Ball Corporation

The Friday Mash (United Artists Edition)

On this day in 1919, five individuals formed United Artists. They included four Hollywood notables—Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith—along with attorney/statesman William Gibbs McAdoo, who later represented California in the U.S. Senate.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of St. Benedict. The town’s ancient monastery is selling its beer to American consumer, who can also download the monks’ Gregorian chants to accompany the beer.

Attendees at this year’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival, held at Ommegang Brewing, will be able to immerse themselves in Bill Murray’s best-known movies and characters.

The historic Grain Belt Beer sign in Minneapolis is getting a new lease on life. August Schell Brewing Company, which owns the Grain Belt brand, has bought the sign and hopes to re-light it next year.

Meet the “Nitrogenator”. It’s the carbon dioxide-dispensing “widget” that Boston Beer Company uses for its new nitro-conditioned beer series. The Nitrogenator is manufactured by Ball Corporation.

One of Budweiser’s ads for Super Bowl 50 features Dame Helen Mirren who, before eating a hamburger and fries washed down by a Bud, gives would-be drunk drivers a proper British scolding.

The wave of craft brewery takeovers has prompted a movement to scrap the phrase “craft beer” and use a new term, “indie beer”, to describe small breweries that are truly independent.

Finally, Thrillist’s Ezra Johnson-Greenough shows how to spot a fake “beer bar”. Warning signs include serving all imports in small glasses, carrying an all-nanobrewery selection, and serving all wheat beers with a slice of lemon.

Brews and (Oskar) Blues

If you’re a fan of craft beer, one name you should know is that of Dale Katechis. He’s the Alabama native who brought his mom’s down-home recipes and a love of beer to Colorado, where he opened Oskar Blues Grill & Brew restaurant in 1997.

Oskar Blues has become famous as the first craft brewery in America to can its beer. A presentation from Cask Brewing Systems, Inc., a manufacturer of canning lines, got Katechis to appreciate the merits of cans; and Ball Corporation helped by agreeing to make a smaller run of cans.

The decision, which Katcechis originally thought “far-fetched,” paid off. Canned craft beer could go places where bottled craft beer couldn’t: golf courses, backpacking, and even on airplanes. Today, more than 200 small breweries can their beer.

What’s next for Oskar Blues in cans? The brewery plans to use Ball’s new 19.2-ounce resealable can, a size that’s common in Europe. These so-called “imperial pints” may soon wind up on the shelves of a convenience store near you.

The Case (Pun Intended) for Craft Beer in Cans

Another precinct heard from in the debate over canning craft beer. Joel Johnson, writing at Gizmodo.com, makes the case for cans. In a nutshell:

Bottles are fragile, heavy (620 grams compared to 366 grams on average for a standard 12-ounce bottle), let in light that can skunk your beer, and are harder to pack in and out on float trips and hikes. Bottles don’t stack in the refrigerator. Plus if you drop a can it doesn’t shatter into a hundred tendon-lacerating shards. Half the time you can pick it back up and finish your drink!

Maryanne and Paul heard several of those arguments five years ago, when they were at Keweenaw Brewing Company in Houghton, Michigan. They also got to see one of the new-fangled canning lines made by Cask Brewing Systems, a small Canadian firm that developed the system because amateur “brew on site” brewers were having problems with bottles. The guys at Keweenaw were ahead of the curve; since then, so many brewers want Cask’s systems that they’re back-ordered until December.

One question Maryanne and Paul have discussed over a pint is when one of the bigger craft brewers will start canning. Jim Koch, the Boston Beer Company CEO, told an interviewer that he was open to the idea of canning his beer, but he’d like to see better lining technology before he commits to cans. Johnson has some good news for Koch:

Ball [Corporation]….the company that makes the cans used by the majority of craft brewers, announced plans to make a BPA-free epoxy lining within the next couple of years at a recent packaging conference, according to an attendee.

So chances are good that the craft brewing industry’s “can-do” spirit will include more and more actual cans.

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