If you’re the typical macro beer drinker, we’re going to guess that most of the time, you don’t really care what your beer is served in. A wider mouth-opening, a sleeker design, or a new label might be all the excitement you’re hoping for. But what about craft beer? Does it really make a difference?
The can vs. bottle debate has been going on for decades. So what’s better? When is it better to can, and when is it better to bottle? There are many contributing factors that come into play, so we’d like to shed some light on some of them:
1. UV light – Ultraviolet light, also known as UV lighting, is really bad for a beer’s compound structure. If beer is exposed to UV light for an extended amount of time, it can spoil. Cans prevent UV light from entering, helping the beer stay fresher, longer.
2. Storage – Cans are obviously easier to store and they take up less space. Stacking is made easier with cans, and beer-filled cans are actually lighter than bottles, making it more affordable for breweries to ship canned beers.
3. Outdoor use – For those that enjoy taking their brews to the beach, park, campground, etc. (that permits alcohol use), glass is, for the most part, prohibited while cans are not. Cans are also much better for the environment than bottles…not that we condone littering.
4. Temperature – If memory serves well from Chemistry class back in high school, remember that metals heat and cool faster than glass. With this in mind, there is a downside to aluminum cans. Although they chill faster, they also get warmer faster. Glass can hold in the coolness of a beer longer than a can. So if you’re the type who likes their beer colder for a longer time, we suggest pouring the canned beer into a glass, unless you’re outdoors–then you’re outta luck. Better drink quick!
5. Sealing capabilities – When beers are canned, they’re sealed with nitrogen, (bringing back more Chemistry) making it impossible for air to escape. Bottled beers, although sealed with a cap, may tend to leak depending on how strong the seal is between the cap and the bottle. This is where the wax-sealed bottle comes from–it’s just about the only way to truly seal a bottle in order to prevent leakage.
6. Taste – We’ve all had those beers that give off a metallic taste or a bottled taste before. Normally, that has nothing to do with the beer itself. It’s been said that the taste you get is where your nose is at the time of drinking. Think about it. When you drink beer from a can, where is your nose? Cans tend to give beers a bit more punch than a bottled beer, most likely due to the nitrogen in the canning process. Again, to get the best taste from a beer, pour it into the proper glassware (see our previous Beer 101 post). That will give you the best experience.
So what’s our personal preference? Well, by nature, we’ll always sway toward the best experience possible in beer. To us, it depends on what style of beer we drink. As far as IPA’s, our best experiences have been in both bottle and cans, but cans tend to give IPA’s that extra oomph or crispness that we love. Not everything we drink should come in cans, though. Personally, we think it would be really strange to be drinking a rare, bourbon barrel aged stout in a can. KBS in a can? It sounds cheap. There’s something awesome about purchasing a bomber or a 750mL bottle of a BA stout. Would you rather buy a $300 bottle of wine in a box or a bottle? Appearance does count sometimes.
The debate will continue to go on as long as beer is being made. If you’re like us and want the best experience possible when drinking a beer, remember to think about style and glassware. Considering those two factors will make a world of difference.