Another can spins off the line at Stone Brewing’s new brewery in Berlin. The speed of the whole process is astonishing, a matter of seconds from empty can to filled and sealed. Those amazing hop aromas that Stone Brewing’s IPA is known for are locked in, only to escape as you release the swirling lemon, pine, grapefruit aromas in one of the world’s best IPAs. Cans are the perfect container for this beer. And here’s why.

Beer Can History & Reputation

First, let’s look at why the can used to have such a bad rap? There are two major contributing factors. First, we must consider the beers that were available in cans 15–20 years ago, this is our first impression of canned beer. Whether it’s you or your folks who only saw generic big brand lagers in cans, it leads to the conclusion that only shit beer comes in cans. This isn’t true anymore. You can get nearly any craft beer style in a can. In fact, cans are so prolific in the brewing world today that CAMRA has acknowledged them as an effective container for beer. Today more 500 breweries now can their beer. The other factor that led to the negative view of canned beer was that the can imparted some ‘tin’ flavour into the beer. There was some truth to this claim in the past.

Does Canned Beer Taste Like Tin?

Contrary to popular belief, today's canned beer should not taste like tin.

Beer is acidic enough (averaging four on the pH scale) to breakdown aluminium on a molecular level and that is why the canned beers of old tasted of tin. (Fun Fact: the pH scale invented by Soren Sorenson and was actually developed in the Carlsberg brewing laboratory. Ah the scientific contributions of the world’s greatest drink, I digress). New canning procedures add a controversial yet effective, reinforced plastic (BPA) to the lining of the can. This keeps any aluminium molecules affecting the flavour of your beer. The BPA lining in the cans now completely eliminates the possibility of a tin flavour.

BPA Controversy

Although there has been controversy surrounding BPA in the last five years, in June 2014 it was deemed safe in its current levels in a study by the US FDA. The report states, “The conclusion of this report is that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.” There has been a similar shift in the EU espousing the relative safety of the can liner. Most canned food and beverages today contain the BPA epoxy lining, as well as other common items like receipts, water bottles and even dust. Needless to say, more studies are needed to determine how much BPA is actually entering our bodies through the consumption of products and containers with BPA.

Long story short, at least as it relates to that cold brew sitting on your fridge shelf right now: if you're tasting off-flavours in your beer, it's likely not related to the can.

Does The Sun "Skunk" Beer?

To answer the second question regarding the benefits, well, they are many. There is one sure-fire thing to make beer taste poorly after it’s made: sunlight or UV rays of any kind penetrating the container (even the florescent bulb in the ceiling…). The negative effect of UV rays on beer is referred to skunking by most, but us beer geeks call it ‘light-struck’. This unpleasantness caused by the radiation of UV rays breaks down the chemical that makes hops taste wonderful and turns it into something evil. It only takes a few seconds to affect the flavour and smell of your beer. It can quickly become the strongest flavour and aroma in your beer, with humans being able to detect four parts per trillion… yes, I said trillion. This is why you never want to store your bottled beer in the sun.

The sun is no match for canned beer!

While there are a few effective ways of keeping a beer from becoming skunked, there is only one that guarantees it will remain pristine until it reaches the consumer without breaking the bank, and that is cans. There are some Belgian breweries who are known for their ceramic-looking bottles (Delirium) and this is a perfect way to block 100 per cent of the evil radiation, but it’s not the best option for a new brewer with limited resource.

Move Over, Oxygen

Another factor that contributes to the beer tasting the way it was supposed to is oxygen contamination (or oxidised beer for you nerds out there). When it comes to bottled beer, the metal crown cap was a fantastic invention and we all owe Baltimore’s own, William Painter, a round of applause for a job well done. Unfortunately, the crown cap isn’t perfect. While it does a marvellous job of keeping the beer fresh and the air out, the crown cap does leak ever so slowly, and once the CO2 has forced its way out, it leaves an avenue open for oxygen to enter the bottle. This causes your beer to taste of paper, cardboard, or sherry. The beer can creates a perfect seal from the outside elements and thus, we can chalk up another one for the can.

Beer Cans are Heroes

Not convinced yet that beer from a can is equal to, if not superior to, bottled beer? Here’s a few more benefits of canned beer:

  • Beer cans easily fit in the fridge
  • They don’t break as much (important if your business is posting out beer!)
  • They’re easier to be recycled - crushable, stompable, compact
  • You can get some great 360-degree designs
  • It’s usually cheaper for the brewer, and every penny counts after a year stuck in a global pandemic!

To put it all in a nice little summary; cans block out all harmful UV rays, create a perfect seal from oxygen, break less, fit in your fridge better, and are now “cool”. The only negative that I can find to canning beer is the old stigma that it will taste like tin. A point which no longer holds any water.