A Fan O’ The Can

August 17, 2014

by Jeff Martin

I guess Mike’s post places me in defense of the can.

Having been indifferent in the past I now feel that the can has received a bad reputation. I feel that people see them on a shelf and think “ Hum… that beer must be a cheap beer and not very good.” Much like judging a book by the cover,  we should make an effort not to rush to negative judgment towards beer in cans.

Why companies choose to place their beer in cans vs bottles

According to Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Samuel Adams

“In the past, I had my doubts about putting Sam Adams in a can because I wasn’t convinced that Boston Lager would taste as good as it does from a bottle. But cans have changed. And I believe we’ve designed a can that provides a slight but noticeably better drinking experience than the standard beer can.”  (Forbes .com)

There are 6 main points to help you embrace the can  

  1. Cans let in NO light. Cans are completely opaque. Except for radio waves and neutrinos cans let absolutely no light past their thin aluminum skin keeping your beer tasting like it should.
  2. When compared to bottles, cans have lower oxygen levels. Ever drink a beer out of a keg from a house party that ended a couple days earlier? You might say it has a stale taste. That is the effect of oxygen on beer.
  3. Cans cool the contents faster. This can also be viewed as a negative because they can also warm the beer faster. The question you must ask yourself is “do I need a nipple for this beer?”
  4. Cans are more durable than the brittle bottle. Try this, drop a bottle and then drop a can. Which one breaks? A full can is just harder to break.
  5. Cans are allowed in far more places than bottles. How many times have you gone somewhere and there is a sign that says “ no glass bottles”? Cans are allowed into parks, concerts, clubs and restaurants more often.
  6. Cans are easier and more cost effective for distribution.  The way they stack, ship, and are labeled is more cost effective for breweries.

Most Common Argument

One of the most common arguments against the can is that it “leaves a metallic taste to the beer”.  What most people don’t realize is that beer manufacturers have been lining their aluminum cans with a thin plastic since 1935.  The Huffington Post did a small study regarding this perceived metallic taste. The results were as follows:

A panel of 25 tasters tried four different brands of beer:

Budweiser, Heineken, Sierra Nevada and Sapporo, in both cans and bottles.

They poured the beers into cups for tasting so no one could identify them. The tasters compared the beers side by side and wrote down which they thought was canned and which they preferred.

The results were pretty surprising: tasters preferred the canned beer in 3 out of the 4 cases (though overall, tasters only preferred it by a hair, edging out bottled beer with 51 percent of the vote).

On average, 54 percent of testers correctly identified the canned beer, meaning it’s not as easy to tell the difference as our tasters may have thought.


Use a glass 

Most “Beer people”, whether bottle or can, pour their beer into a glass. The reason you do so is to have the beer leap off the glass and on to your palate in the perfect spot, as to hit your taste buds and have them quiver in excitement (proper glassware). If you do this bottle or can should make no difference unless there are effects to your beer via light, oxygen or heat.

Effects of light on beer

When light hits beer, it provides the energy necessary to drive a reaction that transforms the iso-alpha-acids, a compound found in hops responsible for making beer bitter, into 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol. The “thiol” part of that somewhat cumbersome name indicates that there is sulfur present. Sulfur compounds often have strong, offensive aromas. Some musteline animals, like skunks, have evolved the ability to produce this chemical, and use it for self-defense. (professorbeer.com)

Effects of oxygen on beer

The majority of the stale flavors that develop as beer ages are the result of oxidation. Molecules of the various flavor compounds and alcohols within the beer undergo a chemical reaction with oxygen to form the molecules responsible for the stale taste. Fusel alcohols, acetaldehyde, and trans-2-nonenal are the primary culprits responsible for the majority of off-flavors associated with stale, oxidized beer, but other compounds also contribute. (homebrewersassociation.org)


In the bar

I have to agree with Mike  that when a can is left on the bar having NOT been poured into a glass, it can be missed by the bartender when empty. But again you can always ask politely for another or slide the empty can forward for the bartender to notice. (Give them a hint, they cannot read your mind)

It’s ok to embrace the Can!

In conclusion when choosing a beer to try at a bar, restaurant, or shop, do NOT rush to judgment in the assumption that a can of beer is going to be bad just because it is in a can. You could be passing up one of the best beers on the shelf.

Now go forth with an open mind, an open palate, and ENJOY. #FanOTheCan


Post YOUR thoughts on Bottles vs. Cans in the box below.

We love to hear from you, Cheers!


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