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Can Beer vs Bottle Beer: Unveiling the Brewing Debate

Can Beer vs Bottle Beer

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, Can Beer vs Bottle Beer?

Glasses of Beer in Can and Bottle

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

CriteriaCanned BeerBottled Beer
Packaging TypeAluminum cansGlass bottles
PortabilityLightweight and compactHeavier and bulkier
Light ExposureMinimal risk of lightVulnerable to light
Airtight SealExcellent sealSeal can degrade over time
RecyclabilityHighly recyclableRecyclable, but heavier
Cooling SpeedChills fasterSlower to cool
Environmental ImpactLower carbon footprintHigher carbon footprint
Average PriceAround $1.50 to $3 (Depending on the type and brand)Around $3.35 to $5 (Depending on the type and brand)
PopularityGaining popularityTraditional and popular
Star Rating★★★★★★★★★☆

How They Differ

Background History

Cans of Beer

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 [1].

Read: Top Beers With Low Alcohol Content

Life Span

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?

Volume

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

Metabolic Variation

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 [2].

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.

Read: Crowler & Growler Compared

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 [3], 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

Pouring Beer on a Glass

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.

Breakage

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 [4], which are less porous and less likely to lead to a skunky beer taste.

Temperature Hold

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.

Environmental Impact

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!

FAQs

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.

Does beer taste different in cans versus bottles?

There is ongoing debate among beer drinkers about whether beer tastes different in cans versus bottles. Some argue that canned beer can have a slight metallic taste due to the aluminum, while others claim they can’t taste a difference.

Does packaging affect the shelf life of beer?

Yes, the packaging can affect the shelf life of beer. Cans offer better protection against light and oxygen, which can cause beer to go stale more quickly. However, properly stored bottled beer can also have a long shelf life.

Are there any environmental considerations when choosing between canned and bottled beer?

Yes, there are environmental considerations. Cans are generally more recyclable and often contain a higher percentage of recycled material compared to bottles. However, both cans and bottles have environmental impacts associated with their production and disposal.

Does the choice between canned and bottled beer affect the carbon footprint of the product?

Both canned and bottled beer have associated carbon footprints, but the environmental impact can vary depending on factors such as transportation, production processes, and recycling rates. Generally, cans are considered to have a lower carbon footprint due to their lighter weight and easier recyclability.

Which packaging option is more cost-effective for breweries?

The cost-effectiveness of packaging depends on various factors, including materials, production processes, transportation, and distribution. In some cases, cans may be more cost-effective due to their lighter weight and lower shipping costs, while in other cases, bottles may be more economical.

In Conclusion

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.

References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227991299_A_Comprehensive_History_of_Beer_Brewing
  2. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-india-pale-ale-got-its-name-180954891/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10055024/
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/06/health/brown-beer-bottle-skunking-scn/index.html
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