DRAFT PICKS: Bottles or cans?

As more and more craft brewers begin marketing their product in cans, a debate that has raged for generations is now coming back stronger and more enthusiastically than ever.

Is beer better stored and served in bottles or in cans?

Back in the day, there was no need for debate. 

You had a simple choice – draught on site, or bottles at home.

Then in the mid 1930s beer brewing companies figured out how to effectively “can”the stuff without having the beer blow up the containers.

A brew called Krueger’s Finest Beer produced in Virginia became the first beer packaged and marketed in cans.

More and more breweries leaned toward canned beer until World War II. With every ounce of metal (of just about any kind) needed for the war effort, bottles once again became the preferred way to get beer from brewery to consumer.

When cans first started being used, there was really no “scientific” reason for doing so. It was all about convenience. Cans could be stacked and stored much more easily than bottles. Cans didn’t break as did bottles. They did occasionally blow up (or in less exciting terms “pop a seam”), but not often.

Cans were a lot easier to deal with than were bottles.

BUT … some people claimed storage and shipping in cans affected the taste of beer.

This is still debated.

There are still arguments over whether aluminum cans give beer an after-taste, as opposed to whether cans, being much more airtight are better able to preserve both the taste and the carbonation of beer.

There are a few things that can be noted as “for sure.”

  • If you like your beer cold (as do most American drinkers), bottles are easier to keep cold while drinking then are cans. (That’s why there are a lot more beer sleeves for cans than there are for bottles.)
  • Cans are much, Much, MUCH more likely to keep out a couple of the greatest enemies of beer than do bottles under the best of circumstances – air and light. Even the most seriously corked or capped bottle may allow some air to filter in. And even the brownest bottle will allow at least trace amounts of light to permeate. Cans are completely sealed and impervious to light.

There are also HUGE arguments over which method of storing beer is more ecologically sound and environmentally friendly.

Frankly, I don’t want to get into that since it would take up far too much space in the paper to honestly and in a balanced manner offer up both sides of the environmental debate.

Fact of life is, there are pluses and minuses to both cans and bottles.

At the end of the day, I suppose most people will drink from a can one day, and a bottle the next depending on the circumstance (and largely depending on what the host is serving!).

Personally, I love draught beer. The problem is that most of the time, selection is pretty limited when it comes to fresh, kegged beer under civil and congenial conditions.

So beyond that …I generally like bottled beer, but I can especially appreciate the canned beer trend.

Frankly, I don’t quite buy into the “after-taste” argument.

Maybe once-upon-a-time, but not today.

I just don’t find the “metallic” taste some other drinkers seem to pick up on. I honestly wonder if it isn’t a matter of “the power of suggestion.”

There are some great, even spectacular brews coming out in cans that have certainly won my appreciation, (Nay. Admiration.) Red Coq and other Brewery Vivant offerings, Kettlehouse Brewery’s Cold Smoke, and a few others are actually ONLY marketed in cans.

And they are stunningly good.

Cans have much less opportunity to turn “skunky” as does anything in a bottle.

Look class. I think there is a certain amount of “myth” involved in the can vs. bottle debate. Still, the arguments can be pretty passionate.

So (since you asked), here are my druthers.

  • I prefer my beer in dark bottles – brown or near-black. (I do, by the way, check bottling dates.)
  • I am not afraid of canned brews – especially from some of the newer microbreweries where they have really done their homework and made their storage choice based on a lot of research.
  • I’d avoid clear or green bottles, especially if you don’t bother checking bottling dates.
  • I think that at the end of the day, it’s more important to be aware of bottling dates, and shelf time, than it is to be too concerned with the bottle or glass issue. With the exception of clear or green bottles, I just don’t trust them. Beer is simply too sensitive and easily affected by basic changes in light and air.

There is exceptional beer coming out in cans. There also continues to be spectacular beer being bottled around the country.

Six of one. Half dozen of the other.

DRAFT-PICKS-BANNER USE

Golden wing blonde ale
Finch’s Beer Co.
Illinois

blonde aleHere is an easy going, great afternoon sip of a very tingly brew.

Golden Wing Blonde Ale has an inviting, warm golden color that is capped with a nice head that forms and falls relatively quickly.

Grab a sniff while there is still a bit of foam on top and you’ll be rewarded with a nice, subtle malty aroma that manages to carry on through the tasting.

(I find it nice when there is a pleasant aroma to accompanying the experience from start to finish.)

This blonde is fine looking, but hazy. That’s OK. We certainly don’t need sparkling, crystal clear beer all the time. (If you do, grab a Bud!)

The healthy smell of sweet wheat and grains carries over the tones of yeastiness. Both can be felt in the first taste despite an almost aggressive carbonation that tends to distort the first wash a bit.

Stick it out and do a little hunting for the hidden pleasures of a relatively simple, non-complex brew that is certainly not pretentious and should well make most American palates happy.

I found this to be a brew I could well serve as a refreshing alternative to the usual stuff – not too “exotic” but different enough to be a fun experience.

There are some pretty defined hints of citrus and light fruits in this cup. But there is no lack of hops used to balance off the mix (maybe a little too much for some, but personally I don’t think they were too pronounced).

I found Golden Wing to be quite bubbly. Despite the strong hints of fruitiness, this is not a “wet” beer, and there is a very dry “finish” with some hoppy after-taste.

This is the kind of beer that should be paired up with a lighter meal – certainly something that is less “aggressive” in taste. Consider it for something “light” like a flaky salmon salad, or even a nice Cobb salad.

A nice pour, but a little “busy” for late in the day.

Soft Parade
Short’s Brewing Co.
Bellaire

soft paradeThis is a fun beer … with a kick.

Soft Parade is the first and only beer that my wife actually likes. To my Dearly Beloved, beer is all the same – bad tasting medicine.

Except Soft Parade. (Not that I’m able to ply her with it too often. Sigh.)

In the most sadly mistaken of critiques, some would suggest this is a “Kool-Aid” beer. Not so, class. Not so.

Soft Parade is a fruit infused ale, but it is an ale.

It pours well and hearty and forms a reasonable head which releases a ton of aroma. In a visit to the brewery some time back, the brewmeister told me they basically finish the brewing process and then dump 250 pounds of local fruit pieces and purees into the mix to give this wonderfully refreshing drink its special personality.

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries all go into the brew. It’s good. Seriously good.

Soft Parade is red in color and despite the powerful fruitiness (as planned), there are distinct tones of malts and hints of things created by the mix that aren’t actually there. For example, there is a little bit of almost lemony tartness as you wash it around. Just a hint. Nothing too up front.

There is a strong hint of rye malts. I’m not sure, but it would appear there are some ryes involved. (Now I’ll need to check!)

This is a bubbly brew, and could almost be served as an alternative to wine coolers. Don’t, however, get me wrong. This is no silly or frivolous offering.

Soft Parade is fun, but it is fun that has a lot of serious planning and thought behind it. This isn’t a lager with a squeeze of lemon. It is an ale with added fruits true to an well planned and honestly conceived recipe.

But Soft Parade doesn’t need me to defend it. Try it out.

This is a wonderful drink on a hot, hot summer day. A great way to pass a few hours with friends.

It’s no surprise Soft Parade is one of Short’s more popular brews.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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