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The first Friday of each month brings together beer bloggers around a common topic under the banner of The Session. This month Micro Brewr hosts, giving us the topic “Cans or Bottles?”:

session

I ask this same question to every guest of MicroBrewr Podcast. I think it’s an interesting study into both industry and consumer trends.

The craft beer industry is neat, in that the producers are often consumers as well. When a brewery owner answers this question, she gives her perspective not only as a manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage product, but also as a consumer of beer.

My first thought: Well I certainly hope brewery owners also drink beer that they haven’t made.

My second thought: I appreciate using a female pronoun, though of course I’m a big proponent of using “they” for everyone.

My third thought: Oh no, I can’t add anything of substance to this discussion.

We don’t package right now. Yes, we know we’ll probably have to eventually, and have thoughts one way or the other, but I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to speak definitively on the subject. Besides: I’d mostly regurgitate the same few talking points everyone else would: hell, even in the post’s first comment.

So I puzzled: how to contribute meaningfully? To say something that couldn’t have essentially been copied verbatim from any number of sources?

I decided to do an experiment, of sorts: I went to the store, and I bought Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in cans and in bottles, and then I drank the two side by side.

IMG_5748

An attempt at control

I tried to keep things as “scientific” as I could, though of course this falls far short of a real study. For one thing, n = 1. However, I took bites of tortilla chips between bites to try to minimize cross contamination, as it were.

The bottle had been packaged on 11/3/14, the cans 11/20/14.

Appearance

The two beers pour identically. I tried to agitate them equally as I poured: not being a robot1 I’m sure I didn’t accomplish this perfectly but I’d like to think I did a fair approximation.

Aroma

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If I had a hypothesis at all, I thought the two would, for all intents and purposes, present interchangeably. The beer quickly disabused me of this notion, as the bottled beer had a significantly more noticeable and floral aroma. I shoved my nose as far in as I could (see fig. 2, right) but just couldn’t smell very much. I poured another sample from the can, this time agitating it to create a larger head and release more aromatics. Still not much to speak of.

Mouthfeel

Apparently quite a few people consider the word “mouthfeel” gross. I don’t get it. Anyway: I want to say the can feels smoother? Yes, even after pouring the bottle “rougher” I still get a harsher carbonic bite from the bottle.

Flavor

As above, so below: two glasses taste different too. The bottle has more pine, maybe a touch more biscuit from the can.

In the end

I’m picking nits. When I say the bottle had a “significantly” more noticeable aroma, and more pine flavor, I can only say that because I’m sitting here doing my damndest to compare the two. If I had the bottle today and the can next week I probably wouldn’t notice much difference.

I did enjoy the bottle more, though. Significantly more, if I can overuse the word. It all comes down to the hop presentation: the can simply didn’t have as much.

Ready for me to invalidate this entire post? Okay, here goes: I don’t think it has anything to do with the packaging. Batches come out differently. You could do the same to two batches of Frank and have the same small variations, I’m sure. I’m interested in trying this with two six packs of the same beer, and have made an entry in my Evernote notebook to the effect.

Which packaging do I prefer? The bottle tasted better, but the can? I don’t need to grab a bottle opener and dispose of a cap. I am a lazy, lazy man.


  1. I even made an entire ad saying as much. 

2 comments

The lazy factor! I have never heard that reason for preferring can.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always fumble with a bottle opener and the cap usually flies around, then I look like a dope bending down to pick it up. Always.

Now that you mention it, the can would be a preferred alternative for me: No bottle opener, no cap. Except, every time I open a can of beer, it pops opens and foam flies in the air, sometimes even as high as onto my face.

Alas, I search for a better bottle opener and a better package…

Thanks for your contribution to The Session!

Thanks for contributing, Dan. Here’s the roundup: http://microbrewr.com/session-98-roundup-cans-or-bottles/

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