The Great Debate: Cans Vs Bottles

The Great Debate: Cans Vs Bottles

Change is afoot in the beer brewing industry. Canned beer is traditionally synonymous with a lacklustre and inferior product when compared to bottled beer. However, it’s clear that particularly amongst craft breweries, attitudes are changing. 

In 2002 when Oskar Blues Brewery in the USA were the first craft brewery to adopt the canned format, with their flagship Dale’s Pale Ale brew. Today more craft brewers are moving from glass bottles to cans. But what is the reason behind this move?

Indeed, glass bottles have long been favoured amongst beer aficionados, many of whom turn up their noses at the thought of consuming beer from a can. The irony in all of this lies in the fact that cans are actually a far more effective container for beer, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, experts believe that canned beer is superior in taste, as opposed to bottled beer. This is because it is effective at keeping out the three biggest enemies of beer – light, oxygen and heat.

The majority of beer bottles are coloured either brown or green in order to keep out as much light as possible – but it naturally does an inferior job when compared to the aluminium of a can. They are also completely air tight, with the can forming an air-impenetrable barrier. This ensures that no oxygen can get in, impeding the taste of the brew. Beer bottle caps aren’t 100% air tight, meaning that oxidation can occur, especially if these bottles are stored for a long period of time.

Of course, cans are also a great deal better for the environment. The aluminium material is easy to recycle, and also weighs less than glass, causing a reduced carbon footprint for the supplier. This also means reduced shipping costs, with the added bonus that of course cans don’t break when they’re dropped. Everyone’s a winner.

Certainly in the US, canned craft beers are definitely the ‘flavour of the day’, and innovation is rife amongst breweries. Samuel Adams are a great example of this, having invested $1 million into developing their ‘Sam Can’, which promises to redefine the concept of the can as a drinking vessel.

Many consumers simply prefer the elegant and attractive design of the bottle. Supermarkets also contribute towards this, with their new found love for artisan bottled beers, dedicating premium shelf-space to the ‘fancier’ looking beers. It’s also true that glass bottles can be more cost effective for shorter production runs.

So does a move from glass to cans mean a change in your coding practices? No doubt canning lines can be faster, so you need a high speed coding solution. Metal does not absorb a CO2 laser beam, so these coders cannot be used to code directly onto metal can. However a fibre laser coder uses a different wavelength so can code bare metal. Fibre laser coders are being used increasingly on high speed/high volume lines. Many craft brewers however, are turning to CIJ to code onto their new cans. The flexibility of CIJ means that codes can easily be applied in any orientation; on the side, rim or bottom of the can. And CIJ coders come with a wide range of inks, so if you need a fast drying ink that adheres well to cans which may be damp for instance, then chances are there is an ink to suit your application.

At the end of the day, it simply comes down to personal preference. Cans and bottles each have their individual positives and negatives, and it is down to the consumer to decide what works best for them (and their tastebuds!). And it is up to the manufacturers to trial different coding solutions on their line before deciding which is best for them.