Beer bottles vs beer cans - the great debate
Tinnies vs stubbies – where do you sit on this great debate? Cans have long been considered the bastion of the cheap, basic beers you threw back on your fishing trip – good for cooling down and getting a bit pissed but not much else. Bottled beer looked cleaner and cooler and was marketed as such – all those frosty bottles of freezing lager ensconced in ice buckets. But thanks partly to technological innovations in aluminium packaging, partly to the influence of the craft beer industry, and partly to the retro leanings of your average hipster, the canned beer has made a comeback. No longer just the Deliverance-style camping trip option, canned beers are making serious inroads into the bottle-dominated scene. But a reputation so long and deeply ingrained is hard to break, so let’s take a look at exactly what’s a stake in the great can vs bottle beer debate.
Taste & freshness
While there will always be someone insisting they can taste the aluminium of a can leaching into their beer, we are going to call that for what it is – nonsense. The inside of beer cans these days are coated with a thin layer of polymer that means that the beer never actually even comes into contact with the metal. The idea that glass bottles somehow maintain a cleaner tasting beer is a hangover from the days when tinnies were associated purely with cheaper, lower quality beers.
Moreover, cans are light resistant and airtight and anyone who knows anything about beer will tell you that light and air are the arch enemies of the brew and will destroy the flavour given half a chance. Glass lets in more light (though that amber bottle glass does do a pretty good job) than aluminium and crown caps have the potential to let in contaminating microbes. Simply put, cans are better at maintaining the freshness and flavour of beer.
So far, cans are looking pretty good.
Cans cool faster than bottles but bottles stay colder for longer. Six of one, half a dozen of the other right? Totally depends on what you’re beer-drinking circumstances are – a thirst-quenching guzzle from the esky after an epic cricket match, or slow lingering sips by the pool? We’ll have to call a tie on that one. However, there’s no doubt that cans are lighter and more easily stackable than bottles so for travelling they are hard to beat and you don’t risk shards of glass in the bottom of your cooler.
Sure this might not be a big issue but the canned beer comeback has presented a great opportunity for brewery artists to work with a 360 degree flat surface and for the drinker to enjoy the results including not having to deal with those little damp bits of paper peeling off your bottle. The cans that are coming out these days are really something to behold. Out latest favourite is the Mornington Peninsula’s Continuous Daryl. (Check out @beersinthesun on instagram for a real ode to the tinnie!
This is a tricky one and the jury still seems to be out on the definitive answer to this issue. On the one hand, the lighter, more compact nature of canned beers means that transport requirements are reduced which means a lower carbon footprint. On the other hand, the energy required to produce a can is often more than the energy saved by recycling it and not all cans are made from recycled aluminium. Aluminium is made from bauxite which is an environmentally damage material to mine whereas glass is made from much more accessible silica. But then again, recycling glass requires a lot more energy than recycling aluminium. See – really hard to find a winner here.
The lining on the inside of cans that we discussed above is made from a polymer hardened with a compound called bisphenol-A or BPA for short. Chances are you’ve heard various bad things about BPA and all kinds of scary words like cancer, asthma and impotence are popping into your head. Indeed, BPA has been eliminated from all plastic baby products for health safety reasons and because infants are more susceptible than adults to its potential effects. But the fact is BPA is everywhere including all other canned goods (soups vegetables – you name it) and bottles and is generally thought to be present in such minute quantities that it isn’t worth being worried about. Which is a sure indication that people will of course continue to worry about it. And maybe rightly so. But with such low risks attached, we certainly won’t be giving up our Sixpoint ales anytime soon. And anyway, here’s the kicker, the little plastic seal that you find on the bottle tops of your beer – yep, that’s got BPA in it too.
All in all, we are probably coming down on the side of canned beers and look forward to more and more craft brewers introducing canning lines to their breweries. But like we said, habit can be a hard thing to break and the allure of the cold glass bottle runs deep. What do you reckon? Bottles or tins? Or maybe you take it straight from the tap or not at all.