You’re new to the beer industry and have looked at different kinds of beer. You saw draft beer on the list, and now you’re wondering, “Why does draft beer taste better?”
The short answer is that it tastes fresher, but there is more to this than meets the eye. While bottled or canned beer is not always inferior to draft beer, various factors impact the draft beer’s quality.
The clarity of beer lines, the freshness of kegs, and how well they run the brewery, all play into the equation. Read on to find out to get to the bottom of why draft beer tastes better most of the time.
Draft beer tastes fresher than bottled or canned. Whether it is draft, bottled, or canned has a difference and impacts the flavor.
The draft beer’s taste will be unique when these traits are present. Yes, it’s true! Draft beer is fresher simply from not being bottled or stored.
Draft beer is popular in bars and restaurants everywhere. Beer on tap sells quicker than bottles in restaurants, bars, and taverns.
The freshness of beer has a massive influence on its taste, which is why beer from a keg is likely to be crisper and more delicious than beer from a bottle.
Freshness is crucial if you favor pale ales, IPAs, or hoppier beers. Hoppier beers also lose flavor over time, so you’ve got to keep them fresh for a better taste experience.
Pasteurization is when you heat a liquid (in this case, never brought to boiling point) to kill bacteria.
This is important for bottled beers due to lengthy storage times. Unpasteurized draft beer stays fresh for around 45-60 days, while pasteurized beer can go for about 90-120.
As part of the brewery management process, most breweries now print a “freshness date” on the lid or side of each keg to confirm the current quality of the beer. Still, depending on the type of beer, an opened keg can only last roughly 1–3 days.
Pressure is a critical factor related to freshness. The pressure in the keg keeps the beer fresh and carbonated.
Whether you have too much or too little pressure affects how the beer comes out. Too much pressure makes the beer foam, while too little pressure can create air pockets and bubbles in the beer line.
Manually controlling temperature and pressure by hand can lead to mistakes. More importantly, it can affect the quality of the service you give. This is why some people or bars opt to use automatic beer taps.
Draft beer is also better than bottled beer because you can control the temperature.
The beer’s temperature when served is key, but it is also crucial to maintain that temperature. You can’t tell how often a beer bottle has been exposed to air and light when opened.
Because the temperature isn’t always the same, your beer can age faster.
You must also ensure you have absolute control over the temperature of your draft beer. Because of this, you need to keep your beer kegs at the right temperature and keep track of them after you put them away.
Constantly controlling the temperature keeps them from going bad. Thus, they taste fresher than bottled beers.
Most bars and restaurants always keep their kegs at the perfect temperature. This is easy to do with a keg and keeps you from having to pasteurize the beer.
As we mentioned earlier, pasteurization changes the taste significantly. Kegs are usually kept below 50°F so that no germs can form.
Unpasteurized beer isn’t heated, which helps give it that “better” taste. Draft beer feels crisp and fresh precisely because it’s always cold.
Related Reading: Want to Learn About Beer Brewing Steps? Read Here.
Most of the time, draft beer’s carbonation is more controlled and precise than bottle conditioning. This is because brewers can use either forced carbonation or natural carbonation when using kegs.
These procedures infuse CO2 into beer to prevent any of that flatness in the taste. Since brewers can control how much CO2 goes into the keg, they can ensure that their beer has their preferred carbonation volume.
And yes, modern kegs don’t let any CO2 escape because they are airtight.
Little-to-no Light Exposure
Most beer bottles are opaque and not transparent. This is actually intentional and not merely a design choice.
When light gets into the beer, it goes bad (or, in this case, can develop this skunky off-flavor). Most manufacturers use tinted glass for their beer bottles to keep the beer from developing off-flavor.
In short, light is just bad for beer. Because of this, beer bottles are never clear, so UV light can’t reach the beer.
Draft beer is already stored in a suitable container/environment to keep it from getting exposed to sunlight.
Draft beer is already stored in a suitable container/environment to keep it from getting exposed to light. Bottled beer is always at risk of sunlight exposure, just from transportation alone.
More chances of exposure mean a higher likeliness for the bitter flavor. This can happen even on darker bottles. Kegs, on the other hand, don’t let any light in.
The only time draft beer is ever exposed to light is when it exits the tap.
Because kegs are entirely opaque, UV rays can’t get to the beer to ruin its taste. Draft beer is never exposed until it’s poured into a pint glass.
It is different from bottled beer, which can be affected by the sun over time. This can still happen even if manufacturers use darker bottles for their beer.
UV light from the sun is bad for your beer because it kills the cells, which kills the flavor. It is why people often prefer draft beer over bottled beer.
How you pour from a keg tap differs from how you pour from a bottle or can. The way you pour can actually have a noticeable effect on how the beer tastes or feels.
Because beer travels via a line and leaves through a spout or valve before reaching the glass, a significant amount of CO2 is removed, resulting in a smoother flavor.
This is unlike bottled beer, which has shorter bursts of controlled, automatic pours, trapping more CO2 within. This increases the chances for more of that bitter taste in the beer.
If you prefer beers that are more on the bitter side, this could be a reason to buy bottled or canned beer instead. If you are looking for that smooth or even savory experience, though, then draft is for you.
Here are a few red flags to deem a draft beer establishment a no-go:
• When you’ve tried a couple of beers that taste a bit off and suspect the tap lines are dirty or need maintenance
When trying a couple of beers, check if they taste like cabbage, spoiled sour, or even like sewage. This can mean that the beer has gone bad or the beer lines are dirty.
Dirty draft beer can be horrific time and causes health issues; better to grab a bottled or canned one instead.
• When the establishment has barely served even ten patrons throughout a week.
• When the glassware is worn out, dilapidated, or “crusty.” (An establishment’s poor management of their utensils will reflect on their kegs too.)
Related Reading: Why Put Salt In Beer? The Reasons Might Surprise You! – Check Them out Here
At the end of the day, everyone has their own preferences, especially in beer. Draft beer has been a reliable way to enjoy beer since the 1600s.
Some people might find it dated or even a hassle. Others still enjoy this traditional, even historical process and would love to experience firsthand the care put into this special brew. Either way, it’s still worth trying it out at least once!