Halving Your Beer and Drinking It
I had a recent inquiry about storing opened cans for brief periods by a reader of The Growler, the craft beer guide that appears in both Ontario and British Columbia editions.
In the December 2021 Ontario edition, I was included in “What Are You Drinking”, the column contributed by Ontario beer authority Jordan St. John. The reader asked about my practice to drink part of a can and stow it in the fridge to drink later. I had another question recently on similar lines, so I’ll explain my practice in this post.
Before cans became popular for craft beer, some people used a wine cork or plastic bottle closure to close the bottle for later. Most of the fizz is retained and the second drinking experience will be similar to the first, over a day or two at any rate but sometimes longer.
Some craft brewers still use bottles, and many beer imports are still bottled, but today cans are the norm for craft beer in Ontario and other places. And cans can’t be re-sealed in the same way as a bottle.
At first I tried wrapping the top in cellophane. This did help to a degree but it won’t work the same way as re-sealing a bottle. In time I just put the opened can back in the fridge, as is, and found over a day or two it lost little more carbonation than a re-sealed bottle.
The typical carbon dioxide level for canned beer is so high that the little you lose storing it opened a day or so hardly makes a difference. If anything, the second pour is often better than the first, more draft-like, as in practice draft beer has less carbonation than canned or bottled, at least that is my experience.
I’ve gone sometimes three or four days doing this, and yes the fizz declines proportionately but not by that much comparatively.
Keeping the beer cold helps to lock in the fizz, the gas is less volatile at colder temperatures. If you put it on the counter, it will lose more fizz, but keeping it warm a day will hardly make it go flat, given again the level of saturation for most cans.
Now, you must adjust for specific cases. Beers using a combination of CO2 and nitrogen, the Guinness-type widget system, will go flatter faster because they are flatter to begin with. But a day or so often doesn’t make much difference again.
Some beers, even all-CO2, are packaged with a naturally low level of carbonation, so they will go flatter faster too if kept a day or two in the fridge.
Since most craft beer is not pasteurized and much of it today is roughly filtered, if you let some gas bleed off as I am saying, and let the can warm to cellar temperature, you can often approximate closely a cask-conditioned beer, or say a zwickelbier (unfiltered lager dispensed often for a restrained carbonation).
Another reason to keep opened bottles or cans in the fridge or on countertop: to blend them later, or with beers you open later. If you mix an almost flat but unspoiled beer with a fizzy, freshly-poured beer you can often get again to a tavern carbonation level, depending also on proportions, temperature, brands, etc.
It’s really intuitive and there are few rules other than what your palate and experience dictate. But looking at it in simplest form, a can kept open a day or two in the fridge will all things equal re-pour with adequate if not better (for palate) carbonation than the first time.
Why not just finish the bottle or can anyway? Sure, I often do. But usually I don’t want to drink more than a beer or two. By opening and storing two or three beers, I can taste more brands on the one occasion, and like The English Beat sang, save it for later.
My next post gives an example of a blend from bottle ends.