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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hey Kevin: An actual expert responds

New Holland Dragon's Milk
Welcome to Hey Kevin. Last week our "advice" & "information" columnist exposed two clandestine organizations whichhe claimsare engaged in a worldwide campaign to discredit the aluminum beer can.

What Kevin failed to address in his column (read it here) are the reasons one might experience a difference in taste between canned and bottled beer. John Haggerty, Brewmaster at New Holland, has been kind enough to answer that question for us. His response came in via email, and we have John's permission to post it.

Hey Kevin,

I just read your column this week and found it to be very funny. However, I also felt like you missed an opportunity to educate people about aluminum cans. I am not sure what you know or do not know about aluminum cans (Editor's note: whatever Kevin claims to know about anything is suspect, always). But I thought I would throw my two cents in the pot and you can do what you will with it. So here goes:

Aluminum cans are lined these days with a material that keeps the beer and the aluminum from interacting thus rendering the can inert - i.e. bottle or can doesn't matter for the purposes of storage of the beer. Your beer, if packaged correctly, should taste more or less the same coming from either container. So then, one might ask why beer tastes different when from a can vs. bottle or some other package (say a keg)? Well, when you put the package to your mouth the aluminum from the outside of the can reacts with your palate and changes the pH of your mouth. This pH change affects they way you perceive the beer to taste. Whereas glass is inert and therefore does not affect your palate and you taste the beer the way it was supposed to taste. So, the long and the short of that lesson is this: if your beer is in a can pour it out into a glass. DO NOT DRINK FROM THE CAN!

There are advantages and disadvantages to either package: cans tend to have a higher likelihood of picking up O2, bottles let in light, cans are lighter weight, etc. The list goes on and on and as a brewer you ultimately have to decide what is right for you and your customers. Neither package is perfect nor is there any definitive right answer on which to use. However, as stated above, you can drink directly from a bottle if you wish (although, that will preclude you from having the olfactory interaction that contributes a tremendous amount to the perception of flavor), whereas you will not want to drink directly from a can.

Really, in either case, you should pour the beer into the proper glassware in order to consume it. It is simply the more civilized way to enjoy beer.

Thanks for letting me weigh in on the topic!


John Haggerty
New Holland Brewing Co.
Holland, MI

Thanks for the insight, John, and thanks also for Dragon's Milk. Seriously. Thank you. (We love that beer.)

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