Bottled Vs. Canned Beer: What's The Difference?

You've been assigned beer duty for this weekend's picnic and head to the store to pick up pints. Soon you're standing in the grocery aisle staring at shelves stocked with bottles and cans. Which beer will be a crowd favorite? According to Alcohol Professor, there's research supporting preferences for bottled beer — that it tastes better — but scientists aren't exactly sure why. Is it the packaging, the ability to clink glass in celebration, or does beer actually taste different when it is bottled up? 

In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Beverages, researchers set out to answer these questions by surveying drinkers in the UK. Participants were asked about drinking preferences and partook in taste tests to determine whether there are any notable, statistically proven differences in the taste of bottled and canned beer. Results suggested that when participants could see the beer's packaging, they chose bottled beer, but when beer was poured for them, canned beer was rated higher in terms of taste. Huff Post ran a similar experiment, serving beers in cups to see which would be preferred; canned beers won out over bottled beverages.

More than what meets the eye

The Spruce Eats commonly hears complaints about the metallic taste of canned beers, but aluminum cans are lined so the beer doesn't actually touch metal. That taste complaint could, in fact, be a result of simply smelling the can. 

Let's say we take away any preconceived ideas about which beer packaging tastes better. Cans are lighter, don't require any tools to crack open, and have an entire surface for businesses to cover with labels and artwork (via Copper and Oak Liquor Merchants). Additionally, cans can keep beer fresher for longer, advocates Family Fare, since the aluminum container has a more reliable seal than bottles and doesn't expose the beer to any light. Also, nearly 55% of aluminum that's recycled gets repurposed vs. just 26.4% of recycled glass, which is part of why Family Fare says cans are a better choice for the environment.

Light, heat, and oxygen can impact beer's taste, advises Brewer World, so whatever packaging beer is placed in must shield the bubbly contents, which is why many beer bottles are green or brown, per At The Tap. Whether you've settled on buying cans or bottles for your festivities, a great equalizer of bottled or canned beer is to pour those suds into chilled pint glasses to fully enjoy (unless you're out hiking or relaxing at an outdoor picnic, of course).