A Canned Response: Aluminum Vs. Glass in the Craft Brew World

A Canned Response: Aluminum Vs. Glass in the Craft Brew World

Part 1 of a 3-part series on craft beer packaging.

Bottles or cans? That’s the battle that brews among craft beer makers and fans over the best way to package and store their beverage of choice.

For some, there’s just no substitute for the long-necked glass bottle with the crimped-on cap–sorry, crown (its sacrilege to say otherwise). An aluminum can, they say, imparts a metallic taste to the beer that destroys the brewer’s artisanship.

Not so, say the can fans. For one thing, the water-based coating sprayed on the inside of an aluminum can protects the beer from the can–and also the can from the beer. Proof lies in the fact that the beer doesn’t eat through the thin aluminum from the inside.

Other advantages of the can over the bottle? Ease and lower cost of filling, packing, storing and shipping, resulting in savings at the consumer end, say the aluminum aficionados.

Perception, however, can be everything, and there are those serious malt mavens who insist they can tell with their tongues whether their brew has been bottled or canned.

Jeff Wharton at DrinkCraftBeer.com decided to put that to the test recently–specifically, the blind taste test. He had a person pour bottled and canned samples of four brands of craft beer into glasses while he wasn’t looking, and tried to tell by taste, looks and smell which was bottled and which was canned. He was correct twice, wrong once and couldn’t even tell once.

The few consistencies Wharton noticed was that the canned samples tended to have a “cleaner” taste and, once poured into the glass, a bigger head of foam–which he figured might have been caused by the beer bubbling out of the pop-top hole in the can. There was also some speculation among commenters that light shining through the bottle glass might have affected the taste of the beer in the bottles.

Other than that, though, Wharton said he could detect no real difference, good or bad, between bottled and canned beers

Add to that the advantages in filling, packing, storing and shipping, and you—the craft brewer thinking about ways to better put your product before the public—might well consider the can.

Read Part 2 & Part 3.