Beer in cans vs. beer in bottles -- the great debate

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I bring this up due to another excellent Friday night beer post on the Balloon Juice blog. To quote the key bit, which itself draws on other stories:


Here a problem that I hadn’t heard of before – bottle aging.

In our tasting, ales from well-regarded brewers like Stoudt’s, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic and even some that made our list showed signs of poor handling. One possible solution to the light problem, at least, was staring us in the face right after the tasting, when the identities of all the brews were revealed. Our No. 1, Dale’s Pale Ale, came in a can.

A can! Not long ago, cans represented all that was wrong with the assembly-line American beer industry. No craft brewer worth a copper brew kettle would even consider putting his precious ale in a can. But times have changed, and some brewers say that cans are lighter and easier to recycle than bottles, and offer complete protection against light.

Rumor has it that the crunchy folks at Dale’s bought a Canadian small-scale canning system so that they could have good beers when they went biking, backpacking or golfing. Having done two of three there’s no doubt that with my own brew pub and startup capital I might have considered doing the same thing. Among other outdoor advantages cans don’t shatter, they cool faster when you sink them in a stream and you can crush them when the beer’s gone. The other advantages – and it looks like there are plenty – apparently came up later. That doesn’t mean that Oskar Blues is a bit shy about selling their technological superiority over the rest of the microbrewing world:

[T]here’s no reason why big beers can’t live and thrive in cans, said Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis. bears him out: Oskar Blue’s Old Chub is the top-rated Scottish ale on that Web site, and Dale’s Pale Ale is the No. 8 American pale ale.

“Cans eliminate light damage,” he said, “and they hold far less oxygen than bottles. So our beers stay fresher longer—plus cans are less fuel-consuming to ship and recycle and they make it possible to enjoy great beer outdoors.”

Light damage and oxidation are two enemies of packaged beer. According to, ultraviolet light destroys hop-derived molecules called isohumulones, and creates sulfur compounds—the reason that light-struck beer is called skunky.

...Oxidation is caused by air trapped during packaging. It creates a stale, wet cardboard flavor in the beer. Although air trapped in a can could actually oxidize beer more quickly than in a bottle because of the greater contact area, modern canning systems purge air with a blast of carbon dioxide or nitrogen before the can is filled and the lid crimped on. In recent tests of Dale’s Pale Ale, the levels of dissolved oxygen were too low to be accurately measured by the test being used.

Jim Mills of Caldera Brewing is impressed with the difference between even mass-market beers in bottles and cans. “Taste a Heineken from a bottle and then from a can,” he said. “The malt and hops are so much more present in the canned beer. When a friend first tried canned Heineken against bottled, he said, ‘Whoa! That’s not Heineken—but I like it.’ ”


Your thoughts, please.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Saturday, 25 February 2006 15:24 (eleven years ago) Permalink

guinness in a can is excellent.

the bitchy guy in the pince-nez from the old films (Jody Beth Rosen), Saturday, 25 February 2006 15:26 (eleven years ago) Permalink

cans. bottles are too expensive and fiddly.

dog latin (dog latin), Saturday, 25 February 2006 15:33 (eleven years ago) Permalink

That's true, though. It also goes for, say, coke, which is a lot lot better out of cans.

clodia pulchra (emo by proxy), Saturday, 25 February 2006 15:52 (eleven years ago) Permalink

According to a guy I know in the business, all of the above is true, and any 'canny' taste can be eliminated by the simple expedient of pouring the beer into a cup. Presently, though, most of the better beers are packaged in bottles. I hope that mere tradition doesn't stand in the way of progress, especially in this most critical area.

Austin Still (Austin, Still), Saturday, 25 February 2006 16:05 (eleven years ago) Permalink

It's very difficult to shotgun a bottle of beer and then crush it on one's forehead. Thus, cans.

adam (adam), Saturday, 25 February 2006 16:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

That's true, though. It also goes for, say, coke, which is a lot lot better out of cans.

-- clodia pulchra (spa...), February 25th, 2006.


latebloomer: My Baby's A Labrador, He's Beautiful (latebloomer), Saturday, 25 February 2006 17:10 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Lager tastes fine straight out of cans but bitter/ale is best from a bottle, in my experience.

Colonel Poo (Colonel Poo), Saturday, 25 February 2006 18:16 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Everything tastes better out of a bottle but cans always seem to be bigger and better value.

Matt DC (Matt DC), Saturday, 25 February 2006 18:37 (eleven years ago) Permalink

i do not like guinness in a can or bottle. draught only, pls!

tehresa (tehresa), Saturday, 25 February 2006 18:44 (eleven years ago) Permalink

"Canny" taste? You mean fresh and carbonated?

Boo, Saturday, 25 February 2006 19:53 (eleven years ago) Permalink

CANS! bottles are for snobs.

Freud Junior (Freud Junior), Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:00 (eleven years ago) Permalink

guinness in a can yuckk

everything better out of a bottle, unfortunately

there are more bottle banks than can recycling places around but glass isn't anywhere near as valuable as aluminium and we keep throwing perfectly good cans in the mixed bin and recycling glass stupid council

RJG (RJG), Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:01 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Barring damage, bottles taste better and are more pleasant to drink out of. But it does seem like maybe 5-10% of the time a bottle tastes like something went wrong with it, especially with smaller brewers -- don't have this problem with Bud which is why I always drink it from a bottle.

Also, fuck faux-populism.

Also, you could smash a bottle over someone's head and then cut someone else with it.

Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:04 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I could but I won't

RJG (RJG), Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:05 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I greatly prefer beer in a bottle, for inexplicable reasons. I feel weird drinking beer out of a can and whether it exists or not I do experience the "canny" taste mentioned above. The exception to this rule is Pabst Blue Ribbon, which I don't think even comes in bottles.

Jessie the Monster (scarymonsterrr), Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:16 (eleven years ago) Permalink

PBR does indeed come in bottles. That's good drinkin'.

BLMA At someone else's computer, Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:19 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Beer on tap. Nothing else!


Duffman, Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:25 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Beer however you can get it! Fools!

Opportunistic Drunkard, Saturday, 25 February 2006 20:25 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I dunno, I'm currently drinking Carlsberg from the can and it tastes better than it does on tap in some pubs!

Colonel Poo (Colonel Poo), Saturday, 25 February 2006 21:48 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Cans. Cheaper. Colder. Fresher.

paulhw (paulhw), Saturday, 25 February 2006 23:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

1. draught
2. bottles (distant second)
3. cans (distant distant distant distant third)

no comparison. and no, i can't explain why either.

xhuxk, Sunday, 26 February 2006 00:54 (eleven years ago) Permalink

If you can't get it draught, you with bottles. That's just the way it is.

And people seriously still drink PBR? Why? Its not even that cheap now that everyone started drinking it. Why not just pound Steel Reserve or Hurricane?

Alan Conceicao (Alan Conceicao), Sunday, 26 February 2006 00:59 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Beer in cans is great if you are standing around on the street drinking. Otherwise it SuXoR.

DV (dirtyvicar), Sunday, 26 February 2006 01:08 (eleven years ago) Permalink

As debates go this one does not strike me as all that great but I would still like to contribute.

I suppose I prefer drinking from bottles simply because it feels nicer but if it's gonna be poured into a glass then it really makes no difference.

The main issues (besides flavour of course) are temperature and price. Beer in cans is cheaper but not few decent beers come in cans. Which sux.

uptoeleven (uptoeleven), Sunday, 26 February 2006 01:29 (eleven years ago) Permalink

aesthetically, bottles. but freshness can be a problem. it's hard for me to compare directly, because most of the beer i drink doesn't come in cans. (yeah, microbrew snob, whatever.) guinness is better in cans than bottles, but both are a far cry from draft.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Sunday, 26 February 2006 01:30 (eleven years ago) Permalink

The only spoilt beer that I can remember having came out of a bottle all right. Utica Club. Never did find out what it should have tasted like.

jim wentworth (wench), Sunday, 26 February 2006 01:58 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I almost always drink beer out of a can because I once bought a six-pack of Molson Canadian that had an empty bottle, and I have held a grudge against bottles ever since. It was a very "Strange Brew" moment come to think of it.

Freud Junior (Freud Junior), Sunday, 26 February 2006 02:52 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I should post a Stange Brew photo. But i don't know how to post photos...

Freud Junior (Freud Junior), Sunday, 26 February 2006 02:55 (eleven years ago) Permalink

And people seriously still drink PBR? Why? Its not even that cheap now that everyone started drinking it. Why not just pound Steel Reserve or Hurricane?

-- Alan Conceicao (deadandrestles...), February 25th, 2006 7:59 PM. (later) (link)

I'm actually from the area PBR is brewed in, so for me it's a hometown loyalty thing (and it's still dirt cheap here). Plus the bar near my school has 2.99 PBR and popcorn! But yeah, I don't totally get why it's become so popular, since I will freely admit it's certainly not one of the best-tasting beers.

Jessie the Monster (scarymonsterrr), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:19 (eleven years ago) Permalink

There was a brief point where Strongbow cider here was sold in cans (I'm not a beer drinker) and I have to say, it tasted... funny. Now wether this was psychological or not I couldn't say, but it sure tasted different at the least.

Trayce (trayce), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:26 (eleven years ago) Permalink

i went to a "trailer park thanksgiving" drag show once and they had a drink special of 2 cans of keystone ice (with straws!) for $1. it was awesome.

tehresa (tehresa), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I started a prohibitionist skinhead group, and we definately prefer that
you keep all your alcohol is easily-smashed glass bottles.

shieldforyoureyes, Sunday, 26 February 2006 07:18 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Beer in cans is for heathens.

ESTEBAN BUTTEZ~!!! (ESTEBAN BUTTEZ~!!!), Sunday, 26 February 2006 07:28 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Oh Esteban, I hardly knew ye...

John Justen (johnjusten), Sunday, 26 February 2006 08:46 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I heard abt a guy that worked at a brewery and wdn't drink out of cans because he said they knew something abt the lager eating away, a wee bit, and dissolving into itself, the inside of the canister!

you hear all sorts, though

RJG (RJG), Sunday, 26 February 2006 10:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

stella in stubbies tastes like summer bbq's

john clarkson, Sunday, 26 February 2006 10:57 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Depends on the beer, but canned beers should only be drunk (out of the can that is) with one of these:

S- (sgh), Monday, 27 February 2006 03:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

so I was drinking nice german lager from a bottle the other day in a shopping mall. took one swig, it was alright, took another swig, when I lowered the bottle, all of a sudden there was a groundswell of carbonation and beer came shooting up out of the top and all around me! luckily noone got hit but I felt embarrassed as hell. why does this happen?

see also: belgian beers which overflow as soon as you open them, despite you not having touched them for a good 36 hours.

dyao, Saturday, 13 February 2010 09:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

beer spouting out of the bottle is super embarrassing

nagl wayne (J0rdan S.), Saturday, 13 February 2010 09:15 (seven years ago) Permalink

People who drink beer from cans are disgusting savages.

No, YOU'RE a disgusting savage (Scik Mouthy), Saturday, 13 February 2010 12:41 (seven years ago) Permalink

Everything tastes better out of a bottle but cans always seem to be bigger and better value.
― Matt DC (Matt DC), Saturday, February 25, 2006 6:37 PM (3 years ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

chris nibbs (cozen), Saturday, 13 February 2010 12:50 (seven years ago) Permalink

It's not better value if it's not as good, is it?

No, YOU'RE a disgusting savage (Scik Mouthy), Saturday, 13 February 2010 13:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

i drink beer from cans, it's pretty good!

wilter, Saturday, 13 February 2010 13:30 (seven years ago) Permalink

two years pass...


soooooooo good. right now.

a single goddamn marshmallow fucked me for LIFE (Hunt3r), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 20:36 (five years ago) Permalink

i did not realize til i just went to their site that it's 6.5%, that's always a plus.

a single goddamn marshmallow fucked me for LIFE (Hunt3r), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 20:38 (five years ago) Permalink

I don't think I've ever had an Oskar Blues beer, but there's a couple of local craft breweries here in Chicago (Half Acre, Finch's) that use cans exclusively for their year-round releases, so I no longer associate canned beer exclusively with shitty corporate lager. Ska's Modus Hoperandi is one that I see fairly often, too.

sockless in moccasins (jaymc), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:12 (five years ago) Permalink

the new Deviant Dale's is pretty killer -- not sure how far & wide it's being distributed. i live down the street from the oskar blues brewery.

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:14 (five years ago) Permalink

I've heard of Oskar Blues, but I don't recall ever having seen it locally. Maybe Jeff or askance johnson or t0dd sw1ss can correct me.

sockless in moccasins (jaymc), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:17 (five years ago) Permalink

sixpoint was pretty much the nail in the coffin for my bottle snobbery. But I don't drink from the can, I pour it into a glass. Can taste is still gross.

i don't believe in zimmerman (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:20 (five years ago) Permalink

I don't think cans taste any worse than bottles, honestly, but I pour into a glass whenever possible as well.

sockless in moccasins (jaymc), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:22 (five years ago) Permalink

Surly really changed my mind on this, but i am also warming up to the 21st amendment brewery stuff too.

Rachel Profiling (jjjusten), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:23 (five years ago) Permalink

tbh I just like bottles because they are bottles

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:25 (five years ago) Permalink

i thought this would be about the new miller lite can that makes it even easier to shotgun beers

call all destroyer, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:27 (five years ago) Permalink

tell me more

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:28 (five years ago) Permalink

I hope they have an ad campaign that ends with a message to shotgun responsibly and know your limit

i don't believe in zimmerman (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:29 (five years ago) Permalink

psh, whole point of shotgunning is drinking the beer out of anywhere but the top of the can.

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:33 (five years ago) Permalink

love dale's and surly and i totally get why cans would be better for transporting/storing beer, but i still like drinking out of bottles better (hurting otm, you can taste the aluminum). if it's good beer in a can, i'll decant too.

40oz of tears (Jordan), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:36 (five years ago) Permalink

even bad cheap beer tastes way better out of a bottle than straight from a can. in fact sometimes it stops tasting so bad.

i don't believe in zimmerman (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:40 (five years ago) Permalink

Vessel matters not to me.

Jeff, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:41 (five years ago) Permalink

me neither. oskar blues convinced me a few years back. don't think any beer nowadays tastes different out of a bottle than out of a can. definitely used to, back in the old days, before they started lining the cans w plastic or whatever.

10. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Tom Cruise (contenderizer), Wednesday, 2 May 2012 21:57 (five years ago) Permalink

ha, very timely -- a friend just sent me news of this, the latest oskar blues beer, in an aluminum bottle
more info:

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 May 2012 22:03 (five years ago) Permalink

whoah sorry about huge img

sleeve, Thursday, 3 May 2012 02:44 (five years ago) Permalink

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