Colorado's largest craft brewer, New Belgium, and one of its smallest, Black Shirt, both broke new ground in January when they began canning a pair of unusual beers. New Belgium's offering was the tart Snapshot, one of the first canned beers using lactobacillius as a souring agent. Black Shirt rolled out four canned beers, including its Red Saison, which is one of the first and only canned saisons in the state.
Colorado's canned beer offerings, which exploded in 2013, are only going to get wider and deeper in 2014 as breweries big and small expand their existing lineups or take the aluminum plunge for the first time. And the trend is really just beginning, as less expensive means of canning become more popular -- both for the new guys, like Grimm Brothers or Lone Tree Brewing, and the old guard, like Tommyknocker or Boulder Beer.
Here are ten brand-new canned beers -- from a real cross-section of breweries -- that we're looking forward to seeing this spring and summer.
1) River North IPA River North Brewery River North IPA will be a new beer for the brewery when it comes out in cans this summer, although the recipe, based on co-owner Matt Hess's original Belgian IPA homebrew, is similar to a taproom staple, Belgian Pale Red (or BPR). Like River North White, it will be sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans. Once it debuts, it will likely replace the BPR in the taproom to avoid confusion.
2) Lawyers, Guns & Money Crazy Mountain Brewing This massive beer began as a seasonal for Crazy Mountain but is now slated to become a year-round offering -- and when it does, it may be the first Colorado barleywine to be packaged in cans. The Edwards brewery is expanding by leaps and bounds, so it may soon need all the lawyers, guns and money it can get its hands on.
3) Escape to Colorado IPA Epic Brewing Although Epic, which is based in Utah, has packaged its beers exclusively in 22-ounce bomber bottles, the opening of its new production facility and taproom here in Denver seemed like the perfect excuse to try something different, like cans. And since cans are very "Colorado," the brewery will start with Escape to Colorado IPA, one of three beers that it made in honor of its major expansion in mid-2013; it will also can Hop Syndrome, a pilsner. Look for them in June or July.
4) Lone Tree Peach Pale Lone Tree Brewing Lone Tree Brewing said in January that it would begin canning Lone Tree Peach Pale Ale (along with Mountain Mama Golden Lager) beginning in April. The brewery bought its own Cask canning line and plans to distribute the beers throughout the Denver metro area. Lone Tree Peach Pale Ale (formerly Peachtree Pale Ale) is 5.7 ABV and has been a best-seller at the taphouse.
5) IPA & A Half Tommyknocker Brewing Twelve years after Tommyknocker started -- and then almost immediately stopped -- canning a beer, the Idaho Springs brewery will try again, this time with IPA & A Half, a beer that plays off of the concept of double IPAs. Tommyknocker will enlist the help of Longmont's Mobile Canning to package the beer in twelve-ounce cans beginning in May.
6) Little Red Cap Grimm Brothers Brewing This German-style Loveland brewery announced last week that in April it will begin canning its flagship Little Red Cap altbier on a canning line made by Boulder's Wild Goose Canning Systems. Grimm already packages six year-round beers in 22-ounce bomber bottles, but was looking for a more approachable package. If sales of the beer in twelve-ounce six-packs go well, Grimm will add a second beer to the lineup.
7) Graham Cracker Porter Denver Beer Co Denver Beer Co had barely been open for ten weeks when one of its beers, Graham Cracker Porter, won a medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. The result? GCP became a year-round staple at a brewery that didn't plan to have any. Times have changed -- and Denver Beer Co now has several core beers, including GCP and Incredible Pedal IPA, which it plans to package in twelve-ounce cans on a Wild Goose Canning Systems line this summer at a new production facility in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
8) Kurt's Mile High Malt Wynkoop Brewing Co. The Wynkoop has been canning small batches of a variety of beers for a while, and this year it will add a few new ones and revamp some old brews. The first to hit will likely be an old draft favorite, Kurt's Mile High Malt, a Vienna lager that is based on a recipe that Kurt Vonnegut's grandfather developed and that the author passed on to brewery co-founder John Hickenlooper. Made with Novo coffee, it will be released on 4/20.
9) Lao Wang Lager Caution: Brewing Brewed specifically to be paired with Asian cuisine, Lao Wang Lager was Caution's first beer -- and remains its flagship. And this summer, the brewery plans to can the beer at its new Lakewood brewery with its own canning line. After that, brewery co-owner Danny Wang wants to market the cans to Asian restaurants around town; the beer is currently on draft at his parents' place, Lao Wang Noodle House on South Federal Boulevard.
10) Mystery beers Boulder Beer The state's oldest craft brewer, which will celebrate 35 years next month, has been canning some of its beers with the help of Mobile Canning for a couple of years. But Boulder Beer recently bought its own canning line (it's being installed this week) since the experiment has paid off, says spokesman Dan Weitz. And although he can't say which ones they will be, the brewery soon will begin canning some of its flagship brews.
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Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan