Why is Beer Not Sold in Plastic Bottles? Advanced Mixology

Beer is either sold in bottles, cans, or from the tap. Obviously, the tap is not the best choice for drinking beer when going on picnics and other outdoor events. PET plastic bottles seem to be the new norm when packing beverages on the go, so why has beer not joined the bandwagon called packing in plastic bottles? Can you imagine beer in plastic bottle? Is there more to PET bottles than we know of?

Why Beer is not sold in Plastic PET Bottles ?

1. Taste

Beer tends to go flat after a time since the plastic commonly used in bottling soda and other beverages is a bit porous. Glass and aluminum cans, on the other hand, are almost impermeable, giving the beer the seal it needs to make it viable for longer. Glass and aluminum (coated with a polymer coating that separates the beer from the aluminum) do not have an off-taste or off-odor that may affect the quality and flavor of the beer.

2. Leaching Chemicals

Plastic bottles, especially PET bottles, contain antimony that can leach into the drinks in the plastic bottle. Antimony, a metalloid mistaken for lead when it was first discovered, can cause irritation of the respiratory passages, palpitation, and gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers. It can also cause cancer. Since beer can be exposed to extreme temperatures during delivery and storage, the antimony can be activated, resulting in adverse effects that we do not know of. 

Aside from antimony, bromine can also leach into PET bottles. Bromine can cause irritation of the skin, mucous membranes, and tissues but exposure to bromine and its derivatives can cause cancer

3. Pasteurization

Unlike glass bottles and aluminum cans, PET bottles cannot be pasteurized since they are not heat-resistant and can warp with heat. If you want to go on with the pasteurization process, you might need more heat-resistant plastics. This, however, is not favorable for the company or the customer since the higher price needed to produce heat-resistant plastic bottles will have to be absorbed by the company or passed on to the customer. On the other hand, the companies cannot forego pasteurization since it can cause serious problems among the consumers. That said, glass bottles and aluminum cans drive a hard bargain that PET bottles cannot afford. 

4. Environmental Issues

We know that the amber color of the beer protects the beer from skunking. Skunking happens when the beer is exposed to UV light. The signature green of Heineken and the more generic amber of most beer bottles may pose a threat to the current recycling practices. Colored bottles either have to be recycled together instead of being recycled together with other colorless plastic PET bottles that are more popular among soft drinks and other beverage companies. 

5. Appearance

How would you perceive a guy drinking beer from a clear plastic PET bottle? While it does have the essential carbonation of soft drinks, soft drinks are usually seen as juvenile, thus “soft” drinks. Beer, on that note, bottled in a PET bottle makes it more friendly and youthful (?) looking. For the guy who wants to hold on to the adulting view, a PET bottle may be a drawback.

Heineken’s Attempt at Plastic Bottles

During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Heineken, the official alcohol sponsor of the games sold out over a million bottles of beer, using plastic PET bottles for the first time! Obviously, the choice was for security purposes; giving breakable bottles to rowdy crowds after a heavily contested game can spell disaster. In the UK, it is mandatory to serve drinks in plastic bottles   The company said it was a move to support their stand in the environmental issues and since then had been more proactive in moving to that direction. However, not everyone is enthusiastic about this move.  

As of June 2020, the quest for that reliable plastic bottle for Heineken is still on. Looks like they would have to spend more time perfecting it, though.

For the meantime, the trusty amber bottle is still the go-to of breweries for selling their beers. Aluminum cans come in close too. 

Conclusion

Beer is part of the culture of man and while many approve of wine or whiskey. In fact, beer only falls slightly behind wine as the most popular type of drinks of all time. As such, it is important to bottle it in a vessel that will hold it for plenty of time before it is consumed. 

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