A Bottling Can’nundrum

For a long time canned beer has carried with it a stigma of lower quality compared to bottled beer counterparts. The mass-market lite lagers of Coors and Budweiser had become so synonymous with canned beer that when craft beer began its rise in popularity brewers wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from the run-of-the-mill, tasteless, “banquet quaffers."

Recently, though, the craft beer industry has revisited (and revised) its preconceived notions on canned brew. Oskar Blues, a Colorado-based brewery, has widely been credited with beginning the canning revolution. Since then, many other popular breweries have jumped aboard, leaving bottles to their ‘special release’ concoctions. Ballast Point, Modern Times, and Avery, to name a few, all have moved away from glass for their core releases.

The can vs. bottle argument continues to be a polarizing one, with just as many consumers and brewers still in favor of the traditional bottling methods. Yet, it only seems to be a matter of time before canning becomes the first choice for a majority of craft breweries.

The scales do appear to tip in favor of cans over bottles. For purists, cans -- unlike bottles -- have extremely minimal headspace (space in the container that isn’t beer). That, combined with the lack of caps -- which are never one hundred percent flush with the bottle -- create less chance of oxygen contamination. Oxygen causes stale beer and that’s no fun for anyone. Also, cans won’t allow sunlight into the beer like glass will. Sunlight is the sworn enemy of beer and alters organic hop compounds giving the drinker a skunky beer. Once again, no fun.

For environmentalists, cans are much lighter and are much easier to recycle than bottles. Aluminum’s low weight means that more can be shipped at a time, reducing a brewery’s carbon footprint. Glass bottles are much harder and more costly to recycle than cans are, as well.

These are the main arguments put forth by the pro-canning community and they seem to have a strong case for the shorter stack. Glass bottles will always have a place in the craft industry, although that might be a reserved role for specialty offerings.

Cans vs. Bottles. Glass vs. Aluminum. Which side do you choose?

Yours in CANdor,
Emilio Gonzales
Lord of Libation