arcades of my youth were isolated areas, noisy, dark, no booze, or food (maybe some vending machines) and a place where parents just dropped their kids or teens off. I don’t recall seeing anyone drinking in the arcade, I guess everyone was underage or I was too busy trying to beat that Terminator game to notice. These days if I went to the arcade and they didn’t serve beer, I’d be greatly disappointed. What do you do when you’re waiting for your turn? Or when you’re watching someone else get a high score?

Until this year, it was hard to find a place in Chicago to grab a beer and play some video games. Portland has Ground Kontrol, Barcade is in Brooklyn, Seattle has Shorty’s and almost every other major city has a great video game bar or barcade with a nice selection of beer and pinball machines.

I believe Chicago lagged behind other cities in having this type of establishment due to certain gaming and liquor licenses you need in Chicago and getting those from what I’ve been told can be difficult. Video games also take up a lot of room, room that could be full of people eating or drinking. Also, Pinball machines are expensive, they REQUIRE regular maintenance so they run properly. These days the kids and teens stay home and play each other online so the people who are interested in going to an arcade are for the most part over the drinking age. So it makes sense to have beer in an arcade or an arcade in a bar.

Emporium Taplist

The tides changed and now we have several options for drinking craft beer and playing games. Right now there are a couple solid barcades in Chicago; Headquarters and Emporium Arcade Bar. Emporium is right around the corner from my place, so I’m there fairly often. When you walk into Emporium you’re treated with a draft list of 20 plus beers and ciders, the only thing more impressive then the draft list is the classic arcade machines lining the walls. With a quick glance around you’ll notice Dig Dug, Paperboy, Tapper, Marvel vs. Capcom, Donkey Kong and the list goes on…

I’m not there just for the beer because I can get many of the same beers at a number of other bars, I’m also not there just for the video games because I could play many of them on my iPhone if I really wanted to. Nah, I’m mostly there for the Pinball. I can’t play pinball at home, I doubt my wife would want a machine in our small condo.

Brad Chmielewski Playing Pinball

Pinball is something you really can’t do on your phone and its something most people don’t own in their homes. Pinball is a real machine with moving parts that changes depending on how well kept the machine is or if it’s leaning a bit. Its often more of a challenge than video games because every time you play the game its a bit different, the chances of you scoring the same each time is almost impossible.

You can nerd out and become extremely knowledgeable about beer and pinball to the point that’s maybe a bit extreme for some people, but you can also enjoy either very casually. Which is something that makes both craft beer and pinball fun, you can appreciate them alone or with others. Focusing on learning the pinball rules and how to play or slowly sipping on a craft beer and taking notes on what you smell and taste. When you are out with friends you can all chat about the beer, or start a multiplayer game and see who can get the high score.

Chicago has long been the capital of pinball manufacturing and it makes sense to see it picking up steam here again. Stern Pinball, Inc. is located in the suburbs and is the last of the old-school pinball machine manufacturers. In fact many of the first arcade and pinball makers were founded in Chicago. You also may have noticed the crazy amount of breweries that have opened up in the area in the last several years and there are plenty more in the works. Which is nice to see since Chicago has a long history with brewing including being the home of the Siebel Institute of Technology, the brewing school that was founded in 1868. Both pinball and beer have an extensive history in Chicago and both are experiencing a renewed popularity.

There is a bit of nostalgia, in regards to pinball and arcades. People who grew up during a time where arcades and pinball were popular, can hold an affinity for those games. Playing those games again can allow them to relive a part of their youth. So there is certainly a novelty about going to an arcade but I think the simplicity of most of the games speaks to people right now. Something more tactile and genuine since almost everything else in our lives is online. I rarely turn on my PS3 and there are millions of games to choose from but I don’t want to spend 40+ hours playing a game alone at home. I want something social, I want to go out to the bar, grab a drink with friends and playing some games isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.

As the 30 and 40 somethings come to grips with how hectic their lives are today they’re looking for something simple and uncomplicated at it’s heart. That’s pinball, that’s the arcade. And at the same time people are looking for artisan foods and artisan drinks. Products made by hand and made with more natural ingredients. Less manufactured, less mass marketed. They appreciate craft beer that’s made locally by brewers in their community. I think a lot of people are seeking out something real. Sometimes what feels most real exists in the past. Its easy to see why Chicago Craft Beer and pinball are both getting a lot of love in Chicago these days.


HopCast Episode 209

Episode 209: Prairie Ales Standard & Prairie Noir

In episode 209 of the Hop Cast, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are joined by Taylor Munro Shaw, AKA TheArtOfBeer. In this episode the three of them crack open some beers from Prairie Ales in Oklahoma. Taylor Munro Shaw just started distributing to Chicago. The first beer they open is the Prairie Standard a 5.2% ABV Farmhouse Ale that’s been dry hopped with Motueka hops. Next up is the Prairie Noir a 9.0% ABV bourbon barrel aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Both were fantastic beers and worth picking up if you see them on the shelf.

Cheers and thanks for watching the Hop Cast!

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (331.9 MB).

HopCast Episode 208

Episode 208: Begyle Crash Landed & 5 Rabbit Missionario

Brad Chmielewski & Ken Hunnemeder crack open a couple Chicago Wheat beers in episode 208. Both of these breweries are petty new but have been growing quickly and making some tasty stuff. First up Brad and Ken open the Crash Landed from Begyle Brewing Company. This 6% American Pale Wheat Ale pours a lovely straw color and the taste is surprising and pleasant, a little different than what you usually see from a wheat beer. Next up they open the newest beer from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, the Missionario. Missionario is a 6.8% unfiltered wheat beer fermented with muscat grape must and almonds.

A couple tasty beers from Chicago breweries for the summer. Grab yourself some and enjoy the great weather.

Cheers and thanks for watching the Hop Cast!

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (307.4 MB).