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VIDEO: Is Craft Beer REALLY Better When You Drink from the Can?

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I know it seems preposterous to hardcore beer geeks, but some very bright and experienced people think it is better to drink craft beer from the can rather than the bottle. Okay, so maybe it’s just one bright and experienced person, The Alchemist’s John Kimmich. 

John brews Heady Topper, an amazing Double IPA that he only packages in tallboy cans, the best vessel for protecting the beer from light and oxygen.  John should live on the dark side of the moon because he HATES light and oxygen, so much so that he won’t fill growlers at his taproom, and that he insists you should drink his beer FROM THE CAN.  It even says so right there on the packaging.

John says drinking from the can keeps the beer from becoming oxidized as you drink it, because a layer of carbon dioxide stays parked on top of the brew, keeping it safe from the ravages of oxygen.  This way, he contends, the first sip will taste the same as the last sip, whereas when you drink from a glass, the character of the beer changes over time as oxygen does its dirty deed to Heady Topper’s complex character.

I decided to put this to the test in the video below.  I carefully poured half a can of Heady Topper into a tulip glass and left the other half in the can.  I let both sit for an hour and then compared how they tasted.  Being an uber-geek, I also cracked open a fresh can of Heady Topper at the end of the hour (taken out of the fridge at the same time as the original can so the temperatures were the same) and tasted it both from the can and in a glass.

Watch the video below to see the results, but I’ll give you a hint on how it ended: John Kimmich knows a heckavalot about beer.

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Categories: Beer

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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38 Comments on “VIDEO: Is Craft Beer REALLY Better When You Drink from the Can?”

  1. July 12, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I applaud your dedication in getting to the bottom of this important issue.

    • July 12, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Your welcome, to both you AND science!

      I thought it was actually pretty cool that there was a difference, but not enough of one to change my personal preferences.

      • July 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

        There’s also the idea that drinking a beer is an experience that should take place over a period of time, engaging all the senses. You can’t do that with a can. I’m okay with a beer changing over time. It’s part of the experience. If you want the same thing every time, crack open a can of Bud.

  2. July 12, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Nice experiment! I don’t know that I would call Heady Topper “subtle” or “balanced” though, it’s like drinking pure hop juice – in the very best way possible. Even among IPAs, it’s a beer that really needs to be as fresh as physically possible. It seems to lose a ton of aroma and potency even after a week or two, in my limited experience.

    • July 12, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      It’s a hop gush for sure, but it’s really well balanced with the malts – it doesn’t punish you like some others or get too sweet – it’s right on the knife’s edge.

  3. Michael
    July 12, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    At the end of your video you nailed it. Some(maybe many) enjoy the gradual oxidation and change in flavors and the nose(hard to get your nose in an aluminum can). And rember CO2 is an evil gas responsible for all manner of catastrophic events.

    • July 12, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      I’m not sure about CO2, but I have sure had some personal run ins with methane! 🙂

  4. July 12, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I think you hit it on it at the end–who’s gonna wait an hour to finish a glass (or a can or bottle) of beer? And the aroma/head/lacing are all part of enjoying a good beer. Also, what happens to the carbonation over an hour’s time? In the short term, I believe the head on those beers which have a substantial head, protects the beer from rapid oxidation just as well as that “disk” of CO2.

    Cans do protect their contents from light, but most are also lined w/ BPA–not a good thing for you or the beer. But, as you’ve said before, cans are also lighter and thus easier/cheaper to transport.

    All that having been said, I do drink Dales and Maui’s Bikini Blonde from the can. But I much prefer most of my beers in a wide mouthed glass so I can enjoy the entire beer experience.

    • July 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      They should package beer like worchestershire sauce, in a bottle wrapped in paper. No light, no BPA!

  5. July 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    If I showed my non-craft beer friends (why do I have those?) or my new to craft beer friends this video, they will think I’m batshit crazy.

    • July 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Yes, but they would find me witty and ruggedly handsome.

      At least that’s what our mom says…

  6. tronto
    July 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    It says to drink from can b/c it’s such an ugly beer with hop resin floating all around in it….

    • July 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      I actually asked John Kimmich that question directly, because I’m a badass journalist who isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions [adjust “Scoops” card tucked into the band of his fedora].

      He said that’s BS – it’s a can conditioned DIPA, and you’d get the same thing if you poured a Belgian beer with gusto. You should pour it slow and leave the last ounce or two in the can, like you would for an other bottle-conditioned brew. Talking to him, you realize he shoots from the hip and charts his own course – he’s a tremendously interesting guy.

      I wrote all about him, the beer, and his battle against oxygen for TODAY.com this week, but they haven’t posted it yet. I’ll throw a link up here when they do.

      • July 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

        Whats wrong w/ ingesting the beer hop resin, yeast particles, etc? I actually prefer the cloudy beers to the claros and I’m sure as hell not gonna throw away 2 oz’s of beer.

      • July 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

        “Can conditioned”? I didn’t think that was possible since without the pressure of CO2 the can loses its rigidity. Does he keep them all one layer flat until they are carbonated? I’m going to need to see this in action.

        • July 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

          Can-conditioned up until you open it (unfiltered). But I agree, you’ll need to inspect the beer closely, maybe more than once. 🙂

  7. ScottG
    July 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Technically, you should never open his beloved can; but simply stare at it and appreciate what must be the deliciousness that is inside, for to open it is to destroy it.
    But rest assured, he promises that it’s delicious and well worth the $/can you paid for it.

    OR

    Next, I’l have to buy a special dropper which goes into the sterilized opening, extract no more than 3-4 drops of the magical elixir inside and take no more than 3-4 drops every 10-15 minutes, so as not to overwhelm my palate.

    All absurdist notions aside, maybe he did design this beer to be only enjoyed from the can. In the which case, he as the brewer can make that recommendation. But beer has been around for a lot longer than the aluminum can and managed to succeed as a product despite it. My glass will do just fine.

    • July 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      He designed the beer to be as good as possible, and he designed the can to block out the light and air and to advise you to drink it from its package. John is a really sharp guy and is very persuasive about this stuff when you speak with him.

      I wish they’d post my article about Heady Topper over on TODAY.com already so you can get the whole story here – this video supports it, but doesn’t have enough context to understand just what a smart rebel this guy is.

      • ScottG
        July 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

        I will definitely read/view the article when it’s posted. I agree with you 100% it’s in his interest to maintain the quality of his product for as long as he is able and the can likely is the best way.
        But as it stands, this strikes me as pseudo-science designed to make beer snobs feel good about themselves as beer purists. There can also be a placebo effect, where the drinker convinces themselves it tastes better served from their vessel of choice, be it can, glass, leather wine sack thing-y, or poured into the mouth from the tap, as suggested by Bill. Without some third-party, impartial evidence that proves the wee bit of CO2 in the can maintains the flavor better than anything else, this just seems like extraordinarily well designed marketing. He’s also a businessman. After all is said and done, a brewery that doesn’t sell beer, no matter how good, doesn’t last long. I’m willing to consider he’s right, but I maintain some skepticism.

        • July 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

          In other words, you didn’t watch the video…

        • ScottG
          July 13, 2012 at 12:41 am #

          I did watch the video. Twice, actually. And after doing some research on CO2, about which I now realize I knew very little, I’ll concede defeat in that it will prevent oxidation, which will alter the flavor. As for whether or not it tastes better…personal preference is a fickle to thing to argue.

          There’s just something about drinking from the can that reminds of my cheap beer swilling days. I guess the best of both worlds is to pour a small amount from the can into a glass. Or, as you pointed out, just drink faster.

  8. July 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    To each their own. I’m with you – I prefer a glass. But I also don’t refuse to drink straight from the bottle, can, growler, tap… 😉 Make beer, not war.

    • July 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      I like that straight from the tap idea…

      • Bill
        July 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

        They generally frown upon that in taprooms though.

        • July 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

          Oh sure, keg stands are okay, but mainlining 90 Minute IPA is frowned upon in Rehoboth Beach, huh?

    • July 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      I like that motto! Mind if I borrow it?

  9. Greg H
    July 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Don’t mess with the Alchemist. Ha! Now you might want to go investigate Hill Farmstead and Lawson’s, two other great brewers in VT!

    • July 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Yeah, both are on the short list. I want to go to Vermont with the family this summer, but my wife is pushing for Gettysburg. Ugh – history nerds are the WORST!

      • Greg H
        July 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

        As a native Vermonter, I’d vote for VT over PA anyday. Just tell her that VT was instrumental in the American Revolution, you know, Ethan Allen and The Green Mountain Boys, et al. Lawson’s is even harder to score than HT. If you go, you get beer from all three in Montpelier at Hunger Mtn Coop.

        • July 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

          You know you’re making it worse, right? 😦

      • July 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

        Jim, just do what I do, research all the old historic sites in New England, i.e., Mystic Seaport, Shaker villages, etc. Then market it to her as an historicity trip. Works for me.

      • July 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

        Wha? I can’t be both?

        Try the ales of the times that are served in some of the local taverns. History can be delicious, Jim.

  10. July 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    10 points for using the phrase “sensual pleasure”…50 points for employing such rigorous a scientific method.
    Also, I want to turn this vid into a drinking game and do a shot every time you say “hop profile”.

    • July 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      Hop profile. 😉

  11. July 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    You’re right Jim, we drink (evaluate) the beer with more than our tongues. We look at it, smell, swirl it around in the glass, we watch how the bubbles lace the side of the glass, all before we ever put it to our tongue.

    If I’m backpacking or picnicking, it can stay in the can, otherwise I want it in a glass.

    Tough work, having to drink two great beers all in the name of science.

    • July 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      We, who are about to drink, salute you.

  12. Kid Carboy Jr.
    July 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    If this is what the brewer actually believes, then may I presume that they don’t pour Heady Topper from tap at the bar? Clearly, since it’s meant to be drunk from a can, I’m sure they just hand cans to people who order it and tell ’em “drink it this way, trust me.”

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