February 19, 2013


Sam Adams: Now (finally) in a can : His grail? A can he deems worthy of his beer (Jenn Abelson,  February 16, 2013, Boston Globe)

In summer 2011, they traveled to Ball's factory near Denver to study the canning process -- the thickness of aluminum, molecular properties, how beer pours from a can, and what impacts the flow. They hung out with well-lubricated football fans in Foxborough to understand why drinkers prefer beer in cans -- they account for roughly 57 percent of the US retail market, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm. The Bunker Hill team interviewed taste experts around the world and examined thousands of plastic coffee cup lids to understand the range of drink delivery options (the peel, the pucker, the pinch, and the puncture).

The big discovery: Conventional cans don't allow enough air into people's mouths as they drink. Turns out, much of what consumers believe they taste is actually smell -- that's why food tastes so bland when people are congested. Increasing exposure to the beer's aromas of hops and fruit can make a big difference in taste, said Roy Desrochers, a professional beer taster at GEI Consultants in Woburn.

So the team began looking for ways to improve air flow. Over several months, IDEO proposed dozens of designs and created eight prototypes that expanded the size and shape of the can's opening. Larger apertures -- one shaped like a bell, another like a peanut -- were supposed to enhance the air flow and access to aromas. The most promising idea, according to Koch, was a design that allowed drinkers to tear off the entire top. [...]

On Thursday, Desrochers gave his final evaluation to Koch. The new can, he said, had strong benefits both in ergonomics and flavor. The hourglass curve and wider lid deposits the beer further in the mouth so a drinker doesn't have to tilt his head back.

"With a traditional can, you feel like you're sucking liquid out," Desrochers said. "With the new design, the beer flows in nicely . . . and you don't get the sensation that it might spill out the side of your mouth."

The bigger lid forces people to open their mouths wider, allowing more air to pass through and go up into the nasal passages. This increased exposure to the smells brings out the flavors of the beer -- the hops, the grains, the fruitiness -- earlier in the drinking experience, which is what consumers associate with a fresher beverage, according to Desrochers. And the outward-turned lip pours the beer directly on the palate, maximizing the sweetness from the malt.

Posted by at February 19, 2013 7:19 PM

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