"Good beer doesn't come in a can." At least that's what Rob Leonard, owner/brewer of Connecticut's New England Brewing Company, was always told.
"Good beer doesn't come in a can."
At least that's what Rob Leonard, owner/brewer of Connecticut's New England Brewing Company, was always told.
But Leonard, having a small company with a small budget, spurred the normal craft brewery convention of putting its beers in bottles and went with cans.
"A decent bottling line can go for $250,000 to $500,000," said Leonard, while a canning machine can be bought for as little as $10,000.
"When I looked at it, there was nothing but advantages to the cans," he continued. "A typical craft beer buyer says good beer always comes in bottles and bad beer comes in can."
That's an argument Leonard said never made sense to him. The beer is brewed in large metal tanks. Draft beer is in metal kegs, and people never seem to complain about that, he said.
"The only time your (draft) beer is not touching metal is when it's in a can, because it's lined inside and out," said Leonard. "It's a personal keg party."
Leonard got started in the brewing industry in 1992 when he worked at the now defunct New Haven Brewing Company. He worked on the bottling line; "I have never left the industry since," he said.
In 1999, he moved on to the New England Brewing Company in Norwalk, Conn., but in 2002, the owners decided to sell the business. Leonard bought the name and the recipe, but he had no building or equipment.
He opened up a brewery in New Haven, Conn., and started selling keg-only beers until he started canning.
His first beer is the Atlantic Amber, which is the only beer he kept from the original New England Brewing Company line.
"It's just a classic American amber ale -- nice, malty with a beautiful amber color," said Leonard. "If Bass and Newcastle (two British beers) had a baby, this would be it."
The Atlantic Amber may not be the one craft beer geeks run to, but it is a great beer for those who have an interest in moving up from mass-produced beers to ales and lagers with flavor, Leonard said.
"It's like Craft Brewing 101," he said. "It's the biggest crowd pleaser at big gatherings at non-beer geek events."
Another good beer for those interested in trying craft beer -- but are worried that all the weird and exotic ingredients in some microbrews will turn them off -- would be the Elm City Lager.
"My easy description of the beer is it's a beer-flavored beer," said Leonard. "It's a classic German pilsner. It's my go-to beer. It's a great summer beer."
The most notable beer is the Sea Hag IPA, because of the design on the can. While the other two beers feature an old-fashioned sailing ship, the IPA features what looks to be a mystical woman grabbing at the Sea Hag name.
It's also the best of the three beers.
"It's not like a West Coast-style IPA, over the top with hops," said Leonard. "People who don't like hops will really like this beer."
In 2008, the international hop shortage took its toll on Sea Hag because Leonard said he could not buy the normal Cascade hops for his beer. He had to settle for Fuggles hop, which have a more earthy flavor, rather than grapefruitesque. But, after discovering Cascade hop extract, the beer returned back close to normal, and is now back to how it was originally.
"The true fans stuck with us," he said.
Soon, New England Brewing Company's wildly popular imperial stout, called Imperial Stout Trooper, will be back on shelves.
The beer is hand-bottled because Leonard said he does not brew enough to spend the money on cans.
The brewery also has plans for releasing two new beers next spring in 16-ounce cans, rather than the typical 12-ounce cans.
The first is a double IPA, which is currently draft only.
The second will be a Belgian golden ale, which will be called "668 - The Neighbor of the Beast."
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.