Is craft beer better in cans? Maybe…

As a lover of craft beer and being the kind of person who enjoys doing a little research to find the truth of an argument, I’ve decided to write a short piece on craft beer in cans. Despite technological advances which eliminate the potential, real or imagined, for the aluminum to contaminate or flavor the brew within, the myths live on. I will attempt to dispel some of them.

Aren’t glass bottles always better? Not even remotely. If canned beer is kept cool it shows a significantly longer shelf life than bottles. Why? Because beer’s greatest enemy, above all others, is UV light. Sunlight and simply ambient fluorescents in a beer cooler or store greatly diminish flavor and produce skunked beer. Heat is often blamed, but this is in fact a myth. This is why most brewers use dark brown bottles. Additionally, although generally assumed to be minute and insignificant, bottle caps do in fact leak air. Even small amounts of oxygen introduced to the head space of a bottle will diminish the beer over time.

Who needs cans? I do. There are a number of places where bringing glass is not allowed. The beach, concert venues, and NASCAR races are just a few. Cans are also better to pack for a hike. They’re more compact and less likely to break when jostled or bumped. Really anywhere glass is not appropriate, cans make enjoying craft beer a breeze. Canned beer is also slightly cheaper. The material and packaging cost less, so often this is reflected at the register.

Aren’t cans just little kegs? Not really. They are made of two different materials. All cans are made of lined Aluminum. The lining is made from the same material that’s used in the underside of bottle caps. Although there is some concern that this material is not ideal, it is considered safe when properly handled and prevents flavoring of the beer. Kegs, on the other hand are unlined stainless steel. This is the same material used in the majority of brewing equipment. Additionally, even if the two vessels were made from the same material, the kegs much lager volume/surface area ratio would render comparison irrelevant.

I think it tastes metallic? There are a number of reasons this is unlikely, but if you swear that it does I suspect you’re drinking straight from the can. For the same reason they employ a lining, canned beer should beer poured into a glass or cup, not pressed against your lips and mouth. Additionally, and this is not at all about using proper glassware, beer will always taste better if properly poured first. If you’re inclined to drink straight from a can or bottle it may be time to reconsider.

Aren’t they both recyclable? Yes, but the numbers are quite different. The percentage of reused material in bottles is roughly 40%, while in cans it ranges from 80% to 100%.

Am I advocating a complete abandonment of bottles? Maybe. First things first,  the industry needs to construct a can lining that does not contain BPA. Second, they have to address the reality that some people like to drink from the can and consider coating the exterior as well. As far as dispelling the myths and creating converts, that will take time. Some of the most respected brewers in the craft industry are now offering their beer in cans. This above all else will aid the cause as beer tasters compare bottled and canned beer side-by-side. My advice? Ask your local bottle shop what’s new in cans and conduct your own blind taste test. I mean really, what’s better than getting a fellow beer geek to admit he liked the canned beer better?


About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass ·

5 Responses to Is craft beer better in cans? Maybe…

  1. Pingback: @Wegmans Fall Beer Extravaganza! @magichat @avbc @JacksAbby @WachusettBrew @MayflowerBrew @ShipyardBrewing @dogfishbeer | @mrhopsbeertalk

  2. Very nice writeup. I would like to say one thing first. There is a brewery on the East Coast of the USA that is making cans now where the entire lid comes off so that it turns into a cup and for the most part it is completely lined. I still always advocate using correct glassware for the style of beer but in a pinch hiking or at the beach a topless can would be a great option. I will always prefer 22oz (650ml) bottles personally possibly because it is a perfect size for a single glass of beer. A legal pint in Canada is the same as England and comes in at 20oz this only leaves 2oz in the bottle.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! The idea of a removable top can sounds pretty interesting. I’m going to look that up and see if I can work it into the review. I also agree about glassware for the most part, although I’m not a total stickler and will ofter use a standard pint, but in general I only drink IPAs and DIPAs so the risk is minimal. As a homebrewer I am a total believer in the sweetspot of the 750 mL bottles. I bottle condition everything and have noted on several occasions the smaller bottles don’t quite taste as flavorful. If the beer is not bottle conditioned, I’d be willing to bet the cost of the beer in a taste test that you’d prefer the cans. Thanks again for the input.

  3. Pingback: Global hop shortage impacts craft industry as well as home brewers #craftbeer #homebrewing | Mr Hops Beer Talk

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