Liquid Diet: We Tested the New Sam Can, and It Works

A million dollars worth of research later, Sam Adams has a winner on its hands with its canned lager.

Welcome to Liquid Diet, where Christopher Hughes finds the extraordinary stories behind the people and places that quench the thirst of the Boston area.

Samuel Adams new can

Sam Koch has spent two years and upwards of a million dollars re-imagining the aluminum can. (photo courtesy of Facebook)

Since 1981, when the koozie was unveiled in all of its neoprene glory, the beer industry has been inundated with a bottomless amount of snake oil pawned off on unsuspecting fans of light lager. Who could forget Miller’s Vortex bottle, Budweiser’s Write-On label, or Coors with their “Cold-Activation” window? It was catnip for people mesmerized by twirling objects and mood ring technology— rather than the prospect of better beer.

With that failed lineage in mind, I was skeptical of Jim Koch’s million-dollar quest for the ideal can for his Boston Lager. Samuel Adams spent two years with sensory expert, Roy Desrochers, the ergonomic design team at IDEO, and manufacturer, Ball Corporation, supposedly building the perfect aluminum vessel for their flagship product. The culmination of their labor hit shelves this week and, at first glance, it’s difficult to distinguish a significant difference between the “Sam Can” and its familiar ancestor. But after sampling the same beer out of both models, it’s obvious that the subtle tweaks and flourishes actually have a positive influence.

What they’ve capitalized on is the role our nose plays in taste. As Mary Roach says in her fantastic new book, Gulp: Adventure on the Alimentary Canal, “Humans perceive five tastes-sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami-and an almost infinite number of smells. Eighty to ninety percent of the sensory experience of eating is olfaction.”

Top of Samuel Adams new

Top view of the new Samuel Adams can. (photo courtesy of Facebook)

A wider lid allows for more air to enter the stream of beer like a decanter naturally aerating and releasing aroma compounds. Like their Perfect Pint glass, the top half of the “Sam Can” has an hourglass ridge, which also produces a beneficial turbulence intended to wrestle free constrained aroma. Finally, in what seems like the most obvious modification, they’ve moved the can opening further from the edge, so your nose is closer to the beer, as it would in a regular pint glass.

This is all in addition to the known benefits of canning beer. Aluminum protects beer in a way that glass will never afford. UV light eventually penetrates even brown bottles, producing skunky and off-aromas. Also, oxygen can leach into beer through a bottle cap, destroying the contents. But the real pleasure is that you can now open a convenient and shatterproof Sam Adams Boston Lager after a scorching day in the yard or on the hot sands of your favorite beach.

If you’re still skeptical, I don’t blame you, but the hops and malt that differentiates Sam Adams’ lager from its adjunct-ridden competition was never so obvious as when I popped open Koch’s latest contribution to craft beer.

Buy Sam Cans now at Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont

12-pack $19.25, 6-pack $9.75