Which is better, bottles or cans? Stubbies or tinnies?
It’s the kind of discussion you turn to after a few drinks at your local. You muse over it and then forget about it over a game of pool, but take a peek over the bar counter and you’ll start to see this seemingly simple debate isn’t just for casual beer drinkers. The beer industry, lead by an army of boutique craft brewers, is witnessing a growing trend away from traditional bottling towards canning.
Until recently, public opinion suggested that bottled beer was the superior option for true beer aficionados. Tinnies carried a stigma for being ‘cheap’ and there was a perceived risk that the aluminium from cans could leech into and contaminate the taste of the beer. Today the combination of a growing craft beer industry and advancements in aluminium production mean customers can now enjoy a brew without a drop in beer quality.
The booming Victorian craft beer industry has taken a shine to canning its beers over bottling. This could be attributed to the cost of canning being considerably cheaper than bottling, allowing home brewers and start-ups to get their products into the market more easily than they once used to. Being a lighter material than glass, cans are also cheaper and more cost-effective to ship as you can pack more cans into a crate than bottles, plus there are the added benefits of recycling aluminium over glass. While it might be tempting to label the process an exercise in boosting efficiency, the reasoning behind the shift goes deeper than this.
‘Cans protect beer more than bottles do,’ explains Darren Smith from Hops To Home, a craft beer delivery service in Melbourne that cans its own products in-house before shipping to customers homes.
‘Beer can become stale in bottles for a number of reasons. UV light can reach through the glass and start to break down the beer. The benefit of cans is that it’s airtight and no light can get in. Oxygen levels also makes a difference to the shelf life of beer, which is important when you remember bottles need to have 2cm of air in the neck so the glass doesn’t crack, whereas cans are completely airtight’, Smith says. Cans are easier than bottles to fill with beer whilst keeping oxygen levels low.
This all might seem scientific but there’s another important question in play – what if customers don’t notice the difference in quality between bottles and cans? Another explanation could be less about the beer’s taste and more about the convenience of canned beer. Choosing cans means less heavy weight to carry, more beers per slab and no broken glass to clean up at the end of a party. Think camping trips with less waste to carry back to the car after the weekend. Canned beer also chills faster and takes up less room in the fridge.
With so many touted benefits of canned beer over bottled beer, will bottled beer become a relic of the brewing industry? That’s unlikely according to Smith, ‘there will always be a place for bottling but when you step back and look at all the benefits that come with cans, you can certainly understand why the shift is happening.’ Drinking from amber bottles will always appeal to beer romantics, plus there is the continued perception that bottles are better than cans, which guarantees why this debate will be hanging around the pub for a long time to come.
This feature is presented together with Hops To Home. Thanks to our sponsors for supporting Local Eyes and making it possible for us to produce great content.
Words by Justin Meneguzzi and photos by Pexels
Editor of Local Eyes, urban explorer and general travel-aholic.