Today is one of those days when the brewing and beer culture halves of this blog come together, and it's thanks to a social media discussion I took part in yesterday. The bottom line up front here is this: stand up for yourselves, beer drinkers. Don't take brewers, breweries, beer writers, or anyone at their word on things that seem to run counter to common sense or your own preferences.
Now, I don't find most beer drinkers to be shy wallflowers (though I think there's a strain of introversion common to people who get deep into the hobby). I do, though, think that beer is a realm in which rules of thumb, nuggets of information, sound-bite rationales, and so forth are overused, and probably with good reason: it's just beer, after all. Most people don't (and shouldn't) care enough to actually be critical of what they're told, and don't need (or want) to dig deeper on these issues.
In the Can
It all started with a social media post that quoted a brewer of a famous Double IPA, who claimed that said DIPA was "designed" to be consumed from the can, and that pouring it into a glass degrades the flavor because there's a "layer of CO2" protecting the canned beer and preventing off-gassing and volatilization and oxidation; said CO2 layer is destroyed by transferring the beer into a glass.
That explanation seems, on its face, to be patently absurd.
First off, all beer has a layer of CO2 sitting on top of it. CO2 is used to flush the bottles/cans at packaging in most cases, and in addition the act of opening the package and tipping it around while drinking it knocks CO2 out of solution and into the headspace of whatever packaging it's in.
Second, that layer of CO2 isn't bulletproof. Gases mix, even when one's heavier than the other (or so it was thoroughly explained and demonstrated to me at one point by a physicist, and I have no reason to believe he was wrong). So it isn't like leaving it under the CO2 layer provides a robust and irreplaceable guarantee of preservation.
And third - and this is a big one - leaving it in the can means that your entire aroma experience is also pretty inhibited by the layer of metal and plastic between your face and the beer. Aroma is important in its own right in beer, and aroma also impacts flavor perceptions, so limiting it in a DOUBLE IPA (where very high perceptions of both hops aroma and flavor are central to the flavor profile) would seem to be a bit of a no-no. Arguably, that would be a much bigger challenge than the supposed "risk" of putting that beer into a glass.
Look, I could buy this argument for some beers. A pepper beer that would be too hot in the nose but which has the right flavors to balance said heat in the flavor? Sure. A sour beer that's too funky in the aroma but which is perfect when you add in the acidic flavors in the mouth? Definitely. But any hops-forward beer? DESIGNED to be consumed out of a can? No. Sorry. That just doesn't make any sense.
But the Brewer Said...
Yes, I know the brewer was the one who said this. But brewers have gaps in their knowledge, just like anyone else, sometimes dramatically so. Just because the brewer told you something, it doesn't automatically mean they know what they're talking about. When presented with a recommendation that runs contrary to what you're told about drinking just about every other craft beer you've ever had (ever had anyone else tell you to not bother with a glass?), you're perfectly within your rights to ask for an explanation, and to question it if it seems dubious on its face.
Don't just take their word for it.
Ultimately, this is a matter of preference and I support wholeheartedly the idea that you should drink your beer in any way you choose. I'm not telling you to do or not do what the brewer is telling you to do - I'm asking you to be willing to question the why of what you're being told to do.
That's it. Stand up for yourselves, beer drinkers.
Keep it simple.
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