Malt Monday: Yes We Can

29 March 2010
By Richard Pliny

Beer... Now there's a temporary solution.Butternuts Beer & Ale’s Porkslap

Style: Pale Ale
Color: amber
ABV: 4.3%
Price Point: $7 for 6-12 oz cans
Technical Notes:
From the Butternuts Beer and Ale Website:  “Porkslap Pale Ale is brewed with 2 row North American barley and English crystal malt. The beer is flavored with crystal hop and a touch of fresh ginger to create a distinct flavor only a porkslapper can love. At 4.3% abv this beer is designed to have a good ale flavor and a crisp mild finish.”

Hedonic Notes:

The beer pours a medium red-amber with a cream colored foam.  A think, cream colored head forms with small bubbles and persists for some time.

Sweet malt makes for most of the aroma while faint hints of citrus hops dance in the background.  Even when warm, the aroma is very mild.

Malt flavors are very prevalent in the palate.  Pale malts impart a slight sweetness to the beverage, while mild earthy/spicy hops linger in the background.  A faint hint of ginger sits in the middle of the palate and imparts a unique spice like flavor that becomes increasingly obvious as the beer warms.

A medium mouthfeel is accompanied by a surprisingly mouthcoating linger hop dryness that may be described as a mild astringency.

Overall the beer is a bit rough around the edges.  The hops are present, but not as strong as one might expect for an IPA.  Indeed, the beer is quite unlike most American IPAs and is best described as a pale ale or a British style IPA.  The lingering dry bitterness is unexpected given the very mild aroma and the contributions of the ginger are almost odd.  Yet, the beer has a great deal of character.  The beer is generally palatable, but certainly not for everyone.  As an aside, it’s nice to see craft beers showing up in cans these days.

Rating: corkcorkhalfcorknocorknocork 2.5/5 Corks.  Porkslap is rather unique beer that’s worth a try.


Science!

The debate of cans vs bottles has been renewed recently with some craft brewers choosing to use cans rather than the traditional bottles.  Bottles are alleged to preserve flavor better and be more recyclable, while cans are easier to ship and preserve the contents better.

Beer Bottling Line

Part of the bottling process is pasteurization, which may affect the beer's quality compared to the typically unpasteurized kegged counterparts. Image via wikipedia

Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company insists that bottles are best.  Item VI of his Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights states that “Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal.”  While this was a concern for early canned beverages, modern advances have all but removed this risk.  Indeed, metallic flavors are more often associated with the brewing process than the storage method.

That said, aluminum does leach into beer during storage. Whether or not these levels of aluminum are sufficient to justify concern is an item that is open to debate.  Indeed, low levels of lead are detected in canned and bottled beer, and even higher levels are found in beer in kegs.

In addition to detesting bottles, Jim Koch also insists on specially designed six pack cartons to protect bottles from sunlight, which may cause beer to grow skunky.  Yet, such items are not a concern in cans, where the aluminum’s opacity shields the beer from ultraviolet light.  Moreover, the cans leave less free volume in the vessel, lowering the risk of oxygen contamination compared to bottles.

The amount of beer per unit volume of packaging of cans is much higher than that for bottles.  One may fit nearly 24 cans in the space required for 12 bottles, permitting greater shipping density.  Conversely, bottles may be recycled without needing to melt down and remake them, where aluminum cans require a great deal of processing.  Moreover, making new aluminum cans requires a great deal of energy.    It is not clear if the environmental cost of shipping offsets that of recycling or making new aluminum cans.

Thanks to janusz l on Flickr

Bottles are boss and cans are cool, but casks are simply capital. Thanks to janusz I on flickr

So which is best?  The answer is not straight forward or perhaps even answerable.  Each container has its purpose and both are worth keeping around.  If one wishes to have the best tasting beer possible, the answer is quite clear in this case: neither.  Kegs and (when the style is appropriate) casks offer a better taste than bottles or cans.  This is because kegged beer is normally not pasteurized, and thus does not lose flavor from being heated, nor does it gain off flavors from preservatives.  Cask beer still has living yeast inside and will mature with age.  Kegs also use less packing material per unit volume of beverage.

That said, I enjoy seeing craft beer in cans.  The can is more convenient and easier to transport larger quantities, perhaps to a picnic or party.  Its much easier to carry cans to and from your destination than bottles, and they’re much easier to clean up.  Unfortunately, home brewers can’t reuse cans as they do bottles.  I prefer kegs whenever possible, cans for convenience and bottles for everything else.  In the end though, the container doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the beer, no matter how you drink it make sure you enjoy it.


Further Reading:

Brendan I. Koerner. “Wear Green, Drink Greenly: The eco-guide to responsible drinking.”  Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2186219/

M. M. Vela, R. B. Toma, W. Reiboldt and A. Pierri.  ”Detection of aluminum residue in fresh and stored canned beerFood Chemistry 63(2): 235-239. 1998.

J. C. Sherlock , C. J. Pickford, G. F. White.  ”Lead in alcoholic beverages“ Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A 3(4): 347 – 354. 1986.


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5 Responses to Malt Monday: Yes We Can

  1. Tom Mansell on 29 March 2010 at 8:34 pm

    i always got a smoky note from this beer, (called it “bacon beer” when i had it). then again, i could just have been thinking about bacon because of the pigs on the front of the can.

  2. Richard Pliny on 30 March 2010 at 8:39 pm

    That may be due to the ginger, which has a very unique role in this beer that could even be interpreted as smoky. But you may have merely been longing for bacon as you suggest.

  3. Julia Burke on 31 March 2010 at 11:38 am

    Great post, Tom – but I’m curious why you seem to hold Pork Slap to an IPA standard. The can is labeled “Pale Ale/Farmhouse Ale” – IPA-sized hop levels shouldn’t even enter the picture! When you frame the malt/hop profile in the context of a Farmhouse Ale it’s not so much “unique,” except of course for the fantastic label. I think craft brewers these days know enough not to put the word “India” on a beer’s label unless it has the IBUs to back it up.

  4. Tom Mansell on 31 March 2010 at 1:39 pm

    all kudos go to my beer guy, richard pliny.

    got a response to that, richard?

  5. Richard Pliny on 5 April 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you! The beer struck me as a stronger pale ale than farmhouse ale. I noticed that all of the Butternuts beers have the phrase “farmhouse ale” on the can, but not all have a very strong farmhouse character. When tasting their stout, for example, I noticed no “farmhouse funk” at all. Comparisons to IPAs are an effort to place it within the context of my other reviews, though are perhaps not the best contrast. All that said, I would encourage readers to give the beer a try and see what they think of it.

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