This is a battle brewers will eventually win over consumers. Craft beer drinkers have been conditioned by years of drinking to want the cool looking brown bottles. However, brewers prefer to sell their beer in cans because, as Jason Notte writes, after the initial cost cans are cheaper to store and ship and most importantly they protect the beer better than bottles.
An old-school craft beer drinker will probably counter that the beer out of cans has a metallic taste to it. I personally don’t think there is any appreciable metal taste in the cans today. Yeah, back in the day that MGD you drank straight out of the can tasted like aluminum. It was easy to tell because that was the only real taste in the beer.
However, if, like me, you usually pour your beer into a glass regardless of what vessel it comes in you cannot tell the difference between bottles and cans.
Another reason craft beer drinkers prefer bottles is the romance of the bottle. First, many of craft beer aficionados also homebrew and the most ubiquitous storage vessel for homebrew is the simple brown bottle. Second, those brown bottles separated us from the macro beer masses. They were the ones with their beer cans, shotgunning fizzy yellow water. Craft beer drinkers were the ones with the expensive looking bottles with weird names and labels. No matter how many scientific studies brewers throw at some craft beer drinkers, those drinkers will never lose that nostalgia and romance and will still want their bottles.
Those romantics are still going to lose if the upfront cost of cans goes down. Once past the initial investment of the canning line and all the cans you must buy, the overhead is much less than bottles. They are easier to store, they are less apt to break, they are easier to ship, and they are less likely to let light or oxygen touch the beer. Cans really are a “serving size keg.” Of course, the producers love them.
As someone who sells cans and bottles, I can tell you our package section is about 70/30 or 60/40 bottles to cans right now. That is mostly due to the 22 oz. and 750 ml bottle section. However, in the last year, I’ve seen a lot of brewers move away from the big format bottles and switching to 375 ml bottles. This is especially true with the growth in the sour style category. Even some of the big stout limited releases are going to the smaller formats. Yeti was available in 22 oz. and 12 oz. bottles this year. Again, the nostalgia of a 22 or 750 is still there for many craft beer drinkers. There is still something about getting that 22 oz. bottle of a Big Bad Baptist variant and sharing it with a friend or getting drunk on it by yourself.