Why does draft beer taste better?

Why Does Draft Beer Taste Better? 4 Surprising Reasons Revealed

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There’s nothing quite like enjoying a nice, cold pint of draft beer at your local pub. Just thinking about it makes me hear the satisfying “ahh” sound as the first sip is taken. Have you ever wondered, “Why does draft beer taste better?” Well, even if you haven’t, I’m going to share with you the four key reasons why many beer enthusiasts, myself included, believe that draft beer is superior.

The History of Draft Beer

The history of draft beer, or “draught” beer as it is commonly spelt in British English (I’m going to stick with spelling it “draft” even though I’m English), is an interesting tale of innovation and evolution that spans several centuries. The term “draft” refers to serving beer from a cask or keg rather than a bottle or can.

The tradition of draft beer began to take shape in medieval Europe. Taverns, inns, and pubs became central gathering places where locals could enjoy freshly brewed beer straight from wooden barrels. 

Technological Advances & the Industrial Revolution

A significant advancement came with the invention of the beer engine in the early 17th Century. This device, invented by Dutch inventor John Lofting, was a hand pump used to extract beer from a cask without exposing the remaining beer to air, thus preventing spoilage. The beer engine revolutionised the serving of beer in public houses across Britain, allowing landlords to serve fresh beer to the likes of me and you from casks stored in the cellar.

The Industrial Revolution brought further changes to the draft beer landscape. With the advent of steam power and industrial manufacturing, it became possible to produce metal kegs that were stronger and more durable than wooden casks. Metal kegs made transporting beer over longer distances easier without the risk of spoilage.

Modernisation in the 20th Century

Significant developments in the 20th Century shaped the modern draft beer system. The introduction of refrigeration technology allowed for better control of the beer’s temperature, enhancing its quality and lifespan. Additionally, developing carbon dioxide (CO2) cylinders for pressurising kegs improved the consistency of the beer’s carbonation and taste.

One of the more recent innovations in draft beer technology is using nitrogen. Popularised by brands like Guinness, brewers use nitrogen to pressurise kegs instead of or in addition to carbon dioxide. Nitrogen results in a smoother, creamier beer with a distinctive thick head, enhancing the overall drinking experience.

1. Draft Beer is Often More Fresh

Draft beer is often perceived as fresher than bottled or canned beer due to several factors related to its distribution, storage, and serving methods. These elements play crucial roles in maintaining the beer’s quality and freshness from the brewery to the glass.

Limited Exposure to Light and Oxygen

metal Kegs
Keeping Draft Beer Fresh is Key!

Draft Beer: Storing beer in kegs means it is less exposed to light and oxygen, which can cause the beer to spoil. Kegs are well-sealed and pressurised with inert gases, protecting the beer from spoilage.

Bottled and Canned Beer: Bottles, unless completely opaque, can allow some light to enter, potentially leading to spoilage. Although cans block out light completely, both cans and bottles risk slight oxygen exposure, particularly if not perfectly sealed.

Refrigeration and Temperature Control

Draft Beer: Kegs are usually stored in refrigerated environments and are often chilled until serving. Consistent refrigeration preserves the beer’s flavour by slowing down chemical reactions that lead to ageing and inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

Bottled and Canned Beer: While also stored cold, bottles and cans may be subjected to more varied temperatures during transport, stores, or homes, accelerating ageing and flavour degradation.

Turnover and Consumption

Draft Beer: Typically, draft beer is consumed at locations with higher turnover, like pubs and restaurants, ensuring that the beer is fresher due to rapid consumption. This high turnover means that kegs are emptied quickly and are less likely to sit for long periods, which might affect the beer’s taste.

Bottled and Canned Beer: Depending on the distribution and sales cycle, these may remain on shelves for extended periods. A longer shelf life increases the risk of the beer being exposed to conditions that can affect its freshness.

Quality Control and Maintenance

Draft Beer: The quality of draft beer can also depend heavily on maintaining the draft system, including regular cleaning of lines, taps, and other equipment. A well-maintained draft system helps prevent bacteria and yeast buildup, which can spoil the flavour.

Bottled and Canned Beer: While quality control is strict, once the beer is sealed, it is less susceptible to contamination. However, improper handling and storage can still lead to quality degradation.

Distribution Speed and Local Brewing

Draft Beer: Draft beer is often produced and consumed locally, which shortens the distribution chain. This local brewing and consumption mean the beer needs less time to travel from the brewery to the consumer, helping maintain its freshness and unique local flavour, which sets it apart from bottled or canned beer.

Bottled and Canned Beer: These are more likely to be produced in centralised locations and distributed over larger areas, potentially extending the time between production and consumption.

2. Draft Beer has Superior Carbonation

The carbonation of beer significantly influences its sensory attributes, including taste, aroma, and mouthfeel. The method and degree of carbonation, as well as how it is maintained up to the point of serving, can be significant factors in why many consider draft beer superior to bottled or canned beer.

Control Over Carbonation Levels

Draft Beer: Draft systems provide precise control over carbonation by regulating CO2 and nitrogen pressure. This control allows different types of beer to be carbonated according to their ideal profiles, enhancing their specific characteristics. The assurance of this control ensures that every pour maintains the beer’s intended effervescence, instilling confidence in the quality of the drink.

Bottled/Canned Beer: The carbonation of bottled and canned beer is set at the brewery, with minimal flexibility for adjustment once it’s packaged. If the seal is compromised, it can affect the beer’s carbonation and quality.

Why Does Draft Beer Taste Better? Carbonation Control
Why Does Draft Beer Taste Better? Carbonation Control!

Consistency in Every Pour

Draft Beer: The draft system ensures that each pour has consistent carbonation. This consistency is crucial for commercial settings where the expectation is that every pint poured will taste the same as the last.

Bottled/Canned Beer: Each bottle or can is an individual serving, and variations in storage conditions, handling, and age can lead to inconsistencies in carbonation between units, even within the same batch.

3. Draft Beer has a Better Serving Temperature

The temperature at which beer is served is crucial in influencing its flavour, aroma, and overall enjoyment, and this is a significant factor in why many consider draft beer superior to bottled or canned options.

Consistency in Serving Temperature

Draft Beer: Draft systems use advanced cooling technologies to maintain beer at the ideal temperature from the keg to the tap, ensuring pubs serve each pint at the perfect temperature for its style.

Bottled/Canned Beer: Once you take bottles and cans from the fridge, the temperature can rise quickly, affecting the beer’s taste. Home storage may not always be ideal, resulting in less-than-optimal flavour experiences.

Impact on Taste and Aroma

Draft Beer: The control over temperature in Draft systems allows each beer style to be served in a way that enhances its unique characteristics. For example, complex ales’ subtle flavours are more discernible when served at slightly warmer temperatures, which draft systems can reliably provide.

Bottled/Canned Beer: Bottled and canned beers might not always be consumed at their ideal temperatures, leading to suppressed flavours and aromas. For example, if a stout is too cold, its rich maltiness and complex undertones will be less noticeable.

4. Draft Beer Usually Comes with a Better Atmosphere and Presentation

The atmosphere and presentation of beer are significant factors in the overall enjoyment and perception of quality, particularly when comparing draft beer to bottled or canned beer. These aspects can significantly influence consumer preferences and are key reasons many people often find draft beer more appealing.

Atmosphere in the Context of Draft Beer

A busy pub
No Place Like A Pub!

People typically consume draft beer in social settings such as pubs, bars, or breweries, where the atmosphere is part of the experience. The ambience of these places—often lively, communal, and filled with character—adds to the enjoyment of drinking beer. These settings facilitate interactions with others, making beer drinking a shared social experience.

Many draft beer venues also offer visibility to the brewing process or provide insights into the origins and stories behind different beers. This connection can enhance the consumer’s appreciation and enjoyment, making the beer taste subjectively better because of the richer context and engagement.

Presentation and Its Impact on Draft Beer

Draft Beer is often served in specially designed glasses that enhance the visual appeal and are chosen to accentuate the characteristics of specific beer styles (e.g., pilsner glasses, tulip glasses, stout glasses). Proper glassware can improve the release of aromatics, showcase the beer’s colour and clarity, and maintain the head better, enhancing both the aesthetic and sensory experience.

Additionally, the bar staff pouring beer is a ritual that adds to the theatre and anticipation of the drinking experience. The skill with which a bartender handles the tap controls the pour, and serves the beer with just the right amount of foam on top can significantly enhance the perceived quality and taste of the beer.


Many view draft beer as superior to bottled or canned beer due to several factors. Draft beer systems ensure precise control over carbonation and temperature, maintaining the beer’s ideal sensory profile from pour to pint. Kegs protect the beer from light and oxygen, preserving freshness and flavour. The high turnover in pubs and bars also supports draft beer’s freshness. Additionally, the atmosphere and presentation associated with draft beer, from the social ambience of pubs to the ritualistic pouring and specialised glassware, enhance the overall drinking experience, making each sip not just a taste but an event.


Is Draft Beer Healthier?

Draft beer isn’t inherently healthier than bottled or canned beer; health differences depend on the specific beer type and ingredients, not the dispensing method.

What Are Two Reasons Why draft beer might not taste right?

Dirty lines or equipment and improper storage or serving temperatures are two reasons why draught beer might not taste right.

How long does draft beer last?

Unopened, a keg of draught beer can last 3-6 months refrigerated. Once tapped, it should be consumed within 1-2 weeks to maintain optimal freshness.

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