Saturday, October 1, 2022
Home Behind The Beer Drunken Ramblings #24 : Cans Vs Bottles

Drunken Ramblings #24 : Cans Vs Bottles

by BeerTengoku Writer
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Cans Vs Bottles

Has it really been over a year since the last drunken rambling? Have I been drunk and not rambling or has nothing really annoyed BeerTengoku since the last one? Well I doubt you will be surprised to learn that things have been annoying us, but we’ve been keeping a mental note as more and more things build up to truly become vitriolic in our anger about the smallest things.

Over the last year, thanks to an umpteen number of state of emergencies, be them quasi or actual real ones, it has meant that my beer ordering has been reduced as I look towards exercising more to get more beer in. If I run an x number of kilometres (metric only here please! Americans will have to convert themselves) then I can have a beer or three. If I cycle, then I can do two things: either pick up some beers and put them in the bike bag, or have a couple and get the train home. And here comes the angry part that was instilled partly because I wanted some beers and didn’t want to drink at that time.

Some backstory first. I like to cycle as no doubt many of you are aware of, and I like to cycle to two places to pick up some beers: either the 7/11 in Hammerhead, Yokohama, aka the best 7/11 in all of Japan, or the Minemart in Chigasaki. The former is about a 30 km round cycle, while the latter is about a 60 km round cycle – so I get some exercise and some beer in the end.

However, one time I went to the 7/11, I noticed that they had some DD4D Brewing beers that I wanted to try so I picked a few bottles up, put them in my rear bike bag with the rest of the beers. The bike bag was padded all around and was excellent at keeping the beers cold. I zoomed off home, hoping to get back in time for a couple of early beers before dinner and to relax in the garden.

Perhaps I was in too much of a rush, as I had gone no further than 500 m down the road when I heard a crunch. I knew before I had opened the bag what had happened but I had to look. One of the DD4D Brewing’s beers had snapped clean at the neck and was now pouring beer out – and lucky me, all of the beer had stayed inside the bike bag. 

That got me thinking. In this day and age, why are breweries still selling beers in bottles? It seems that at the beginning of craft beer in Japan, most, if not all breweries, were using bottles for their beer. It was the exception, not the norm, to be canning any of your beers unless you were a major brewery in Japan. And probably for good reason. Bottles can be filled up in a smaller space than compared with cans. Bottles can also allow for secondary fermentation, unlike cans which are known to explode in a violent manner if there is yeast and any unfermented sugars left in the can.

But that’s not the point of this. That’s me being understanding. It’s now 2022 and more and more breweries in Japan are using cans, or have started to shift away from bottles to cans. Since that accident, I have now become a big proponent of cans and will pretty much buy only cans when I am out. I will occasionally buy bottles but that’s direct from a brewery though that limits the spontaneity of my decision making when it comes to buying beers. And yes, I have missed out on some nice beers in bottles at the 7/11 and Minemart because I don’t want to risk them breaking on the way back.

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There are also some more valid reasons for using cans instead of bottles:

  • Cans keep the beer fresher than in bottles. You’ve seen that bottles come in different colours: brown, clear, and green. The clear and green bottles are terrible at keeping beers fresh due to them allowing UV light to pass through and damage the beer – a process known as skunking. However, cans, being obviously opaque, do not let any light in, thus keeping the beer fresher for longer. Moreover, cans also reduce the amount of oxygen that is in contact with the beer, while bottles, if the seal on the bottle cap is not perfect or is lacking, do let air in. Some beers may benefit from this air, but most do not.
  • Cans are lighter by a long way, so it means you can buy more as you can carry more. On average, a 350 ml can of beer will weigh 350 g + 15g per can so 365 g – give or take a few grams. A 330 ml bottle weighs 190 g so that’s about 520 g for a little less beer but almost 150% times the weight. It’s not a major factor in purchasing a beer I’ll be honest but if you’re going to be buying a 6 pack of beer, then that is over 1 kg different in weight.
  • We’re constantly told about how much we should be doing for the environment – recycle this, reuse that, repair something where we can. When it comes to recycling, both cans and bottles can be recycled where appropriate. However, not all bottles do get recycled due to breakages and thus lost from the system. In 2019, 75% of all glass bottles were put back into recycling, and a recent report suggested that almost 95% of aluminium cans were recycled. So cans are better for the environment as well. On top of this, looking back at the weight argument, cans are lighter to transport than bottles so breweries can save money in the long run, if they have the space to store the cans. 
  • No, your beer doesn’t taste metallic because it’s in a can! We’ve heard that excuse so many times from people that it needs to be addressed. All beer cans are lined with a coating that protects the beer. What seems more likely to be the case is that any metallic taste is likely caused by problems in the brewing process, such as issues with water chemistry and ingredient storage. Moreover, if you’re drinking your craft beer from a can, then something is wrong with you. This is not some kind of swill like Budweiser or Asahi, but something that should be poured into a glass and consumed like the erudite drinker that you are.

Of course, there are arguments for smaller breweries to use bottles – a canning machine takes up more space than a bottling machine – but some of the arguments used go out of the window when you see some breweries with a canning machine that is pretty compact. I get that and that a canning machine is a costly investment – but it seems like that it’s a good investment if only to stop the breaking of beer bottles on those bike rides home.

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