Crafty cans

The Australian Brewery's tinnies.
The Australian Brewery's tinnies. 

For so long the preserve of the most unfashionable beer brands, the humble tinny is finally being embraced by beer's brave new world. Joining the ranks of VB, Melbourne Bitter and XXXX Gold are canned beers from the best and brightest microbreweries both home and abroad.

Just this month, after years of prevarication, Melbourne's Mountain Goat finally took the plunge into aluminium with a Summer Ale, joining the Australian Brewery from Rouse Hill as the second Australian craft brewery with canned beer. Early next year, Mornington Peninsula Brewery will start canning its pale ale, while imports, such as Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale and Yo Ho Pale from Japan, are already established in the fridges of the country's best beer venues and bottleshops.

Taking inspiration from the number of breweries with beer in cans in the United States, smaller brewers are daring to tread where once they feared, and drinkers are accepting quality can be canned.

Keen on cans: Technology has come a long way, says Cam Hines.
Keen on cans: Technology has come a long way, says Cam Hines. 

''We always liked the idea,'' says Cam Hines, co-founder of Mountain Goat, which turns 16 this month. ''Technology has come on so much in the past 20 years and we've had so many good experiences out of the States that it felt like the time was right.

''There's the sustainable aspect and we love the idea of people taking them to festivals and outdoor events over summer. For me, there's a retro appeal too - going back to the drinking experience of your late teens or early 20s, but much better.''

Without a canning line of its own, Mountain Goat has its Summer Ale, a highly aromatic, dry, hoppy beer, brewed and packaged at Independent Distillers.

Mountain Goat Summer Ale, 4.7 per cent.
Mountain Goat Summer Ale, 4.7 per cent. 

The Australian Brewery installed its own system last year, eschewing bottled product and putting its entire range into cans.

The environmental benefits of cans over glass were appealing, as was the additional protection they offer against exposure to light, which can turn beer ''skunky''.

''It became less, 'Should we do it?' and more, 'Why would we go to bottles?','' says the brewery's beer ambassador, David Ward. ''From a marketing perspective, there's more space on a can to talk about who we are and our product.


''We also found a lot of bottleshops gave us a chance because we were offering something different.''

However, with many drinkers associating cans with old-school brands rather the new wave, their entry to the market has been measured. ''[People found it] unusual at first,'' says Ward. ''We've been careful where we put our beer, at venues with staff who will take time to understand why we've done it.''

At many of last summer's music festivals allowing BYO alcohol, the attendees with Brooklyn and Yo Ho cans was significant. This was one reason Mornington Peninsula decided to invest in its own line, which is due to arrive about Christmas.

''It's a shame seeing people drinking US craft beer instead of good Aussie craft beer,'' says head brewer Andrew Gow. ''For us, it's a big investment, but we see it as getting the jump on everyone else.''

That presumes, of course, that beer drinkers will take to crafty cans and, if the evidence of Mountain Goat is anything to go by, it's a wise presumption to make.

In the days before Summer Ale was launched, Hines said they might stick to one 5500-carton run, then hold off until summer 2014 before brewing more. A week later, he locked in 5500 more.

James Smith is founder of, an online guide to Australian craft beer, and Good Beer Week festival director.

Australian Brewery Extra Hoppy Ale, 5.8 per cent

This may be extra hoppy, but caramel, biscuit and nutty malts ensure it's not a one-trick pony. Based on the American Amber style - so with hopping levels ramped up to 11 in true United States style - it's a full-flavoured, expertly balanced beer with punchy citrus aromas, rich malt flavours and a healthy finishing bitterness.

Mountain Goat Summer Ale, 4.7 per cent

The very definition of easy-drinking, this features enough hops to lure the drinker in with its tropical aromas from the moment the top is popped, but uses them in such a way they impart almost no bitterness. Instead, the use of wheat lends this fruity, pale-yellow quaffer a dry finish that refreshes the palate and tells your brain you're ready for another.