Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin
To crack open an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day is truly a refreshing drinking experience. But have you ever pondered the eternal debate of can beer vs bottle beer?
While both containers hold the golden brew we adore, they each come with their unique qualities. So, if you’re picking between buying a canned beer or bottled beer, this article is for you!
Today, let me break down the similarities and differences between bottled and canned beer, considering their packaging, portability, taste, and more. Keep reading to know more.
Which is Better, Bottle Beer or Can Beer?
Bottle beer has been a staple in the brewing industry for centuries. It comes encased in glass bottles, often with twist-off caps, or, for the more traditional brews, a trusty bottle opener is required like wine.
The glass container gives it a distinct look and feel, making it a timeless classic in the world of beer.
“Can or bottle, it’s not just about the container; it’s about the experience within.” – Liquor Laboratory
Can beer, on the other hand, comes packaged in aluminum cans sealed with pull-tab tops. The metallic sheen of the can give it a modern and sleek appearance.
It’s like the rebellious younger sibling of bottled beer, always ready for adventure.
Cheat Sheet on Can Beers vs Bottle Beers
|Criteria||Canned Beer||Bottled Beer|
|Packaging Type||Aluminum cans||Glass bottles|
|Portability||Lightweight and compact||Heavier and bulkier|
|Light Exposure||Minimal risk of light||Vulnerable to light|
|Airtight Seal||Excellent seal||Seal can degrade over time|
|Recyclability||Highly recyclable||Recyclable, but heavier|
|Cooling Speed||Chills faster||Slower to cool|
|Environmental Impact||Lower carbon footprint||Higher carbon footprint|
|Average Price||Around $1.50 to $3 (Depending on the type and brand)||Around $3.35 to $5 (Depending on the type and brand)|
|Popularity||Gaining popularity||Traditional and popular|
How They Differ
Bottle beer has a long and storied history, dating back to ancient civilizations. Packaging beer in bottles exudes a sense of tradition and craftsmanship.
On the other hand, can beer is a more recent addition to the beer scene, gaining popularity in the mid-20th century. Beer cans represent innovation and modernity in the brewing process .
When it comes to shelf life, beers in cans tend to have a slight edge. The airtight seal of aluminum cans protects the beer from oxygen and light exposure, preserving its freshness for longer periods.
Bottled versions, while still capable of maintaining quality, can be more susceptible to spoilage if not stored correctly, especially if not completely sealed.
Taste & After Taste
Many beer enthusiasts argue that the container packaging affects the beer taste. Some claim that bottle beer retains the beer’s flavor and aroma better due to the inert nature of the glass.
However, modern canning technology has made great strides in preserving the taste and aroma of beer, and based on my blind taste tests, there’s no noticeable difference between bottled and canned beer.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend pouring your beer into a glass. Whether it’s poured into a glass, the flavor and taste remain equally delightful, assuming it hasn’t been affected by light exposure.
Read: What’s A Draft Beer?
If you’re looking for variety, malt bottles often come in a wider range of sizes, from standard 12-ounce bottles to larger 22-ounce bombers.
Cans typically offer more uniformity with standard 12-ounce sizes, which is convenient for solo drinkers.
Convenience & Ease Of Transport
Beer cans are lighter and compact, making them suitable for outdoor adventures like hiking, camping, or picnicking. You can stack them easily in coolers and take up less space.
Beer bottles, while classic, can be heavier and less portable. They’re also prone to breakage when mishandled.
Fizz & Freshness
Beer cans win when it comes to retaining carbonation between cans or bottles. Cans are excellent at maintaining carbonation, ensuring the beers stay fizzy, and making the beer fresher as you drink.
On the other hand, beer bottles may allow some carbonation to escape over time, affecting the beer’s overall freshness.
Read: Beer vs Hard Seltzer
Canned beer is less prone to metabolic changes over time than bottled beer. This means that the canned beer tastes consistent from batch to batch.
To make it clear, metabolic variation is how the beers in cans and bottles broke down or formed new flavor compounds as they matured after the brewing process, as per the ACS Food Science and Technology.
There was a noticeable difference in the metabolic characteristics of amber ale when comparing cans and bottles.
Specifically, the amber ale stored in bottles maintained a significantly higher concentration of esters – compounds produced by yeast during fermentation that interact with water to create alcohols and acids.
In contrast, both canned and bottled IPAs (India Pale Ale) exhibited considerably less metabolic variation.
This variance may be attributed to the presence of abundant polyphenols in IPAs .
These polyphenols possess antioxidative properties, aiding in preserving the flavor compounds by shielding them against oxidation.
While both types of beer incorporate hops in their recipes, IPAs notably contain a greater quantity of hops.
Aluminum vs Glass
Aluminum cans are more lightweight and shatterproof than glass bottles. I prefer beer cans for outdoor activities and events where glass packaging poses a safety hazard.
Moreover, aluminum excels in preserving beer’s freshness , offering durability, and reducing the risk of light exposure.
Glass containers, while classic, may be more prone to temperature fluctuations and breakage.
Manufacturing Costs & Shipping
Cans of beer are more cost-effective to manufacture and ship due to their lighter weight and stackability. This cost efficiency sometimes translates into lower prices for consumers like us.
Chemical Composition & Flavors
Both containers, cans, and bottles are inert, meaning they don’t react with the beer’s contents, preserving the tasting profile.
However, I’ve heard some drinkers complaining about a hint of metal taste in beer cans than in bottled beer versions.
That’s why many brewers often line their cans with a food-safe thin coating to prevent any contact between the beer and the cans, which might create a metal taste.
So, if you’re tasting metal as you drink, it’s only because you smell the can, not because the beer tastes metal.
As we all know, glass bottles can break easily, causing potential safety hazards and messes. So, cans or beers, being more durable, eliminate this concern.
Oxygen & Light Pickup
Cans provide an airtight seal, shielding beer from oxygen and light exposure, which can lead to skunky taste or off-flavors.
Glass bottles packaging, especially clear and green bottles, are not as effective in this regard.
As a workaround, in the last few years, most breweries have been using brown bottles , which are less porous and less likely to lead to a skunky beer taste.
Cans of beer cool down faster due to their lower thermal mass. They also keep the beer cold longer, which is perfect for those hot summer days when you want your drinking beer to stay refreshing.
Ease Of Storage
Cans stack neatly and take up less space in the fridge or cooler. Bottles, with their bulkier shapes, can be a bit trickier to arrange efficiently.
Both bottles and cans have the potential to be eco-conscious options, provided they’re properly recycled.
But, the most sustainable approach to enjoying the taste of beer is by savoring draft beer from a reusable cup or bringing it home in a reusable growler.
“On victory, you deserve beer, in defeat, you need it.” – Napoleon, Former Emperor of the French
Kegs offer the added benefit of being refillable repeatedly, making the process of emptying them an enjoyable experience!
Is it cheaper to bottle or can beer?
Canning beer is generally more cost-effective due to lower manufacturing and shipping costs, but the price difference for consumers can vary depending on the brand and location.
Why is canned beer so popular?
The answer to why canned beer is popular is its advantages in portability, freshness preservation, and environmental impact reduction.
Which came first, bottle or can beer?
Bottle beer has been around for centuries, while can beer is a more recent innovation of brewers, gaining prominence in the mid-20th century.
So, which is better, beer cans or bottles? And my answer? It’s a tough call, as both have their merits. However, beer can have the upper hand when it comes to convenience, portability, and sustainability.
Its airtight seal, lightweight nature, and lower environmental impact make it a compelling choice for beer lovers like us.
While bottle beer brews carry a rich history and a sense of tradition, I see that there’s a need to adapt to keep up with today’s beer drinkers’ evolving tastes and lifestyles.
Ultimately, the choice between beer cans or bottles often comes down to your preference and the context in which you enjoy your brew.
Whether drinking directly from a glass bottle at a traditional tap or cracking open a can at a party, the important thing is to savor the brewed flavor and enjoy the moment, canned or bottled.