Wednesday, June 17, 2009

1st Mid-Atlantic craft beer can: Blue Mountain

At some point in July, Blue Mountain Brewery —in central Virginia— will have become the first post-1979 brewery in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C. to package beer in aluminum cans.

Using a hand-operated filler and seamer, owner Taylor Smack will package his Full Nelson Pale Ale in 12-ounce aluminum cylinders —at a laborious 20 cases per hour —and ship it to better beer outlets around the commonwealth.

Small Brewers Test Their Metal By Greg Kitsock Washington Post Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At this point, no other brewery in the tri-state area has announced plans to can its beers (except, of course, for Anheuser-Bush InBev which does so at its plant in Willliamsburg, Virginia).

In fact, canned craft beer is still an uncommon thing nationwide. As recently as 2005, two DC-area good beer retailers harrumphed to me about beers in cans. To their credit, both soon changed their minds; they now (successfully) stock canned craft beers.
better beer in cans is still relatively rare. Of the 446 microbreweries and 990 brew pubs known to be operating in the United States, only about 40 can their beer.

So, congratulations to Blue Mountain for being a Mid-Atlantic beer pioneer ... and, also, by the way, for growing some of its own hops. The brewery's grounds include a field of Cascade hops.

Blue Mountain Brewery
All this good work and tasty beers have not gone unnoticed by consumers. Since Blue Mountain began operations in 2007, its sales have increased enough for the brewery to double production capacity.


Greg Kitsock continues his Post piece with a brief history of canned beer in the US (and Virginia):
The beer can is nearing its 75th birthday. It all started in Richmond, where the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, N.J., test-marketed the first commercially available canned beer to jump-start sales after the end of Prohibition.

Beer cans were originally made of steel. The switch to aluminum, resisted by a lot of the industry, was first adopted by Coors in 1959.

There are potential health issues associated with beverage cans. They are lined with an epoxy resin which contains biocides. And, recently, there has been worry about cancerous properties of a chemical used in can linings called bisphenol A.
The Web site for the North American Metal Packaging Alliance claims "an average adult would have to ingest more than 500 pounds of canned food and beverages every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by EPA."

The issue may yet turn out to be a mere dust-up similar to the apple and alar situation of the late 1980s. But there still should be an independent health safety investigation.

Fear not, beer drinkers! Bottles are not lined with any epoxy or coating; neither are kegs or casks.
  • More on canned beer history -with nice photographs- here. [Corrected link: see comments.]
  • 1979, by the way, was the year Jimmy Carter in which corrected the Prohibition-repeal error that had effectively prohibited the brewing of beer at home. Soon after he signed HR 1337, SR 3534 into law, what were then called microbreweries began to open, many of which were owned and operated by former homebrewers.


  1. Your link to a beer can history site goes to a hoax site- the twice featured "Cordell Beer" can from the "Hauglie Brewing Co." is from the hoaxster Cordell Hauglie, best known for the fake photo of "Snowball the Cat". (Google will turn up lots of info.) The Cordell beer can is actually a photoshopped "Old Dutch" beer can. A much better beer can site is

  2. Thanks, Jess. I've changed the link.

  3. Great news! But, as a fan of Blue Mountain since the beginning, I take issue with their labeling as a "southwest Virginia" brewer. Southwest of DC, yes, but they're only 20 minutes from Charlottesville. Southwest Virginia starts at Roanoke.

  4. The Oriole Way: Thanks. You're right. I've corrected the phrase to "central Virginia." By the way, just this year, DC Brau —in Washington, D.C.— also began canning its beers.


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