While the trend is to serve craft beer “fresh” (in the locavore sense of the word), when it comes to everyday drinking, is tap or bottled beer better? Things to consider with tap: dirty draft lines can emit dishwater flavors. Old beer can go stale, and calibrating the proper amount of carbonation is critical. Meanwhile, bottles are subject to heat, which can cause beer to have a skunky aroma. To solve the eternal tap-vs.-bottle quandary, we recruited two cicerones, Sayre Piotrkowski of St. Vincent and Nicole Erny, smuggled bottles of mainstream beers into three Mission bars that had the same beer on tap, and surreptitiously poured our own second beer for comparison.
Bar #1: Giordano Bros
Beer: Stella Artois
Tap: Flat, watery, and flaccid, which is not good. “It’s a ‘premium lager,’” deadpanned Erny. “Carbonation is one of the main flavor attributes.”
Bottle (brown): Brighter and more refreshing, but slightly skunked from being light-struck.
Winner: Tie. The tap Stella was insipid, but the bottle was slightly skunked. Drink neither.
Bar #2: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
Beer: Trumer Pils
Tap: Pronounced “good.” Crisp and properly carbonated, with brightly popping flavors. “I’m very pleasantly surprised,” said Piotrkowski.
Bottle (green): Light-struck, giving off a rubbery smell and the aroma of dimethyl sulfide (dMS), which smells like creamed corn. “It’s not scientifically proven, but in my experience a light-struck bottle can have a tendency to push forward the aroma of dMS,” said Erny.
Winner: Tap, convincingly.
Bar #3: Latin American Club
Beer: Anchor Steam
Tap: Flat, murky tasting, and watery. Completely dull.
Bottle (brown): “Nice, clean, distinct layers of flavor,” said Erny.
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