There are a variety of ways that beer reaches the glass of the drinker. Belgian brewery Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck uses aluminum cans and one-way kegs for exporting its Nitro beers. The family brewery, based in Izegem, made a deliberate decision to focus on these two packaging options. There are lots of advantages to transporting beer in either cans or kegs – here’s an overview.
Before we dive into a closer look at the aluminum can and one-way keg, let’s take a quick look at the factors that have a major influence on how beer tastes.
- Oxygen: allows the beer to oxidize, whereby the alcohol is converted into acetic acid, making it taste “old”.
- Light: changes the character of the hop, resulting in less pleasant aromas.
- Temperature: higher temperatures accelerate the aging process.
In order to avoid all of this, we need a packaging that will eliminate as many of the negative factors as possible. That’s exactly what cans or kegs do.
To the bottom of the barrel
Let’s dive into a beer keg! Barrels or kegs protect the beer from the influences of oxygen and temperature.
- A keg has less air per unit of beer, which means the beer oxidizes less.
- Since a keg is kept cooled, it has a constant temperature, so the flavors are not spoiled by higher temperatures.
Carbon dioxide or nitrogen
Carbonated beer in a traditional stainless steel keg is at risk of oversaturation.
- When oversaturated, the beer takes up more carbon dioxide (CO2).
- This results in the tapped beer having too much foam.
Our nitrogen beers eliminate this risk. Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck uses one-way kegs for its Nitro beers.
- The Nitro beer is stored in the keg in a darkened, airtight bag.
- This is similar to the way wine is stored in a wine box (bag-in-box).
- Since the Nitro beer is in a bag, it never comes into contact with the air as the keg empties.
- The bag empties and packs down as the beer is tapped.
It’s just like tasting beer from a keg!
A miniature beer keg
Did you know that the first ever cans of beer were filled by American company Kreuger Beer in 1935? This was a very well-thought-out choice:
- Aluminum is impervious to light and oxygen.
- This means that the beer cannot oxidize and does not come into contact with light.
Just like keg beer, beer in a can retains its flavor for a long time.
It’s not just the flavor of the beer that benefits from using an aluminum can. Mother Nature loves them too:
- A can of beer cools much faster in the fridge than a glass bottle – this saves energy.
- An empty can of beer is completely recyclable: on average it will be refilled and back on the store shelves after 60 days.
- Cans stack easily and weigh less than glass bottles; this means that more of them can be transported in a single journey… and fewer journeys mean less emissions.
Nitro beer in cans – how does it taste?
Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck first moved to brewing nitrogen beers when Kasteel USA was founded at the end of 2020.
The brewery’s subsidiary in Troy, Michigan, imports the beers without needing go through a middleman. As a result, Kasteel USA can sell its beer at a fair price – in other words, American consumers have access to affordable Belgian beer.
Before the first batch of Kasteel Nitro and Bacchus Nitro specialist beers was shipped to America, the brewery tested out the new product line with well-known Belgian beer sommelier Ben Vinken.
His verdict? “The nitrogen process in the can is a superb enhancement to the beer. The head looks great, it’s thick and sticks to the sides. The beer is more full-flavored and creamier, plus it’s more digestible and accessible. It’s just like tasting beer from a keg!”
Of course, we know tastes vary, but we certainly appreciate this opinion from a well-known beer sommelier!