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Bottled vs Canned vs Draught Ale

It was the summer of 96. The country was at fever pitch as El Tel's boys seemed to be cruising towards the European Cup, The Spice Girls warbled into the charts with their inaugural hit 'Wannabee' and I was sporting a rather dubious set of curtains - a haircut so atrocious that it is now punishable by death in certain parts of the world. I was also trying desperately to like beer but, no matter how hard I tried, I could not.

It made me wretch and if, by a miracle, I did manage to force a couple of lagers down, the following morning was not worth the effort. Then one evening at an unsanctioned teenage party I stumbled across a small, green can with the eye-catching image of two gold dogs against a green background. It looked cool, almost like a beer, was easy to tuck into one's pocket, quick to chill and bursting with citrus aroma and flavour. It did not make me wretch and on this account I forgave the following morning's headache. Two Dogs was the brainchild of an Australian Publican/Brewer and for a moment it took the drinks world by storm. It was then eaten up by a swarm of other like-minded beverages and the dawn of the Alcopop had well and truly broken. By the time everyone had got fed up with vomiting a rainbow after a heavy night out, these drinks seemed to disappear into the gloaming and on a personal note I started, finally, to enjoy beer. First in a can, then as I became a more sophisticated beer guzzler, the bottle and ultimately that Holy Grail of the beer drinkers receptacles, the cask. There is simply no better way to enjoy beer.  When you talk about the pros and cons of bottles, cans and casks, the cask wins every time. No doubt a lot of the cans these days look incredibly appealing, but you cannot beat a dimpled pint jug with a frothing pompadour of beery goodness cascading over its rim. Some advocates of canning their beers pull the environment card as a driving factor behind the method, but what is greener than walking to your local pub to enjoy a pint of bitter from your local brewery. In fact, my old local even had its beer delivered by horse and cart. Here I might also suggest that the impact of making an aluminium can is going to do much more damage to the world than that of making a glass bottle, an impact that cannot be outweighed by recycling that can.  Then, there is the taste test. Cask beer, kept well and at the correct temperature (admittedly this isn't always the case) will continuously out-perform anything from either can or bottle. So what can the can or bottle offer? The can is convenient above all, to take on a picnic, or down to the beach, but the bottle doesn't fall that far behind on convenience save perhaps its weight. What is more is that lovers of that rather odd term 'real ale' would always choose a bottle conditioned beer over a can that is inert. However, from a sales point of view I can see how that inertness can appeal, to know that your product is going to taste exactly the same from one can to the next no matter when or where it is being drunk. The chaps at CAMRA would argue such uniformity to be the death of beer as we know it.

            Moving forward twenty years from my first naughty liaison with a can of Two Dogs and in my fridge I have a small can. It also has a picture of a dog on the label. It is easy to carry and quick to chill and also bursts with citrus aroma and flavour. It is not Two Dogs but Brew Dog's flagship Punk IPA, a beer arguably at the fulcrum of the craft brewing revolution and in can form is even more crafty than it was. It is undeniably tasty but something rather disturbs me about it. The carbonation is unnaturally aggressive, the hop flavour of predominantly knock-out citrus overwhelms the malt. It is a little vapid and not really very 'beery' at all. My teenage self would have loved it. And perhaps there is a slippery slope to avoid here because how long before I find myself drinking something fashioned from malt extract, hop essence and infused with lemons, force carbonated and in some hip packaging? Because that is not really beer at all. It is an Alcopop.



By the can: Beavertown Lupuloid

On draft: Lost and Found APA

In bottle:  Anything by The Kernel

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