Article by Simonmattia Riva, Biersommelier
As Andy Warhol said: “Everything in the air, but it's only those who make things come true who matter”. Cans became an icon of pop culture in 1962, when the American artist made 32 canvases with all the Campbell’s soup varieties that the company offered at the time. Andy Warhol gave everlasting fame to a container that was already well perceived by society after the war, as it was convenient, hygienic and cheap.
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Seven years after the presentation of the work of art now exhibited at MoMa in New York, another historically important, yet little-known event happened: in 1969, for the first time in the United States, beer cans sold more than beer bottles.
Such popularity, however, came with a very high price. As cans almost inevitably contained cheap industrial lagers with little taste, the low quality of the beer reflected on the perception that people had of cans. Cans were inevitably associated to cheap, poor quality beer for at least three decades.
Yet, the cylindrical shape is reminiscent of a keg or a cask. Also, cans are much more effective than glass in protecting beer from two of its worst enemies: oxidation and excessive light exposure. Cans and our malty drink were set to cross paths again.
At first, the craft beer movement tried to take the distance from industrial production in all ways possible, including packaging. They chose refined and elegant bottles, but sooner or later some brave craft brewers would relaunch the image of the metal container. Warhol himself said that masses wanted to look nonconformist, which meant that nonconformity had to be mass-manufactured..
When it comes to beer, what is more nonconformist than putting a craft product in a can?
Especially if - following the pioneering craft brewers in the US and the UK - the first Italian brewery to choose cans was Baladin, which has always been associated to sinuous and refined bottles with corks covered in shellac.
The Baladin Pop American Pale Ale was created with the declared aim of shocking and bringing to streets, parks and rock (and pop) concerts the name of a brewery which was more widely known in top restaurants and luxury shops. With its multicolored, psychedelic graphics, the can makes explicit reference to Warhol and Pop Art. Six different graphic versions are available to captivate the imagination of the many breweriana collectors.
Opening the can creates a distinctive hiss and a puff of fresh steam: two signs of the lively carbonation that will fill our mouth. Poured into an American pint - the best glass to bring out all the hoppy fragrances - it has a light golden color, only slightly darker than straw, a distinct cloudiness due to the fact that it has not been filtered, and a rich, tick, white and fine head.
The maltiness of Baladin Pop comes out through delicate aromas of hay and crackers. But hops soon take center stage with their citrusy aromas of bergamot and citron, and flowery scents of lily of the valley and dandelion. After a few seconds in the glass, subtle yet perceptible spicy touches of coriander, white pepper and lemon grass emerge, followed by a light, resinous whiff, and an astonishing note of vanilla.
The fine, yet lively carbonation tickles the tongue and is no surprise, given the colors and scents of this beer. The body is light, as one would expect from an American Pale Ale: a “popular” beer for all occasions and times of the day. The taste buds are first enveloped by a sweet flavor of citron and bergamot, on a backdrop of bread crumb and crust. The mid palate feels the tastes of dried orange zest, yellow flowers and vanilla. The finish is gentle and only moderately bitter, if compared to other interpretations of the style, characterized by notes of lemon grass and citron zest.
The rather significant alcohol content (6% ABV) is skillfully hidden, which makes Pop quite easy to drink. Although it might seem very “pop” to drink straight from the can, our recommendation is to always pour into a glass to better enjoy all the scents.