Beer in plastic bottles — it’s coming

Late last year Byron Bay Brewery released its Premium Ale in PET plastic bottles – targeted at NSW venues now obliged by law to keep glass out of the hands of violent drunks. But protecting people from drunks and drunks from themselves is only one motive in the growing search for glass alternatives.

While public safety concerns drove Foster’s use of PET for wines sold at the Melbourne Cup in recent years, its larger scale adoption for exports of Wolf Blass wines in PET to Canada resulted primarily from Canada’s environmental laws.

Similarly, environmental concerns drove Lion Nathan’s release of three PET-packaged Mitchelton wines in Europe in late 2009.

In our carbon-conscious times, it’s hard to see how we can ultimately resist packaging with one-seventh the weight of glass. The savings, and presumably lower emissions, of handling and shipping promise to be enormous.

We’ve embraced plastic almost universally for soft drink and mineral water. But consumer acceptance of wine and beer in plastic depends on the product being in good condition. And it seems that earlier problems of gas permeability (air getting in, carbon dioxide getting out) have been overcome, for short-term storage anyway, by the development of multi-layer PET containers.

Currently beer in PET has a shelf life of about six months – compared to nine or ten months in glass. It may be a while before PET becomes mainstream, but the shift is underway.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010