Forget the Scopes Monkey trial, Roe v Wade, OJ Simpson and all the others. There is a much more important trial facing our nation; one which may change the course of history and determine the fate of all mankind. This debate is one which has saddled us for decades and which must finally be decided, here and now. The question: is beer better in bottles or cans?
My boyfriend and I, along with millions of people across the country and around the world, have long argued this topic. I prefer bottled beer, while he likes to guzzle out of a can. After months of disputing, I finally decided to get to the bottom of this for once and for all.
We both agree that the best way to drink beer is on draft. After doing some research, I learned that there is some scientific backing to this preference. It turns out that yeast in cask-conditioned draft beer causes secondary fermentation, which produces natural carbon dioxide. In other words, draft beer is about as fresh and flavorful as it can get. On the other hand, draft beer doesn’t last as long as bottled or canned beer, but we’ve never had a problem finishing off beer, anyway.
Okay, so onto the real debate: bottles or cans? For some expert input on the debate I went to two great area breweries, Victory Brewing Company and Sly Fox Brewing Company, who respectively bottle and can their beer.
Bill Covaleski, brewmaster for Victory Brewing Company, said,
“With the advent of craft beer in cans, craft beer lovers have been able to enjoy their favorite beverages in places that were previously off limits to quality beer.
“That said, why are cans not the right option for Victory beers at this time? Modern canned beer avoids the ‘tinny’ taste that plagued canned beer for many decades due to the inclusion of a thin, plastic polymer barrier that is now bonded to the interior of beer cans. Our solution of glass bottles holds our great beer in a suitable non-reactive container. How reactive the plastic polymer lining is we don’t really know, as we feel we already have the better solution. Can components of the polymer leak into the beer over time? What gases does the plastic liner release when it is combusted in recycling?
“We’ll keep our eye on further advances to polymer-lined cans but remain confident that we currently have a solid solution to handling our great beer.”
I also spoke with Tim Ohst, Brewery Operations Manager at Sly Fox Brewery. Tim said,
“Theres definitely a bias or perception that canned beer is not as good. I think that comes from decades ago, when cans were made of tin and would impart a metallic taste on the beer. Now every can is lined so there’s no contact between metal and the actual product.
“There are a number of reasons why we can our beer. Part of our rationale was its newness and neatness within the craft beer industry. We were one of the first craft breweries along the Atlantic to can our beer.
“There are quality reasons, as well. Breweries are always concerned with dissolved oxygen (which gives beer a shorter shelf life), and research has shown that cans offer a better industry standard than bottles.
“There’s also the packaging itself; glass is really expensive, and the production of glass is very energy-intensive. The physical packaging costs less with cans.
“In addition, cans don’t allow any light to get into the bottle. Light can damage beer, which is why you see mostly brown beer bottles. Brown keeps out light the best, green a little worse. The only reason people use green or clear bottles is for marketing reasons.
“Cans are also better for stacking; you can take them a lot of places you can’t take glass. In the summertime, our sales go up. People take cans to the beach, golf course, camping or even kayaking. It’s very easy to pack it in and pack it out. Even in the wintertime, you can go skiing!”
Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils actually won a gold medal for best German-style Pilsner this past October at the Great American Beer Festival (the quintessential craft brew experience). What’s interesting about this is that it wasn’t a special batch brewed especially for the competition, like so many breweres do. Instead, the guys at Sly Fox just grabbed two six-packs and shipped them to Denver as a last-minute decision to enter the contest. So, that’s right, the best German-style pilsner comes in a CAN.
All in all, good beer is good, and bad beer is bad. My boyfriend’s Miller High Life will just never taste as good as my Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, no matter how it’s packaged. So, whether canned or bottled, just make sure you drink something good!