Chances are, in recent visits to your local grocery store, liquor store, or pub, you may have noticed a change to some of your favorite products. Shelves once lined so perfectly with that beautiful bottled nectar we call beer have started to deviate from their normal lineup and now include a plethora of various containers—most notably, cans. From some of the largest breweries to the mom-and-pop brewpub down the street, cans are popping up everywhere. But why on earth would a brewery put their product, their labor of love, in a vessel so “low class,” so “cheap,” so…aluminum? The answer is simple—because it tastes better!
Through my years in the beer industry, I have witnessed that look of confusion, doubt, and utter disgust when a guest is informed that their favorite lager is not available in their preferred container.
“But we do have it in cans,” a staff member may explain.
“Uh…no, thank you. I’ll just have something else,” they state with a sense of superiority, visibly repulsed at the notion.
It’s no wonder that many consumers turn their noses up at the thought of drinking canned beer. For decades, most beers that could be found in cans were mass-produced, mass-marketed, often watered-down domestic beers. In the even more distant past, cans did not contain the proper inner lining to protect the beer. In fact, tin cans were the norm, and lead—yes, lead—was used in the seams of these cans. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.
Though I don’t often tip my hat to the macrobreweries of this country, some of the “big guys” figured out long ago that cans are far superior to bottles. Cans are more recyclable than their glass counterparts, they weigh less and therefore require less fuel to ship, and are typically more portable than bottles. (Go Green!) And while bottles are often not allowed at pools, parks, or concerts for fear of breakage, cans are generally more acceptable.
In addition, have you ever popped open a bottle, especially an import, and it tasted a bit like cardboard or wet paper? This is called oxidation. It occurs when oxygen comes in contact with finished beer. Bottles, especially those with twist-off caps, are more prone to oxidation, whereas cans have less air in the container, which helps to prevent this type of spoilage.
While all of these aforementioned statements are valid arguments in favor of the can, there is one solid fact that cannot be refuted—cans block out light.
It’s a very common, albeit terribly unfortunate, assumption that imported green- and clear-bottled beers are supposed to have a unique ‘twang’ to them. That funky odor that stings the nostrils upon first inhale is more commonly known as a “skunked” beer. Do not be fooled. Your beer is NOT supposed to smell or taste like that. Green and clear bottles are the worst possible container for your beer, as they allow light to penetrate the container, which interacts with the acids in the hops, creating a sulfur smell—a reaction known as “light-struck.” Even artificial light sources can skunk a beer.
Needless to say, cans, on the other hand, do not allow any light to come in contact with the precious liquid they protect inside.
Still don’t believe me? I challenge you to buy a 6-pack of green- or clear-glass bottles that have been sitting under your local grocery store’s fluorescent lights, and then grab a 4-pack of the same beer sold in cans. Pour each one into a glass, take a sip, and be amazed at the difference.
Next time you find yourself shopping for your favorite brew, whether import, domestic, or craft, don’t ignore the cans. They’re good for the environment, easier to store, safer, and prevent you from getting “skunked.”
Here’s to drinking good, unadulterated beer! Na zdrowie!
Chad Rozniecki is the owner and operator of The Lauter Tun – Fine Ales and Spirits, located at 3309 Oak View Dr. #102.