Bottled vs Canned Beer: Passion or Poison?

In The Imbibery and Distillery by Christine McKellar

For years I avoided canned beer: most likely because I’ve never been a fan of American beer brands such as Coors, Bud, etc. My beer taste buds evolved while drinking good old-fashioned Corona, Tecate and the original and most marvelous Dos (and Triple) Equis out of bottles in Mexico during the 70s. I got high in the West Indies with a little help from Red Stripe Jamaican Lager. I drank enough Heineken in Amsterdam to sink the Titanic. I’ve been inundated by the heavy ales of the Brits and überwältigt by the brews of Germany and Bavaria. I flirted with Asian ales: but then I fooled around and fell totally in love with my favorite brew of all—Tsingtao, that delicate delectable champagne goddess of all brewdom.

Most of my favorite beers have been served in glass containers of one sort or another—minus an authentic pewter tankard or two. Today more and more craft distillers are turning to aluminum cans to package their products. The debate rages across the planet: which is better? The bottle or the can? Better beer masters than I have offered their expert opinions on the subject. A majority agree on certain points as follows:

Bottled beer, because of inherent packaging flaws, allows a minute degree of oxygen into the bottle through the cap in addition to subjecting the contents to light filtering in through the glass thus affecting the flavor and the shelf life of the brew. Canned brews are spared these indignities because of superior crimping of the flip-top tab and the protection from ultra violet rays offered by the denser packaging material. As to the common complaint that canned beer has a tinny or metallic taste, numerous expert tasters have debunked that notion by doing blind taste tests AFTER the canned beer has been poured into a different (preferably glass) receptacle.

Health conscious critics claim that the polymer coating applied to the insides of aluminum cans could cause serious issues, even cancer, to constant imbibers. BPA is a plastic coating used in the lining of aluminum cans for foods, sodas and beer. Soda and beer can interact with aluminum and cause erosion without this lining. The FDA has approved BPA for canning purposes but has banned it from children’s toys, baby bottles and water bottles due to possible links to cancer, birth defects, diabetes and infertility.

All rhetoric and posturing aside, perhaps the love of the brew truly begins in the eye of the beholder. I find I simply can’t relax my standards or my preconceived notions enough to automatically choose a canned brew over a bottled one. And while we’re on the subject, I ponder what is next? Canned wine, champagne, vodka and gin? How about canned Scotch or Irish whiskey?

I drink to your health and I rest my case.

-Christine McKellar