How Do You Hop? Canned Beers Are The Future, And The Future Is Delicious
The stigma has long been, "Canned beer is cheap, bottled beer is classy."
In 2002, a little brewpub out in Colorado (Oskar Blues) challenged this notion and created the first micro-brewed beer in cans.
Thirteen years later, the industry is finally catching up to the idea.
Now, hundreds of craft breweries are starting to can beers and even more are finally putting plans in place to do the same.
What people are finally starting to realize is cans are the future, and the future is delicious.
There are three main super villains that pose a potential threat to our favorite malted beverages: oxygen, temperature and light (specifically UV rays).
Cans act as the indestructible, superman solution to all of these problems.
So, let's see how the two methods stack up against each other in each category in the ultimate challenge of freshness:
Bottles vs. Oxygen
Though bottling methods have obviously gotten more advanced throughout the last few decades, there's always a chance during the manufacturing, handling and shipping of a product that certain bottles will either not be securely fastened or even that minor amounts of oxygen could seep through tiny air patches in certain bottled beer.
Oxygen, though important to us, is a killer for delicious brews, and though bottles are pretty well protected against this threat, kegs are more at risk than our glassy friends.
Cans vs. Oxygen
With current brewing technology, brewers are now able to get beer from the brewing stage to the bottling or canning stage with little to no oxidation.
However, cans are now perfectly sealed and form an impenetrable wall against pesky air.
The only time oxygen can get in your canned beer is when you pop the top on your delicious suds.
Next up on our list of beer-killing super villains is temperature, which can involve a few different aspects, all of which we will discuss:
Bottles vs. Temperature
The only thing worse than a warm beer, is a warm beer out of a hot glass bottle, though you could argue drinking out of a warm can isn't much better.
But, what it really comes down to is insulation, and bottles have none.
When beer in a bottle, it is exposed to hotter temperatures; the bottle acts like a test tube heating up by a bunsen burner.
And, while most higher-quality beers can handle a pretty wide range of temperature fluctuation, your lighter beer in glass bottles are at far more risk.
High temperatures kill carbonation, mess with yeast and mostly just make your beer taste like sh*t.
From a purely enjoyable perspective, glass is also on the losing end.
The one advantage glass has is it's not an amazing conductor, but that's also one of its main disadvantages.
Glass takes time to heat up and cool down, which means that warm six-pack you bought will need some time to chill before you can fully enjoy it.
Cans vs. Temperature
Now some might think that if glass is a bad conductor but can still harm your beer, then aluminum cans must be MUCH worse; wrong again!
Yes, aluminum, as a metal, is definitely more of a conductor than glass; however, canning technology has progressed, which is why good craft beer never tastes metallic out of can.
All cans you would be drinking craft beer from come with a thin micro liner within the can that protects them from tasting like metal and also creates a small barrier from rapid temperature fluctuations.
Now, regardless of whether you leave a bottle or a can out in the sun all day, they will both going taste gross.
Still, cans have an advantage when it comes to cooling down.
They are made out of a more conductive casing, so they do heat up faster, but they also cool down much faster than bottles.
That means if you create a nice ice bath for your room temp brews, you'll be drinking them in half the time of your bottled friends.
Conduction also helps cans stay cold longer, so your beer won't start to get warm while you're drinking it.
Both of these first two issues are usually not a problem, so long as your favorite brewery is practicing smart packaging and distributing techniques. Unfortunately, our last villain is all around us.
Light is the main culprit when it comes to destroying our favorite beverage, and in the battle for supremacy, this is where cans take the cake.
Bottles vs. Light
Aside from a few beers that come in ceramic bottles or use artwork to block out harmful UV rays (Rogue Voodoo Doughnut comes to mind), all bottled beers let in a certain amount of light.
Clear bottles obviously filter out no light, since they are, you know, clear. Green bottles do a little better, but are still pretty subpar as far keeping light out goes.
Brown bottles have long beer the bottle of choice before canning took over supremacy, but they still allow in light, and over long periods of exposure, still put our precious beers at risk.
But, what exactly is it about light that's so dangerous for beer?
When UV rays come in contact with the hops used in beers, it creates a chemical reaction similar to that of the chemicals skunks spray when they spray predators.
So, when your beer gets "skunked," it's not just an expression; it actually contains a new chemical almost identical to a skunk farting in your beer. And, bottled beer is exposed ALL THE TIME!
Even when beer makes it safely into a cooler to be put on display and consumed, it is still exposed to UV rays from the actual lights in the cooler doors.
This is why when you have a large bottle stock, it's extremely important to rotate your product when restocking to make sure the older beers get used first, rather than risk their demise.
Brewers have tried numerous ways to reduce this exposure, but all these attempts have been in vain. Until...
Cans vs. Light
Hallelujah! A savior! Breweries have started to discover that cans are the perfect solution to our pesky, bright friends in the sky.
They leave our brews completely covered and protected from the sunlight until we pour them into glasses. By eliminating exposure to UV rays all together, we also can ensure longer lasting freshness from our beers, as there's no sunlight to wear down the hops.
Canned beers make every IPA taste as if it's been wet-hopped; hops seem to explode from cans.
If you want to prove this, do an easy experiment and buy two six-packs of your favorite IPA — one in the bottle, one in the can.
Do a blind taste test and I guarantee, you will start opting for a can over a bottle every time.
It's not just a dream for hop-heads either. Cans make everything taste better because they lock in the freshness and make it seem as if you're drinking the beer straight off the assembly line.
The revolution is no longer coming; it's here and it's time for everyone to get on board.
All the major craft breweries are introducing — or have already introduced canned beers from their full product line-up — and even more have canning lines planned for the future.
Aside from all the benefits and protection you get from cans, they also have a few other awesome upsides worth mentioning.
First and foremost, you can take cans pretty much everywhere — whether it's the beach or the park or just out on the boat for the day.
Secondly, cans are unquestionably better for the environment. They're easier and cheaper than glass to recycle, and more over, you dont have to worry about drunk people smashing them.
Take a minute and imagine a world where we can take our favorite beers anywhere, where we don't have to worry about drinking on the beach or stepping on shattered glass.
That's the future, my friends, so get on board and support the next generation of craft beer.
The future is here, and it's delicious.