Cans and Bottles and Contention, Oh My!

There is a considerable amount of contention out there in the beer world today. While there are controversies over label design and the never-ending battle of "my beer is better than yours," there's a fight brewing over something else – that of cans versus bottles.  Which is better?  Why is one better than the other, anyway?

This battle actually started quite a few years ago, and the founder of Sam Adams actually weighed in on the side of the bottle.  The crux of the issue appears to be taste.  Most of those who prefer bottles claim that beer from a glass bottle doesn't have the metallic taste that beer from a can has.  However, this is not necessarily true. 

Now, that doesn't mean that bottled beer has a metallic taste – it means that cans have gotten better.  It all has to do with the lining of the beer can.  In the past, beer makers used a solvent-based lining on their canned beers.  This allowed metal ions to leech into the beer, giving it that "tinny" flavor that so many people find distasteful.  Today, beer makers use a different type of lining, and experts point out that it does not give the beer a metallic taste.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily do anything about the taste of the can on your lips.  Glass bottles don't have this drawback.

However, there is a third school of thought out there – that both cans and bottles should be eschewed in favor of drinking any beer out of a glass.  The reason for this is that when you pour your beer into a glass, you are better able to smell the beverage while you're drinking it.  Up to 75% of "taste" is actually due to scents hitting your olfactory receptors.  Therefore, if you are able to smell your beer better, then you can enjoy more of its flavor.

There's a fourth contention, as well – that bottled and canned beer is inferior to draft beer.  This seems pretty obviously true, as almost any beer drinker would prefer a glass of draft beer over a bottle.  There are even some beers that taste differently out of the tap than out of a can or bottle, which is the driving force behind nitrogen cans used by breweries like Guinness.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference, though – what is yours, the can or the bottle?

Posted on January 7, 2011 and filed under Brewing.