Shotgunning a beer is a fun party trick, and it’s a great way to consume a lot of beer very quickly. However, doing it incorrectly can result in injury or choking. It’s important to understand the mechanics of shotgunning, as well as the science behind it, so you can shotgun like a pro and impress your friends at your next event.
What is shotgunning?
Shotgunning a beer is a method of consuming a beer very, very quickly. This is done by stabbing a hole in the side of the beer can and sucking back the contents through the hole. Shotgunning is usually a competition, where two people stab their beer cans simultaneously to see who can consume their beer faster.
The importance of the beer can in shotgunning
Shotgunning can only be done with a beer can because it is easy to stab and won’t shatter like glass. Beer cans have only been around for about 85 years. After Prohibition ended in 1933, brewers were looking for a cheaper packaging alternative to glass bottles. A company called American Can have been experimenting with selling beer in cans. Still, they had difficulty figuring out how to temper the carbonation so the cans wouldn’t explode under pressure. Eventually, they realized they had to line the steel cans with the same lacquer-like material they used to line kegs to keep them intact.
American Can Co. partnered with Gottfried Krueger Brewery, and together, they produced the first-ever canned beer in 1935. Canned beer was an instant hit: it was easier to package and store for manufacturers, and consumers thought it tasted closer to draft beer than bottles did. Plus, the beer was less likely to be “skunked” since light cannot penetrate beer cans like it can bottles.
Canned beers have faded in and out of popularity over the years. Still, craft breweries have contributed to making a comeback. Beer can sales rose from 60% in 2019 to 67% in 2020.
Beer cans are vital to the mechanics of shotgunning. The uniquely pressurized packaging allows the beer to flow quickly once a hole is created. Without beer cans, shotgunning would be impossible.
How to shotgun a beer
Shotgunning a beer is fairly simple. But it takes a little bit of practice to get it right. Shotgunning incorrectly can result in many spilled beer in the best-case scenario and choking in the worst.
To shotgun, all you’ll need is a sharp object, such as keys, a knife, a dart, a corkscrew, and a can of beer.
Begin by holding your beer horizontally. If you try to stab the hole while holding your can vertically, it will spray everywhere and make a huge mess. Poke a hole in the side of the can with your sharp object. It’s best to poke the hole near the bottom of the can, farther away from the actual opening.
Put your mouth to the hole you poked, turn the beer can vertically, and open the beer “traditionally” with the tab on top of the can. This will force the beer to quickly drain into your mouth without having to chug it.
The science behind shotgunning
You may be wondering what it is about stabbing a hole into a can of beer that makes it drain so quickly. Well, shotgunning takes advantage of the basic principles of physics to force the beer to drain quickly.
Liquid can only drain if there is air to replace the liquid. By stabbing a hole in the bottom of the beer can, you’re allowing air to seep in. Once you open up the top, air rushes into the can, which forces the beer out through the hole at the bottom, and into your mouth. When your mouth is covering the only entrance to the beer can, you’re essentially creating a vacuum, which slows the flow of liquid. Once you add another hole to the can, air can flow freely, which forces the beer out of the can and into your mouth.
Another scientific element at play here is pressure. Beer cans are pressurized, which allows your beer to stay fizzy and carbonated. Once you punch a hole in something pressurized, the contents are expelled quickly as air rushes in to create equilibrium. Learning the science behind shotgunning helps you understand what is actually happening when you punch a hole in your beer can, so you can avoid spills and shotgun safely.
What is the purpose of shotgunning?
Now that you know how to shotgun and the science behind the process, you may be wondering: what’s the point? Well, there are a few different reasons people enjoy shotgunning beers. The first is the aspect of competition and gameplay. Shotgunning is usually performed as a competition to see who can finish the liquid in their can first. It’s fun for the same reason other drinking games are fun: a little healthy competition between friends.
Shotgunning gets beer into your mouth and down your throat extremely quickly, which is desirable for several reasons. Shotgunning is often done with cheap, lower-quality beer. Shotgunning allows the drinker to consume the beer quickly without having to sip on it all night.
The main reason people shotgun beer is to accelerate the speed at which they feel intoxicated. The more quickly you consume alcoholic beverages, the longer it takes your body to metabolize them, and you feel drunker much more quickly. This is why people take shots of hard liquor. We recommend only shotgunning light beers, so you stay in control and not get too drunk too fast.
What are the best beers to shotgun?
Technically you can shotgun any beer that comes in a can. However, we wouldn’t recommend trying it with anything too dark or heavy. Always shotgun a light beer, especially if you’re new to drinking, as shotgunning a beer with a high ABV can lead to becoming far too intoxicated.
Flavor-wise, you want a beer that’s fairly light-bodied and drinkable. We wouldn’t recommend shotgunning rich, creamy beers, as they’re much more difficult to drink quickly. It’s also not a great idea to shotgun expensive craft brews, as these beers are designed to be sipped and enjoyed, and shooting them is a waste of money.
We’ve compiled a list of beers that work wonderfully for shotgunning below.
If you’ve ever been to a frat party, you’ve definitely had Natural Light, or Natty Light, before. It’s an inexpensive light lager that is incredibly popular at parties. Natural Light is very balanced and light-bodied, making it refreshing and very easy to drink. At 4.2% ABV, it’s a safe choice for shotgunning as well.
Another American-style light lager, Coors Light, is crisp, clean, and refreshing. It is light in body, with clean malt notes and low bitterness. Coors Light is made with pure water, lager yeast, two-row barley malt, and four different hop varieties. It is cold lagered, cold-filtered, and cold packaged to create an incredibly refreshing, easy-drinking beer. It is 4.2% ABV, perfect for shotgunning.
Bud Light is the most popular and best-selling beer in the United States, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a can at any party or event. Bud Light is a premium light lager brewed with a blend of premium aroma hop varieties and a combination of barley malts and rice. Bud Light is light-bodied, fresh, and clean, with a delicate hop aroma, gentle malt sweetness, and a crisp finish. Bud Light is 4.2% ABV and a great choice for shotgunning.
Miller Lite is an American-style pilsner beer that is smooth, light, and refreshing. It is light to medium in body, with a hop-forward flavor, solid malt character, and a clean finish. It’s a really great party beer, as it’s a definite crowd-pleaser. It’s easy to drink, and at 4.2% ABV, it’s easy to shotgun as well.
Shotgunning a beer is a fun way to impress your friends and consume a beer very quickly. Shotgunning may look complicated, but it’s fairly easy once you understand the mechanics and science behind it. Make sure when you shotgun, you’re choosing a light beer with a low ABV, so you don’t get too intoxicated too quickly. Drinking responsibly is incredibly important to having fun.
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