What Is Draft Beer? How It Differs From Its Bottled Counterparts

glass of beer and a bottle

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We all love the taste of a freshly poured bar beer, but precisely what is draft beer? And why do so many people think it is superior to bottled beer? Luckily, in this article, we will answer all your questions and more. Come check it out!

If you go down to your local neighborhood bar and order a draft beer from the bartender, then you might notice that it tastes a little different than the canned or bottled beer you drink at home. You are not the only one that sees this — in many cases, people find draft beer provides a superior taste and flavor. 

So what is draft beer exactly? Draft beer is any beer that the manufacturer stores in a cask or keg which is retrieved using a gas or vacuum mechanism. 

So now that we know the answer to the question ‘what is draft beer?’, Let us take a closer look at how the process affects the beer itself. As we mentioned earlier, a draft beer comes with a much more distinct taste than its bottled counterparts. So why is that? Why do so many people think draft beer tastes better?

Why Does Draft Beer Taste Different From Bottled Beer?

Many people report that the draft beer they drink comes with a different mouth feel than when they drink it in a can. So what accounts for this difference in taste? There are three main reasons why beer drinkers usually prefer draft brews over the bottled versions. 

Most of the Time Draft Beer Is More Fresher

Like fresh fruits and vegetables, when you drink beer, ideally you want it a close to when it is finished brewing as possible. This delivery method will give you the freshest tasting flavors that pack the biggest punch. 

Once a bar taps a keg, it will only remain fresh for around two days. As such, the bar must order more of them frequently. This fact means that the ones coming in are hot of the press so to speak. 

If you drink at a quality bar, then the draft tap options available should be much fresher than the can or bottle options. The odds are that if a place of business has a type of beer on tap, then they expect that they will go through a lot of it. As such, they will need to replace the keg often — especially if the place is busy.

If people are going steadily through the draft beer, then you can probably assume that the beer you drink is incredibly fresh. Fresh beer can make all of the difference in terms of taste and robustness — especially if you enjoy drinking a type of beer like an Indian Pale Ale. 

These strong types of flavors lose a lot of their potency over time. This reason is why you find most IPA and similar styles of beers in bottles unless the bar specializes in them. All of this to say, if you see the beer you want of draft, then try it and see if you can taste any difference in the freshness. 

Kegs and Casks Protect Against Both Light and Temperature 

Nothing will kill a good beer faster than direct sunlight. As such, a bar owner must make sure that they store any glass bottles in a dark room with as little natural light as possible. Still, even with every precaution there is always bound to be some sun leakage — at least during transportation. 

Sunlight causes the beer to skunk up much quicker than it usually would. This reason is why many brewers utilize kegs. Kegs are superior transportation devices when moving beer. 

Unlike glass, which lets light in, kegs keep all sunlight out, which extends the overall shelf life of the product. Casks also help keep the beer at a consistently cold temperature. Consistency is critical during this storing process since it also exposes the beer to less oxygen. 

Draft Setups Place a More Consistent Pressure On the Beer

Every different type of beer requires an ideal temperature and pressure point for serving. Regulating these factors with bottles is nearly impossible. But taps allow the bar owners to customize the amount of pressure placed on each different keg.

So what does this change in pressure actually do? Well, it changes the overall mouthfeel of the beer. When we talk about mouthfeel, we mean the texture of the beer — the thickness and the number of bubbles. When drinking your favorite beer on tap, you may notice a more significant amount of bubbles.

And, since this pressure remains constant during the serving process, you always get a beer with a lot more kick than you could ever get out of a bottle or can. However, if you do not see a beer on the draft list, do not feel like you need to get one just because it is draft. 

When Can Draft Beer Taste Bad?

Unfortunately, draft beer does not always necessarily mean higher quality beer. Indeed, if you find yourself in a particularly run-down looking dive bar, then you may want to stick to bottles or cans. A dirty tap system can affect the taste of your beer giving it a metallically or similar off taste. 

What is worse, there is no way you can know that the draft system is dirty until after you order the product and by then it is too late. However, you can look for warning signs. Telltale signs of a bar with a dirty draft system include dark glasses and few customers. 

You can usually also tell whether a bar actually cares about their beer by talking to the owner or bartender about their selection. Their response and enthusiasm (or lack thereof) should give you a pretty good indication of how much they care about maintaining a sanitary drinking environment. 

Other things, like a bad pouring job, too much pressure on the beer tap and boring beers might also account for bad experiences. Make sure the bar you drink it comes with a good crew of experts — not half-trained waiters. 

If you had a bad experience drinking draft beer, then the problem probably lies in a neglected draft system or incredibly old beer. But do not let one bad experience ruin what could be a great beer. Just choose the next bar you drink at a little more carefully. 

What Does A Can Mean When It Says Draught Beer?

Do not be confused if you see a can that says draught beer. All that this means is that the box comes with a widget inside. Like a draft tap, a widget forces gas into the beer which gives it a creamier head when you drink it. So, while these cans might not taste like they are right from the tap, they do come close.

What Are Some Other Reasons Draft Beer Is Good?

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that directly affect the taste of draft beer, like pressure and temperature. However, other things also play into a better drinking experience. For example, every time you drink a draft beer, it will be out of an open cup. 

Open cups, as opposed to bottles, work much better at bringing the full flavor to your palate. This increase in flavor is because you utilize your sense of smell as well as your sense of taste. Since these two senses are tightly linked, it increases the overall amount of flavor. When you do not drink from a bottle, you can smell your drink and taste it at the same time. 

Another reason that draft beer is significant that not many people think about is the fact that it is better for the environment. Think about all the glass and aluminum you would produce drinking one keg worth of beer. As such, barrels save a ton a material waste that more likely than not would end up in the landfill. 

Not only do they produce less waste, but they also weigh a great deal less than their glass counterparts. As such, this cuts back significantly on transportation cost since it opens up more room for more beer. More chamber means more efficient transportation which means a smaller carbon footprint left on the world. 

Kegs are also recyclable, and since they use a particular type a facility, they are much more likely to actually get recycled. On the flipside, only around ten percent of bottles and can actually get recycled — even when you place them in the recycling. As you can see, draft beer is not only good for tasting. 

We hope this article helped you find the answer to the question ‘what is draft beer?’. We also hope it taught you some information about why draft beer tastes differently and some tips for finding a good, clean bar. Make sure you always drink responsibly and see a safe ride home if you do decide to go out and drink!

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