Beer School

Beer cans vs. beer bottles

Beer cans vs. beer bottles

It’s a personal thing, this can vs. bottle debate. Which do you prefer to drink from? Pour from? Be seen with? Is there really a taste difference? A variation in fizz, perhaps?

Oskar Blues brewery in the good ol’ U.S. of A. started the canning trend back in 2002. In the UK, it was a whole 11 years before Camden Town picked up on it, followed by Beavertown in 2014. Now there’s no escaping the cans – and shops and fridges have been hugely more colourful as a result.

Beyond aesthetics, what’s the difference?

A lot is merely perception. We tested it, running a blind-tasting with a crowd of beer lovers (the same beer – one packaged in a can, one in a bottle – both poured into and served from a glass) and found no-one noticed a difference.

What about a metallic taste, you say? If you have to lick the outside of the can first, then maybe you’ll get that hint of metal, but we wouldn’t recommend that! It’s certainly not coming from the inside of the can, since 1935 cans were given a very thin polymer lining, putting a halt to that metallic taste.

So that puts to bed the argument of taste difference. However, there are reasons for favouring a can over a bottle …

On an environmental level

Cans are 100% recyclable and the metal can be used again and again, with no loss of quality. Recycling a can takes just 10% of the energy required to make a can from scratch. As for glass, it’s more expensive to recycle and loses quality every time it’s recreated.

What’s more, cans are lighter (just 20% of the weight of a 330ml bottle), making it easier to transport from brewery to drinker.

Practicalities

Cans are much more sensible for the festival-goers or picnic-enjoyers among us. No-one wants to lug heavy bottles around … and you’re less likely to smash a can too. Plus, a can requires no additional instrument and no huge dentist bill when you stupidly think your teeth are up for the bottle-top challenge (we’ve all been there).

And it can’t be just us that realises that cans are easier to stack in the fridge!

Light protection

Many brewers (but certainly not all) prefer cans for their beer because there’s no chance of light-damage. UV rays can cause a reaction in beer dulling the character of the hops or creating an unpleasant raw-onion aroma and flavour. Yuck. Tucked away in a can, there’s no chance of that.

Are there any positives for the bottle?

Yes – bottles stay cooler longer. A can will warm up more quickly in your hand. But a can also gets cooler quicker. So, actually, no…?

I guess the real difference is down to you. What do you prefer putting to your lips? Personally, we always pour our beers in to a glass!

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