Bottled vs. Canned – Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Beer Review

I’ve always been interested in how the container affects the beer – it’s a hot topic after all, considering it’s the fundamental difference these days between CAMRA and the rest of the world (well, that and beards; clearly I have a foot in both camps).

I’ve previously compared bottled and draft London Pride, which was an experiment that came to no real conclusion other than that comparing beers at wildly different temperatures is bloody hard.

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

For this test, therefore, I’ve been able to get Flying Dog‘s Snake Dog IPA in bottled and canned form, and store them both in my beer fridge side by side, so when it came to the tasting they were both exactly 14 degrees, and both in identical glasses. It’s almost scientific!

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Visually, they’re very similar beers – although this disguises that the canned version (on the left) exploded quite significantly on opening; if nothing else, it was a lot more lively than it’s bottled brother. This explosive opening contributed to a more open textured, less lingering head and also resulted in a slight murkiness. Aside from that, they have the same nice rich, golden orange colour to them.

The nose on both is similar; sweet sugar, orange fruit and a touch of peaches. The sweetness is less pronounced on the bottled version, while the overall aroma is stronger from the can, but they’re very closely matched.

It’s a big, magnificent tasting beer – a sticky syrupy start, rich with a ripe orange fruit overtone that’s met head-on with a big, floral, deeply resinous hop attack washing away the sweetness and leaving you with a satisfying but not overwhelmingly bitter finish.

The canned version has bolder flavours but they’re less refined – the sweetness is more sugary and the hop finish curtails too quickly. In the bottle, there’s a fruitier feel – the hoppy resin comes in more gradually and the finish lingers nicely. Even the bubbles are better from the bottle – finer, foamier, almost champagne like.

It’s no surprise, then, that the bottled version is my favourite – more controlled and complex. Which begs the question – why is canned beer suddenly getting trendy?!



But where they the same batch? 🙂 (I presume not.)

I still don’t trust cans. BrewDog stuff for example – utterly unreliable in cans and seemingly with a shelf-life of about a week (it’s bad enough that it is pretty unreliable in bottle too). Adnam’s Ghost Ship seems more reliable – I’ve not tried the beer in bottle – but the canned version (drunk at cask temp) was good but nowhere near as good as a tip-top cask of the stuff.

Almost every US canned beer I’ve had has been a disappointment too, excepting perhaps some really fresh cans of Ska Modus Hoperandi when it first hit the UK. (That said I find a lot of US craft beers a bit disappointing.)

All that negativity aside – jury still out for me. I’ve had maybe 20 canned beers all up, and 1000s of bottled – so it is hardly a fair sample. The bottle is still king. (I’d rather drink good beer in a pub or bar anyway – but a lack of variety in my area means I get most of my “craft” in bottle at home.)

As for CAMRA being about the container – that is an over-simplification. It is more about methodology. It is about the secondary fermentation, which is possible in a variety of containers – probably even cans. I find bottle-conditioned beers a bit of an annoyance – yet at the same time I like the flavour of a much higher percentage of bottle conditioned beers. (Those using centrifuge for non-BC beers seem to be on to a good thing though.)

As for “trendy” => marketing. BrewDog say it is good – people will believe them. They could probably get away with brewing a penguin-shit stout. Pardon my cynicism, I can’t help it. There are many economic advantages to using cans (I have been told) so long as you’re big enough to leverage them. It is trendy to be “green” and cans are being pushed as a “green” package for beer (my jury still out here too…).


The question of batches is a fair one, and you’re not the only one to ask – the honest answer is, I didn’t think to look (next time…)

That said, if a brewery can’t make the same beer taste the same over different batches (I’m talking to you, Brewdog) perhaps they need to take a good hard look at themselves…

Cigar Inspector

Interesting experiment. Not surprised by the conclusion though, since I also prefer bottled beers (never did a side-by-side comparison though – so there’s no real reason). I’ll be on the lookout for the Flying Dog.


I instinctively prefer bottles, but I can’t think of any particularly good technical reason why there should be a difference. As for Flying Dog, I have a whole Tour-At-Home on the way so keep an eye out 🙂


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