05 December 13  |  Dining   |  

Kegs, Bottles, or Cans – What Keeps Your Beer the Freshest?

Written by Harold Dean, our Food and Beverage Director.

Keeping the Flavor Fresh

The most important thing you need to know about beer freshness is that there are two things that will ruin your beer flavor the quickest: Light & Oxygen.

Photo Source: Flickr by Geoffrey Fairchild

Beer is made from hops, which is extremely sensitive to light. Therefore, when exposed to light, the bitter compounds in hops break down and react with traces of sulfur compounds in the beer, causing it to taste and smell “skunky”. Also, oxygen can manipulate the flavor of your beer so that it tastes like cardboard. Heat speeds up oxidation, so in order to preserve your beer’s flavor, store it in a cool, dark place.


Obviously, keg beer is the best way to keep your beer fresh. With properly maintained draft lines, this is the freshest beer you can get. It is the most tightly sealed and pressured, allowing for no light or oxygen to get in. However, most of us don’t have a kegerator at the house, so we buy cans or bottles.

Did you know? More than 70% of taste comes from our sense of smell. This is one of the main reasons why people say that tap beer tastes better – the glass allows for the aroma of the beer to escape to your nose, allowing us to better detect the different flavors in the beverage.


If you have noticed, most beer bottles are either brown, green, or clear.  All three let in light, but brown glass lets in a lot less light than the other two. Ever heard of “skunked” beer? That’s the unpleasant odor and flavor caused by the ultraviolet light hitting your beer.

For the bottle caps, most use that familiar metal cap and the liner on the inside of the cap seals the bottle. However, the twist-off caps can be notorious for letting oxygen in.


Cans offer the same protection as kegs! Sealed aluminum is much better than glass at keeping out light and oxygen. And, since it’s only a single-type serving, you don’t need any pressurized hookup to enjoy it!

Some people ask, “well, what about the metal taste you get sometimes with cans”? Beer cans are lined on the inside and the beer actually never comes into contact with the metal. When you encounter that metal taste, you’re actually smelling the metal can and not tasting it. Remember what I said earlier about 70% of taste coming from our sense of smell!

So, if you want to keep your beer fresher for longer, buy the cans next time you’re at the store. Meanwhile, stop into Knickers for lunch and try the beers we’ve now got on tap including Redd’s Apple Ale, Big Nose, Sam Adams Winter Lager, and Yuengling!