Beer in cans vs bottles is an old debate - so which one actually tastes better?
According to the 2018 Beer Cartel 'Australian Craft Beer Survey', Australian beer drinkers are nearly split down the middle with their preference to beer cans vs bottles. 33% prefer bottles, 30% prefer cans and 36% have no preference.
Both have their own benefits. Cans are lighter to transport and easier to open - no need to waste time searching for a bottle opener. Most beer cans are 100% recyclable. Cans allow brewers to display artwork that wraps around the whole can, allowing for more creativity and making the packaging more eye catching.
Bottled beer remains colder for longer and many people argue that it tastes much better than cans.
How to Make Beer Taste Good
To understand how to make beer taste good, we must first understand what makes beer taste bad.
Three factors can affect the taste of beer - heat, oxygen and light. Bottles and cans are both great materials that can stop the negative effects of heat and oxygen. But, when it comes to light, things are a little more tricky.
When beer is exposed to sunlight, it can become skunked. Skunked beer is appropriately named because of the similarity in smell that is sprayed by the black and white skunk. Skunked beer tastes off and smells pungent.
Skunking is a photochemical reaction which makes things occur inside beer at a molecular level.
During the brewing process hops are boiled, releasing bitter flavour compounds known as ISO-alpha acids (isohumulone). When exposed to sunlight the ISO-alpha acids break down into free radicals that then get mixed up with proteins that contain sulfur. That reaction creates a rancid molecule called 3-METHYL-2-BUTENE-1-THIOL. It’s extremely potent and the process can occur quite quickly.
Aluminium cans and brown bottles are the best materials for keeping sunlight out of your beer to avoid skunking.
Changing the temperature of beer can’t skunk beer, but warmer temperatures increase oxidation in the beer which can make it taste stale.
Does Beer Taste Better in a Bottle?
Glass can keep beer cooler for longer, but does that really mean beer tastes better in a bottle?
Huff Post conducted an experiment with four different beer brands: Budweiser, Heineken, Sierra Nevada and Sapporo, in both cans and bottles. The goal was to serve the beer in cups so no one knew which was which. Tasters compared the beers and guessed which they thought was canned and which they preferred.
The results showed that tasters preferred the canned beer in 3 out of 4 beers and 54% of tasters correctly identified the canned beer.
What’s The Verdict For Craft Beer - Cans or Bottles?
When it comes to craft beer, all things point to cans being the better option, but that’s not to say craft beer in a bottle tastes bad. Cans can keep out sunlight better than bottles. Cans also don’t trap cool temperatures for as long as bottles, which is important for craft beer drinkers as many craft beers are best enjoyed at a slightly warmer temperature.
The idea that cans taste worse is nothing but a myth. Aluminium cans are lined with water based polymer that eliminates any contamination of any unwanted flavours. The metallic taste experienced is simply from the can touching the mouth. A simple solution to this is pouring your can into a beer glass.
Whether you prefer cans or bottles, just make sure you keep your beer out of sunlight and avoid constant temperature changes and your beer will taste great.
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