The 5 Strongest Microbrews – In a Can

June 2,2010 by 18 Comments

Wall of Beer CansPhoto: edseloh

What comes to mind when you think of beer in a can?

I think light, yellow, and flavorless. With a few good brews in me, I’ll call it drool or piss water.

Good beer, i.e. microbrews or craft beer, is served in elegant bottles. Cans are reserved for that inferior crap and their only use is as a signal for beer we don’t want to buy.

But all that is changing.

The Canned Craft Beer Revolution

You may have heard the news, but close to 100 craft breweries now can their beer. This is due to the fact that:

  • Cans are lighter and reduce shipping costs
  • They are airtight and unlike bottles, they block 100% of light (no skunked beer)
  • Cans can be taken into places where bottles are forbidden (Mmmm microbrews on the beach…)

But what about that metallic taste? Don’t worry about it. Modern cans have a spray coating so the beer never actually touches the metal.

The List

Let’s blow the f’ing lid of the stigma attached to canned beer. We’re going to turn the stereotypes on their head and show that just because it’s in a can doesn’t mean it’s light and watery.

So proving that that big beers do come in cans, here are the 5 strongest canned microbrews:

Note: The research comes from the database at, a great site that is dedicated to the canned craft beer revolution. Be sure to check it out, and don’t miss their new canned beer interactive map.

5. Gandhi-Bot Double IPA – New England Brewing Company

New   England Brewing Gandhi Bot Ipa

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8.8%

From the brewery:

“Gandhi-Bot is an intensely hopped Double India Pale Ale brewed with a blend of three varieties of American hops. 85 IBUs, this beer is brewed for those of us who need an aromatic and flavorfully hopped beer.”

4. Abrasive Ale – Surly Brewing Company

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 9.7%

Surly Abrasive Ale

From the brewery:

“We brewed this beer originally at the end of 2008 as a farewell to growler sales. As usual, we underestimated the demand for the first Double IPA in Minnesota. We brewed the beer again in the spring and released it as a draft only beer. It was originally called 16 Grit, a size of abrasive grit used at the old Abrasive factory that once stood where the brewery now resides.”

3. GUBNA – Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues GUBNA

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 10%

From the brewery:

“Emphasizing that complexity of character can arise from simple elements, this ale is made with 3 malts and 1 hop.Post-fermentation dry hopping allows the 10% ABV monstrosity to gently coax the citrus rind and grapefruit aroma to join the 100 IBUs already present. This beer will greet you with a pungent citrus blast, provide a spicy yet round middle and finish with a brisk, clean bitterness.”

Photo: Bernt Rostad

2. Very Noddy Lager – Buckbean Brewing Company

Very Noddy Lager

Style: Schwarzbier

ABV: 10.5%


“The Very Noddy Lager was a special brewing made for Doug Boothโ€™s 40th birthday. They took the Black Noddy recipe and doubled up on hops and malt, calling it an Imperial Schwarzbier. This beer has a big, rich chocolate-colored head, and pours an attractive opaque black. It smells like cocoa powder, and bitter chocolate, and tastes of rich roasted malt, chocolate and coffee, with a hint of dark cherries. This is a powerful brew, at 10.5% alcohol by volume, and while you can certainly taste that, it’s more subtle and drinkable than you’d expect.”

1. Ten Fidy – Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.5%

From the brewery:

“Ten FIDY Imperial Stout โ€“ This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hide a hefty 98 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt.ย  Ten FIDY (10.5% ABV) is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer.”

Photo: Speed-Light

With the big rush into canned beer there’s no doubt this list is time sensitive and will be replaced any day. But here on 6/2/2010, it is a damn fun thing to look at.

What do you think of craft beer in cans? Have you had any of these metal monsters?

About Billy Broas

He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

18 responses to “The 5 Strongest Microbrews – In a Can”

  1. Sonia Vining says:

    One of my favorite Michigan breweries distributes ONLY in cans: Keweenaw Brewing from Houghton, MI. (Dat’s in da U.P., eh?) Their blonde, brown and red ales (the exact names escape me at the moment) were a highly enjoyable part of a 12 day road trip around the UP a couple of summers ago. Good stuff! Next time I’m up there, I’m going to make a point of visiting the brewery.

  2. Matt says:

    I haven’t had any of these, but I’ve tried three of the other Oskar Blues beers in cans and I love them. They’re always high-alcohol, and with this list, I’m wondering if canned craft beer is always high-alcohol? A little can insecurity, perhaps?

    I need to find some of that Ten Fidy!
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..The Great Veggie Burger Taste Test =-.

  3. Ashamed to say that I have only tried two of the five beers.

    Gotta get my game face on!


    .-= The Beer Wench´s last blog ..Featured Beer Blogger: ADAM SIVITS =-.

  4. Cajonkev says:


    Nope, but since craft generally gravitates ๐Ÿ˜‰ towards styles that are higher ABV, ergo…

    But even Oskar Blues has a low ABV (5.3) in Mama’s Little Yella Pils which is a canned beer.

    Rumors/confirmations say there are more on their way in the near future!

  5. Lots of pluses for the stuff in cans! While I haven’t had any of the ones on your list, I’ve had some from 21st Amendment, New Belgium, and, of course Bud Lite. D’ Oh! Did I type that out loud? :-)

  6. Billy Broas says:

    @Sonia I hadn’t heard of Keweenaw but checked out em. Love how the market their cans with the nautical theme. What a perfect place for cans. On a boat!

    @Matt Yea Oskar Blues really got the whole thing going. When I first saw Dale’s I thought it was just a novelty act, but look where we are now. Pretty crazy.

    @Wench Ahh I love winning the “Stump the Wench” game! Gotta admit it doesn’t happen very often.

    @CajonKev I think you’re right that there’s a lot more on the way. I may have to update this list weekly. Buy in reality, I probably won’t bother…

    @Scott haha Caught! Actually since you mention that, I should say that before I had ten fidy the strongest beer I ever had in a can was Steel Reserve. Not exactly fidy quality.

  7. Nigel says:

    While I’m not an IPA lad, I’ve enjoyed many a Ten Fidy (in cans and on draught in NYC); I actually prefer it from cans, as the draughts I’ve had tended towards more bitterness (roasty, not hoppy) for some reason. A friend of mine visited the OB brewery in COL, and the reasoning they gave for canning was that cans are more portable and less fragile. For camping, for transporting on motorbikes (their space is essentially a biker bar of sorts), for all the active outdoorsy things happening in COL. Made great sense to me.

    I’d first tried their Old Chub (being a Scotch ale/malty-brew fan). The local Whole Foods beer gent (who knew my tastes pretty well) suggested I try it. “Believe me, it’s in a can, but it’s pretty damn good.” Boy, was he right. When I first had the Ten Fidy, all I could think was, “How amazing is it that something of this hugeness and QUALITY comes in a (cheap-looking) CAN. WTF?!” After the OB brews, I needed no further convincing.

  8. Jimmie the Mum says:

    Thanks to you I’ve been trying lots of different beers and sending pics (via phone to you).
    My wallet is a lot lighter but I’m having fun…

  9. Colin says:

    @Sonia Here are the full names:

    Pick Axe Blonde Ale
    Red Jacket Amber Ale
    Lift Bridge Brown Ale
    Widow Maker Black Ale

  10. Billy Broas says:

    @Nigel “How amazing is it that something of this hugeness and QUALITY comes in a (cheap-looking) CAN. WTF?!โ€ <--- EXACTLY! Old Chub is a favorite of mine BTW. @Jimmie Keep the pics coming. It's not cheap for me either, but when I look at my receipts from going out to restaurants I think about how many good beers I could have bought and that I need to rebudget. @Colin Thanks for providing that!

  11. dr dean says:

    Sometimes I am on the beach-and want something with less ABV. Any suggestions?

  12. Billy Broas says:

    @dean Great point! For the beach you’re probably not going to want one of these monsters. Try Mama’s Little Yellow Pils from Oskar Blues. It’s 5.3% and widely distributed. Thanks for stopping in.

  13. Interesting how Oskar Blues occupies 2 spots huh? I’m still trying to find their double IPA around here in Dallas though…no luck as of yet though :(

    As for your question in regards to craft beer in cans…I actually LIKE the idea, like the look and think it’s time that people’s perception starts to change here a bit in terms of what their beer comes in. For me it’s about preserving taste, and if they can deliver it to me in a can and cut their costs and mine while keeping the beer in a better environment than I’m all for it.

    Not to say that I do not like them nice bottles, and they do make my shelves look better, but I’m all for the move. It would be interesting too to get the same beer in a can and bottle…not coor’s, I mean real beer, and see the difference in taste if there is any at all.

    Though I don’t see Oskar doing that. Come to think of it though…Guinness does! :) Might not be the exact translation of the craft brewers we’re talking about…but it’s a damn good beer and could work. Though yes, not all beers are well suited to a can.

    I do kinda disagree with you about your last comment here though Billy, WHO says you can’t take a nice double IPA at 10% ABV to the beach or the pool?!?! Makes swimming more interesting and drinking better! *Yes, there is a bit of sarcasm there ๐Ÿ˜‰


  14. Billy Broas says:

    @IIya Yea Oskar Blues pretty much owns any list about canned beers. I’m a big advocate of beer in cans and I think people are really coming around to them. Although I think it’s really only the craft beer geeks that are coming around at first – the rest of the public is still largely in the dark about craft beer as a whole so the canned beer issue is another issue to tackle. The Guinness comparison is a good idea. Want to do a taste test and let us know what you think? And yes a DIPA does have its place at the beach. Although I picture myself drinking it around a campfire and something lighter for pick up football games ; )

  15. @Billy I totally agree. It might just be us beer folk that are coming around to them now, but brewers like Oskar Blues are doing a great job of making their cans look more “premium” and more like a craft brew rather than a miller light can. I’m a big supporter of this movement towards craft beer in cans. BUT of course I still do love my bottles :)

    Billy, I would be VERY happy to do a taste comparison of the two! Something I’ve been thinking about myself too and I’m sure it would interest others. I’ll plan it for tomorrow and get everything up by tomorrow night/Monday morning and get back to you on it! :)

    P.S. a 750ml bottle of a great Double IPA and a fun flag football game are always a “good” mix! Ha!


  16. Billy,
    As promised, I got the post up in regards to the difference between bottles and cans as far as taste and look go.

    Though next time, I must use a different beer!


  17. JLE says:

    An outstanding west coast style pale ale is available in Indianapolis from Sun King Brewery. Osiris Pale Ale has 5.6% content and is our can of choice for Big 10 tailgating. Give it a try if you’re in the Circle City.

    P.s. The Wee Mac Scottish Brown is also a five star choice from Sun King.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks for the tip! I should do an update of this article. There’s been a ton of new canned beers released in the past year.

Leave a Reply