Canning – The Home Brewers Alternative to Bottles
As a home brewer of fine ales and beautifully aged lagers, aren’t you always looking for a way to squeeze a little more purity, crispness and taste out of your brewing protocols? Well known brewing tips like great sanitation practices, precise fermentation temperature control and high quality ingredients have been well documented. However, did you know that just changing how you package and store your brew can lead to a more stable and higher quality beer? The truth is that, despite their tinted glass and decent seal, bottles do allow the deleterious effects of UV-light and oxygen to penetrate your brew, diminishing the quality of your beer.
The savvy home brewer is probably thinking (if you didn’t read the title of this article) that I am about to hail kegs as the dominant home brew vessel. Well actually, I kind of am. Kegs provide three main advantages over bottles:
(1). They exclude light.
(2). They exclude air.
(3). The addition of CO2 prevents your brew from flattening.
All three of these advantages contribute to the fresh, crisp taste and excellent head of home-brewed draft beer. Unfortunately, once a keg has been tapped, the window of time in which you can enjoy your high quality beverage decreases markedly (at around 24 hours for some brews). Enter cans. Canning your brew provides you with the same advantages as kegging (with the exception of #3), in more conveniently portioned packages. Let’s go into some more detail about how cans achieve these advantages and why this is important for the quality of your brew.
Canning Beer Prevents “Skunking”
The first main advantage of canning beer over bottling is the complete exclusion of light from your brew. This is important because isohumulones, the bittering agent in hops, are extremely sensitive to light. Upon coming into contact with it, they break down and react with sulfurous amino acids to produce 3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol (3-MBT). 3-MBT is almost identical to the potent stench-causing chemical that’s found in a skunk’s spray. As a result, it imparts a “skunked” flavor to your beer that drinkers of Heineken, Grolsche and Corona are so familiar with.
Skunked beer has been generally accepted by the beer drinking community (just look at how much Heineken is worth). However, it’s technically a flavor defect that’s completely avoidable! The primary reason why beer like Heineken skunks is actually due to how it’s packaged – in green or clear glass bottles. Vessels like these, and even darker glass bottles, allow light to penetrate a brew – eventually affecting beer’s taste and aroma. Canning beer, on the other hand, completely excludes light – ensuring that it stays skunk-free until the day you crack open the seal and enjoy it.
Canning Beer Limits Oxygen Exposure
According to Business Insider’s interview with Ska Brewing in Colorado, canning beer holds many advantages over bottling. One reason, Ska’s Dave Welz suggests, is that the “double-crimped” seal of a beer can blocks more air than a bottle’s gasket. The reason for this is likely due to the number of layers that a beer can seal provides. When a lid is sealed onto a beer can, 4 layers of metal are compressed together very tightly. Further, empty spaces between metal layers are filled by a malleable sealing compound that resides on the beer can lid. Canning therefore provides a multi-layer seal that is extremely efficient at excluding air from your brew.
The exclusion of air, and therefore oxygen, is incredibly important when packaging your brew. Oxygen is the primary cause of oxidative reactions in beer. These reactions produce potent chemicals that can have a significant effect on the flavor and aroma profile of a beer. Even when small amounts of oxidation products like trans-2-nonenal is present in beer, it can have a noticeable effect on quality. Further, oxygen sealed into a can or bottle of beer diffuses into the brew itself and displaces carbon dioxide – the gas responsible for carbonation. Over-oxygenation is a common and annoying problem for many home brewers, and canning beer will help preserve the finished flavor and carbonation of your brew.
Canning Beer is Getting More Affordable
If canning beer provides so many advantages for home brewers, why don’t more of them do it?
The answer to that question is pretty simple – Because it’s expensive!
In fact, normally you would be hard-pressed to find a beer can sealer for under $3000.00. Certainly too much for the hobbyist home brewer. On top of that, where in the world would you be able to buy beer cans?
Well, there’s now a solution to this problem. Wells Can Company now provides can sealers and small quantities of beer cans for the home brewer. They’re affordable, and only getting less expensive. If you are interested in learning more, follow this link.
Canning beer is superior to bottling. Even industry experts agree! So why should the home brewer miss out?
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