If you’re a craft-beer drinker, you know how much work goes into your beverage, and you want to experience it in all its glory. But how? Should it come from a can, bottle, or keg?
On tap might seem the obvious answer, and with home-keg options, such as the Tap King home-beer system now offering craft beers, you don’t have to leave home to get great beer from a keg. But cans and bottles have their advocates. We’ve asked three experts which option is the one to choose for maximum taste.
For Richard Kelsey at Sydney bottle shop Beer Cartel, if you’re drinking craft beer at home, then a can is the way to go. “A can doesn’t let in any light – light is one of the things that ages beer the most,” he says. “A can is 100 per cent sealed. It’s very rare, but in bottles, there are cases where the cap isn’t fitted properly, and you can get oxygen leaking into the beer. As long as you’re pouring from a can into a glass, it should be pretty much on par with beer out of a tap.”
In his view, it’s drinking out of a glass that really helps you get the most out of a craft beer. There are two reasons for this: “The first is visual – as far as how the beer actually looks and what the colour is. We actually taste as much with our eyes and our nose as we do with our actual taste buds. So the visual side of things is very important, and pouring it into a glass really helps with the aroma.”
Justin Joiner at pub The Local Taphouse in St Kilda, Melbourne, believes the best option is the one that provides the freshest beer, full stop. “Taste is really about freshness, so if it’s fresh and it’s in a bottle and it’s been handled well and kept refrigerated, it should be every bit as good as if it’s in a can or in a keg. But if I had to pick, I’d go for tap beer every day.”
Joiner agrees that it’s drinking out of a glass that really lets you get the most out of a beer. “When you’re drinking out of a bottle or a can your mouth covers the surface areas so you don’t get the aromas that you would out of a glass,” he says. “It can also warm up a little bit quicker in a glass. The warmer it is, the more flavour you’ll get out of it, so having it warm up in your hand is not a bad thing.”
Glenn Harrison is the head brewer at Brunswick’s Temple Brewing, also in Melbourne. For him the answer is clear-cut: “I think if you had to choose one, you’d choose keg. Draft beer generally is always the freshest and probably best-protected way to get beer across. That’s not to say you can’t transport a fantastic beer in bottles or cans, there just has to be a lot more care throughout the whole process.”
What Harrison likes to stress most about craft beer is that, unlike the mass-produced version, it’s more vulnerable to outside factors such as light and heat. “You’ve got to treat it like milk – it’s a food product. Most craft beers aren’t pasteurised, which means they don’t go through a heat stabilisation process. That’s a flavour thing – it [pasteurisation] does affect flavour, so most craft brewers don’t do it. You wouldn’t leave milk sitting in the sun, or leave milk sitting in the back of your car all day and then drink it, and we try to encourage people to treat beer the same way.”
So by a margin of two to one, the keg wins out. “A keg really keeps the freshness, that’s the main thing,” says Harrison. “Saying that, if I’ve just been mowing the lawn I’m more than happy to knock back a quick beer straight out of the bottle and I still think it tastes fantastic.”