On Tap, In The Bottle Or In The Can



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When it comes to the format in which you drink you beer, whether from the tap, the bottle or the can, the choice is really in the eye of the beer holder. However, some amateur beer connoisseurs swear by one form or another as being the best tasting format.

Jerry Bushon of New Belgium Brewing Co., one of the biggest microbreweries in the US, disagrees: “From a sensory perspective, there is virtually no difference in the beer. Blind tasting has shown that the beer is consistent throughout.”

We’ve decided to delve a little deeper and try to uncover once and for all which suds are the best, from the tap, the bottle or the can.

On Tap

Beer Kegs, State Fair, St. Paul, MN

When it comes to beers on tap they are typically carbonated by force injection with various levels of CO2 and sometimes nitrogen. Some beer drinkers feel this can change the taste of beer, while others prefer this format, especially from a freshly tapped keg.

Although many Brewmasters agree that the taste remains unchanged on tap we decided to investigate a little further and found some advice from a professor, specifically the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at University of California, Charles Bamforth.

As the author of, ‘Beer Is Proof God Loves Us’, Bamforth says that when it comes to drinking beer on tap, “If the person knows what they’re doing and at the end of the day they’re cleaning the lines and then rerunning the beer through the taps to expunge any cleaning solution, it has the potential to be the best.”

The difference in taste, when drinking a beer on tap, is likely more a hygienic issue rather than a change in taste from the vessel that the beer is transported in. If you can find a bar that cleans their lines every night, than this may be the best option when it comes to drinking beer on tap.

In A Bottle

3rd February 2008 - Beer bottles

Before the beer is bottled for shipping it is usually given an extra dose of dextrose, yeast, or other forms of sugar to help create carbonation, and sometimes they are even force carbonated. Some think that this process changes the taste from its keg counterpart, however Professor Banforth’s disagrees, “If there are 50 beers on tap, what do you order? Something out of a bottle.” His reasoning being that many things can go wrong with the beer that is on tap, from staleness to bacterial infection because of unclean lines.

In The Can

Beer Can Fence

Once thought to be only good for cheap mass produced suds, cans are becoming very popular in the craft-brew circles as the vessel of choice. Not only are cans lighter and more portable than their glass counterparts, but they also offer better protection from light and oxygen, the two causes of spoiled beer.

Clearly the can may be the real winner here, but with many establishments only offering selections on tap or in the bottle what is a poor beer drinker to do?

If the bar carries many brands, some of them won’t be as popular as others. Beer that has sat around longer, especially those from a keg or bottle, will tend to loose their delicious flavours and take on a more ‘skunky’ taste.

The very first thing you should do before you place your order is ask the bartender which is the beer they sell the most. This will minimize the risk of getting a beer that has sat around for a long time. Whenever possible it is advised to drink locally and never imported. When it comes to imported beer the Professor of Beer states, “There’s an above-average chance that it has aged unprofitably. Even bottles that have traveled far are pretty much out of the question.”

Brewmasters and Professors aside, you could always follow the advise of good ole’ Hank Thompson, “On Tap, in the can or in the bottle, to me it will all taste the same.”

Author: Corey Rozon

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4 thoughts on “On Tap, In The Bottle Or In The Can

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