Beer Nostalgia: 76 Years of Canned Beer

Posted by BeerMaven | Beer Storage, Best Beers | Posted on February 28th

What would the world be without canned beer? What kind of society would it be if people continued to carry around heavy bottles of brew?

Imagine if canned beer was never invented in the United States. Breweries would have difficulty shipping their merchandise from one place to another, as convenience stores and liquor shops find a way to stack the products without risking the breakage of the glass bottles. Because glass is more expensive, Americans who love suds would have to shell out more of their hard-earned money to enjoy their favorite alcoholic beverage. Carrying the purchased goods is also more problematic, since glass bottles full of beer is heavier. Plus, consumers would still be paying a deposit and returning the bottles for a refund.

One need not imagine those times because the arrival of canned beer has changed the history of brew forever. 76 years ago, on January 24, 1935, the first canned beer went on sale in Richmond, Virginia. Gottfried Krueger Brewery did it first, and 37 breweries followed suit by the end of 1935.

Gottfried Krueger Brewery cannot take all the credit for such innovation, though. The idea of canned beer belonged to American Can Co. After an unsuccessful start, American Can finally got the canning right by coating the inside of the can the same way as a keg. Krueger almost did not enjoy the success that came with canned beer. The idea pitched by American Can initially did not make the brewery’s executives sit up and take notice, that is until the canning company offered to provide the equipment for free. As they say, the rest is history. The American buying public (and beer drinking community, to be specific) loved it.

Of course, the first canned beer is nothing like the canned suds available now. Back in the day, beer cans were made from heavy-gauge steel and had flat tops. The only way to open a can is to punch a hole on the top with the sharp end of a church-key style opener. Aluminum beer cans were only introduced in 1958.

Canned beer has proven to be the better alternative to bottled beer. Sure, beer is beer, but the convenience the container offers allows the consumer to enjoy the beverage better. Compared to bottles, cans are lighter and more inexpensive. They are also a breeze to stack and ship.

Moreover, cans do more good to beer than bottles. What are the usual foes of suds? They are heat, light and oxygen. All these factors negatively affect the quality of the beer. The transparency of glass enables these three to alter the beer, while the opacity of the can prevents it. Now you do not have to wonder why beer bottles are mostly colored dark brown.

Beer lovers, bring out your calendars and mark the date canned beer was born in the United States. With all the benefits canned beer provides, 2011 is a year worth celebrating…especially with a can or two of beer.

2 Responses to “Beer Nostalgia: 76 Years of Canned Beer”

  1. BeerLover says:

    Perhaps you should try drinking some good beer. Canned beer tastes like aluminum….. and no doubt, absorbs some of the toxins that aluminum, as a soft metal, leaches out. Canned beer…UGH!

  2. PakTech says:

    Great article! As you mentioned, there are benefits of canned beer. And contrary to what the last commenter has said, many craft and micro brewers are release fantastic brews in cans. Canned beer is no longer just for the American loggers. My company works with craft brewers all throughout the US that are using cans and, if you’re interested, check out our can carriers on the PakTech website. Cheers!

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