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Lately I've been seeing a lot of articles (mostly in local news) that suggest that canned beer is better, but from my own subjective experience I find it worse than beer stored in glass bottles. And the one that comes in plastic bottles is the worst in my opinion.

An article from Business Insider:

To everyone's delight, canning is also better for a beer's quality, according to Welz.

Cans don't let light in, plain and simple. "Light is destructive to the organic compound in beer that make the flavors everyone is so crazy about," he said.

Welz also suspects that cans, with a "double-crimped" seal, are better than bottles at preventing air from getting in — air being one of the main enemies of a delicious brew.

All that is true, but Ska Brewing thinks the mounting consumer preference for canned beer has less to do with quality and more to do with convenience.

Have there been any scientific studies that prove that canned beer tastes better? Like beer from different sources being given to a group of people, then they point out which one is the best without knowing the source?

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    I agree with you, beers stored in glass bottle seem to taste better. Is there really plastic bottled beer? – Zonata Sep 15 '13 at 15:31
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    yes, at least in the EU. Usually it comes in very large plastic bottles, like 2.5 - 3 L. Canned and plastic bottled beer also seems to be the cheapest – Alex Sep 15 '13 at 15:40
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    remember that there's more ways to storing beer. Kegs from metal or plastics, including plastic coated metal kegs, for example. – jwenting Sep 15 '13 at 17:31
  • @Alex Yes, I have seen plastic beer bottles at Six Flags in Texas I believe it was, also at some resorts that were too cheap to buy the aluminum bottles – AthomSfere Sep 18 '13 at 2:27
  • It is fascinating to me (a home brewer and beer lover) that people usually rank cans below bottles in flavor, and then rank bottles below draft beer. Draft beer can be fresher, but is almost always served out of kegs made out of aluminum, the same stuff as the can. I attribute it to either (a) a taster's bias, or (b) a preference for fresher beer above all else. – Graham Sep 18 '13 at 12:40
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Taste is extremely subjective and I couldn't find any rigorous tests scientific literature of blind taste tests. However, that said, unscientific tests such as one by the Huffington Post had the following results for blind bottled vs. canned taste test with 25 tasters:

  • Budweiser - 64 percent identified the canned variety, 17 percent preferred the canned variety
  • Heineken - 52 percent identified the canned variety, 68 percent percent preferred the canned variety
  • Sapporo - 56 percent identified the canned variety, 52 percent percent preferred the canned variety
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA - 44 percent identified the canned variety, 68 percent percent preferred the canned variety

So as you can see, in may cases the correct identification as very close to random chance and the preference of one of the other as variable. This variability leads to the much more interesting point that there are practical reasons for canning vs. bottling and that is cans are better than bottles in protecting the beverage from UV light, also known "skunky beer."

There are some reports that some people may be able to smell the metal of the can while drinking from it which may the beer to taste different due to the connection between smell and taste. This sense of smell is part of a Sam Adams marketing campaign for their canned beer,

Similar to the highly specialized and often grape specific Reidel and Spiegelau wine glasses that swept oenophiles in the 1990s, they are specially designed for the proper “delivery” of beer. According to Sam Adams’ press release, “The position of the can opening and wider lid naturally opens up the mouth allowing for more air flow and positions the drinker’s nose closer to the hop aromas of the beer. A little known fact is that most of what we think we taste is actually what we smell – that’s why it’s hard to taste food with a stuffed up nose. Drinkers also noticed that the extended, curved lip of the can delivered the beer to the front of the palate to maximize the early enjoyment of the malt sweetness.”

Also, modern cans are now lined with a water-based epoxy, i.e. bisphenol-A, to ensure that the beer does not interact with the can itself. This does lead to other arguments against canned beer on the grounds of bisphenol-A leeching into the beer; however, that does not appear to actually affect the taste of the beer itself.

So in summary, there are some scientific reasons why canned beers might taste better than bottled, namely by preventing UV light exposure which can lead to skunking of the beer, but beyond that there shouldn't be any reason why the same product would taste noticeably different. When beer is poured and drunk for a glass, as generally recommended, any issues with smells coming off the container would also be avoided and you should be unable to tell the difference, as hinted at by the Huffington Post article.

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    +1 to your answer, -1 to the Huffington post study :) Obviously there is some "placebo effect" going on... they should have not told people that they were tasting bottled or canned beer... because that may have influenced their answer on which were better. A beer with a nicely shaped bottle with a cool looking label tastes better, doesn't it? If the subjects thought it were two different beers, instead, it would have been instead possible to see whether they could really taste the difference [cont'd] – nico Sep 15 '13 at 16:39
  • [cont'd] If one wanted instead to tell people what they are drinking, the experiment would have to be telling them that they are drinking either canned or bottled beer, independently of what is really in their cup (so having 4 groups: bottle/bottle, bottle/can, can/bottle and can/can). This would show whether there is a subconscious choice in the preferred beer. Another experiment should be to give bottled beer which has been poured into a can or viceversa. – nico Sep 15 '13 at 16:40
  • @nico Well in the article they said that they had people say which they thought was canned and which they preferred without telling them which was which so the tasters shouldn't have been biased beyond know that one of the cups was bottled and one was canned. If I get some more time I'm going to see if I can find more studies, but I think most of them are going to be along the lines of the Huffington Post - pour into cups, survey, tally results and any of the ones I've ever seen in books usually say the same thing. – rjzii Sep 15 '13 at 16:44
  • [cont'd] Most of the brewing books I've read recommend drinking beer from a glass so unless the beer is skunked, there really shouldn't be a reason why they would taste different barring a bias based upon seeing the container itself. Kind of like the issue with boxed wines. – rjzii Sep 15 '13 at 16:48
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    Heineken isn't beer... If the others are similar, this "study" wasn't about beer :) – jwenting Sep 15 '13 at 17:30

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