It’s a common dilemma. You’re perusing the brews of your local convenience stores, gas stations, or grocery store, and you just want to find the best value for a can of beer from the selection at hand.
But here’s the thing. The shelves are stacked with various size containers with prices all over the map.
Are you expected to do mental gymnastics and calculate the amount of beer per fluid ounces every time you want to get the best deal?
Let’s go through the various sizes beer drinkers will encounter so you will know how to proceed next time. It will save you the trouble of figuring out how to ask someone about the sizes of their cans without getting slapped.
How Big is a Can of Beer (in General)?
For those who simply want the most common answer and nothing else, here it is. The most common beer can size is 12 oz. It is typically 2.6 inches in diameter and 4.83 inches tall.
But seriously, as we just discussed, there are a lot of possible variations. So you might as well crack open that cold one and keep reading…
The Many Different Sizes of Aluminum Cans
Glass bottles of beer are a good portion of the market share sold and there’s a standard beer bottle size of 12 oz., at least in the United States. So beer lovers looking to buy glass containers can easily compare prices given the consistency in sizing.
But what about cans? Is there a standard size so you can effectively compare?
The more affordable big beer brands like Coors Light and Miller Lite all the way up to pricier stronger beers like imperial stouts made by craft brewers are now mostly sold in cans. But even the same brand can offer multiple sizes. The ounces of beer seem to vary quite a bit more than its glass counterparts.
So, let’s start small and work our way up.
The Nip Can
The smallest can you’ll see on the market is called the “nip can,” at 8.4 fl oz. Finding it is a big “if” though, as they’re pretty rare. The only one I’ve seen in stores is 21st Amendment’s barley wines.
The Standard Can
The most standard can size is the next size up at 12 oz. Much like the longneck bottle, this is the most common size can sold in stores. For the customer’s sake, it’s no coincidence the most common beer packaging holds the same amount of ounces as popular soft drinks.
This 12 oz. size is a popular industry choice because it’s easily stackable for transporting purposes. It’s also more customizable in terms of packaging them together. For instance, it’s easy for manufacturers to group this size can in packs of 6, 12, 15, 18, 24 and 30. This flexibility is key for small brewers looking to distribute batches that make the most sense for certain kinds of brews.
The Tall Boy
The next size up is 16 oz. At 5 feet 11 inches, I would like to be called a tall boy, but that moniker has already been taken by this size of beer can. The tall boy is typically sold in packs of 4. For those who prefer pints of beer, the quantity served at a bar, this tall can is preferable and fairly common to buy.
The Stovepipe & Crowler
The next two larger sizes are rarer but are actually growing in sales in the last few years. The “stovepipe” sits at 19.2 oz. and actually experienced the largest growth of packaged sales from 2015 to 2017.
And then there’s the “crowler” at a whopping 32 oz. Combining “can” and “growler,” it was created by Oskar Blues and is growing more popular.
Beer Bottles vs. Cans of Beer
It’s also worth talking about the different beer bottle sizes so you have a basis for comparison. Gotta get the best value for your buck, right?
The two standard bottle sizes are the longneck and stubby, otherwise known as steinie. These all fall under the category of 12oz bottles.
The difference between the stubby and longneck, as you probably guess based on their names, is their shapes. The stubby is short and wide and actually harkens back to the vintage style from the 1930s. You probably recognize the longneck as being more prevalent, as it has the most sales from being the industry standard bottle (ISB).
These bottles can come in different colors, such as clear, green, and brown. There is some debate among craft breweries what the effects the color of the bottle has on the beer.
Does Beer Taste Better From a Bottle or Can?
This is a bit of a complicated answer. Studies have shown that when beer drinkers sip the same beer out of a bottle, and then a can, they pick the bottle as the source that tasted better.
However, when given a blind taste test, customers find no difference in taste. This suggests that glass is perceived to be a more premium material than aluminum. Their mind then tricks them into believing the beer within it contains a higher quality beer-guzzling experience.
It’s like a drunken placebo effect.
Beer makers, however, have reasons to disagree with the misplaced worshiping of the North American Longneck…
The Aluminum Renaissance
Traditionally, beer in aluminum cans was seen as the cheap, watered-down option. But in more recent years, thanks to the rise of the craft brewery, aluminum cans of many sizes have become the preferable vessel to sell the highest quality new beer.
As it turns out, there are several advantages to mass-producing beer with aluminum cans.
From a consumer’s standpoint, aluminum cans are more convenient to carry. Their portable nature is why you’re seeing other kinds of alcoholic drinks, like hard seltzer and other kinds of sparkling beverages stored in the aluminum can.
Aluminum is also safer than glass. This is why when attending sporting events you only ever see cans being distributed by the vendors.
From the brewer’s point of view, the can’s larger surface area means more artistic packaging. Compared to the standard beer label on a glass bottle, the can’s extra usable space allows for artistic design to help the product stand out better on a shelf (and in some cases even become collector’s items).
Most importantly, however, especially to drinkers of craft beer is the beer’s quality through the storage process. The general consensus is that light and oxidation can actually make beer age faster. Aluminum cans protect their beer from these elements.
Does Size Really Matter?
To me, size only matters as it relates to value (at least where beer is involved). If I don’t care what I’m drinking that night, I’ll pick whatever gives me the most beer at the best price.
But even more than size or beer can vs. bottle, it’s taste that matters. If my favorite beer comes in a can, I’m gonna buy a can. If it comes in a bottle, guess what? I’m gonna buy a bottle. If it’s $0.37 more to get a tastier beer, screw my budget!
So if a full-size keg or draft beer from a tap isn’t nearby, go to any store selling beer and get yourself a cold can (or bottle) of your favorite beer.
Whatever size will do. Hiccup.
I love food, beer, mixology, travel, and writing. Why not combine all those things right here in this blog? You can find me in foodie town Los Angeles, where I am usually enjoying some new recommended restaurants with some “taste buds” (friends who enjoy food too).