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Beer produced by large breweries has long been sold in cans, but I've noticed recently that more craft beers are appearing sold in cans as well. Why might they be choosing cans over bottles? Is there a taste or shelf-life benefit to canned beer? Or is it just ecological or marketing concerns?

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You can take aluminum cans to parks for picnics, beaches, etc, and can't take glass bottles. I know that's a big reason why Harpoon releases their IPA and Summer Ales in aluminum cans over the summer. –  lemontwist Feb 28 '13 at 2:14
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I've made a fairly substantial edit to your post to try to make it pretty specific and on-topic - hope it still essentially asks what you were trying to ask! –  Jefromi Feb 28 '13 at 16:50
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2 Answers

Cans have a lot of advantages over bottles: they don't allow light in (light spoils beer), are easier to stack (and take up less space when arranged tightly), the materials for each can are cheaper, and so on. From the consumer perspective, this results in cheaper and higher-quality beer, all else being equal.

The reason craft breweries have been using glass bottles rather than cans is largely historical and aesthetic. Some hip craft breweries started using cans recently, and it led to a trend.

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Cans have a lot of advantages, but I've heard that a canning line is much more expensive for a brewery than a bottling line. –  user5561 Feb 28 '13 at 5:25
    
As an upcoming craft brewer myself, I've been considering canning for all these reasons. +1 –  JoeFish Feb 28 '13 at 12:47
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@user5561, many of the craft breweries contract out their canning to another facility. I know that Harpoon uses a larger brewery in Utica to get their canned beer. –  lemontwist Feb 28 '13 at 13:04
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Zach makes a good case for the benefits of cans over bottles...but there are just as many benefits of bottles over cans.

In general, I'd say that, if the beer is kept out of the light, bottles are a better choice as far as flavor is concerned.

For one, glass is completely nonreactive, and does not contaminate the beer, but aluminum does leech into the beer, even from lined cans. For an example of research on this topic, see this article.

Additionally, with lined cans, the plastic liner also contaminates the beverage; while, due to the small volume of plastic involved, this is likely less of a problem than in plastic bottles, it's still likely more of a problem than in glass bottles, where only the lid is lined with plastic, and (assuming the bottles are kept vertical at all times) the beverage has little contact with the plastic, reducing leeching.

With regard to longer-term storage, I've also heard pop bottle collectors say that cans eventually develop pinhole leaks, so the contents can't be kept in a can for decades, as they can be in a bottle.

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