Bottles or cans, basically boils down to personal preference. People have their own reasons for their preference. These reasons vary from, how they taste different, how much more convenient the other is, or the one keeps the beer colder for longer, etc. etc. The truth is, these reasons are very subjective and often based on false assumptions. But as they say, “perception is reality”.

In a recent case study, a large number of beer drinkers were asked to taste two glasses of beer. Both samples contained the same brand of beer, but the participants were not told that the only difference between them, was that the one sample had been poured from a bottle and the other from a can. They were asked to complete a survey and the crunch question was, “which did they prefer”?

The survey revealed that about 61% of the participants stated that they preferred the taste of beer from a bottle, 11% preferred the taste of beer from a can and the remainder believed that beer tasted the same, whether from a bottle or a can. Participants that had stated they preferred beer from a bottle, could evidently not taste a difference, since an equal number of them stated that the beer from the can (which of course they were unaware of) tasted better. They same results were evident from the participants that said they preferred cans – many of them deciding that the sample that had come from the bottle, tasted better. The only viable conclusion that could be drawn from the results of this survey, was that there was, in fact, no difference in taste.

Perception is reality

Even though we can therefore conclude there is in fact no difference in taste, beer drinkers are likely to adamantly maintain their preference on the basis of the taste, even though it is only a “perceived difference” rather than a factual difference. Non the less, the consumer is king and ‘perception is reality’.

Another perception which has been widely held, is that cans are the inferior, cheaper option, some believing that the aluminium contaminates the liquid and therefore also the taste. Bottles, based on the opposite reasoning, being regarded as superior and more classy. Once again, none of these views are scientifically based and are arguably only based on perception.

There are in fact practical differences, advantages and disadvantages, which can be pointed out for the benefit of beer consumers, which may assist them in making their choice (other than on perceived taste preference).

The case for cans can be easily made. In point form:

  • Cans are lighter and pack more compactly. From a bulk transportation point of view, fewer trucks can transport greater quantities. Lower emissions means this is better for the environment. Evidently the recycling of cans is also more efficient than for bottles. So there is a good case for cans, for the environmentally aware – and shouldn’t we all be?
  • Being lighter and packing more compactly, is also very beneficial for a road trip, or other on-the-go benefits. Broken bottles are always a potential hazard and cans can be crushed and brought home with you, whereas carting back heavy and bulky bottles could be a real hassle.
  • Cans, contrary to some of the false perceptions referred to above, actually keep beer fresher for longer (a longer shelf life), since they are more airtight and do not let in UV light. (Bottles need to have 2 cm of air in the neck so that the glass does not crack. This together with the fact that the bottle lets in UV light, results in a shorter shelf life).

So in conclusion, personal preference will still be the basis on which most consumers make their decisions. Hopefully the differences and some of the relative advantages and disadvantages set out above, will also assist the reader in making the right choice with their next purchase.