Thirsty Conscious Consumers Debate: Bottles vs. Cans

The real and perceived environmental impact of beer packaging

According to this marketer and beer drinker, advertising does not get any better than this Old Milwaukee spot that aired during the Super Bowl last February on KNOP-TV in North Platte, Nebraska. The debate is over; you just can’t beat Will Ferrell walking through a field when you are trying to sell beer.

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All kidding aside, for Conscious Consumers there is a heated debate is brewing over how they prefer to drink their favorite hoppy beverages. Bottles vs. Cans.

With the recent spike in popularity of craft brews over the last decade, beer drinking Conscious Consumers now have endless options as they pace through their neighborhood liquor store. At the beginning of this revolution, beer snobs could cut their choices in half simply by looking at packaging.

Almost as a rule, “good” beer came in a bottle and “crap” beer came in a can.

Today, more and more craft brewers are turning to canning and is keeping track. These brewers are trying to fight the stigma tied to cans by promoting the rationale for their decision.

For Minneapolis’ Indeed Brewing Company, the “why cans” question is answered on their website and boils down to a few key points:

  1. Cans block light, which can affect freshness and taste
  2. Cans are lighter and more durable than bottles
  3. Cans are better for the environment

It is that last point that is at the crux of the debate and Indeed’s claim may not be entirely accurate, at least according to a life cycle assessment conducted by Joseph Vera, a Sustainability Expert.


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Joseph’s study concludes that bottles are more favorable for the environment than cans, but specifically calls out reusable bottles rather than factoring in recyclable bottles in his analysis.

Confused yet? Well you aren’t alone. New Belgium Brewing, which offers its beer in both bottles and cans is too and addressed this on their blog. They even developed this nifty infographic .

So where does this leave the Conscious Consumer who wants to make the “right” decision. For me, it comes down to a few factors:

  1. Does my favorite brewer allow me to choose?
  2. Where am I going to be drinking?
  3. How easy is it for me to recycle a bottle or can?

When I am drinking at home, I buy both bottles and cans and pour in a glass. I can easily recycle bottles right now and because of Minneapolis’ pledge to move to One Sort Recycling soon, it will be even easier.

If I am out and about and drinking (camping, tailgating, etc.) I tend to go for cans.

  1. Lighter
  2. Quicker to cool
  3. No bottle opener
  4. Easier to crush on my head

Also, because of attractive scrap metal prices, I don’t recycle my cans. Once or twice a year, I crush all of my cans and run them over to Metro Metals where right now I can get $0.60 a pound and little extra spending money.

For me, New Belgium is doing a great job addressing these issues and offering their consumers a choice while not proclaiming to be an authority on the topic. Their authentic and honest blog post highlights the issues and concerns that Conscious Consumers are wrestling with while promising to industry leaders looking to resolve the debate.

Maybe their next campaign will even feature Beck’s song “Where It’s At”.

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Bottles and cans, just clap your hands…