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article imageCrack a cold one — Beer cans are 80 years old this week

By Karen Graham     Jan 27, 2015 in Business
For many beer lovers, nothing is more enjoyable on a hot summer's day than reaching into an ice-filled cooler and pulling out a cold one. The "crack" as the can is opened, along with the first icy sip of beer is most satisfying.
For those who don't know it, the humble can that beer, that staple of backyard Bar-B-Ques and the tail-gaters essential beverage, has only been around for 80 years. And this week we raise our voices and cans in salute to its 80th birthday. The first can of beer was sold in Richmond, Virginia on January 24, 1935. Now, decades later, the can is still the preferred vessel of choice for 54 percent of beer lovers, according to the Beer Institute.
Actually, in the early 1900s brewers were tinkering around with using metal cans for their brews, but they ran into problems with creating a container that could withstand the pasteurization process and the pressures of carbonation. Needless to say, the idea was shelved when prohibition went into effect in the U.S. Prohibition lasted from 1922 to 1933, but obviously someone was still thinking about cans.
It wasn't too long before prohibition was to end that the American Can Co. solved the problem with its "Keglined" cans. (A lacquer-like material used in kegs) The heavy-gauge cans were internally sealed to prevent the transfer of the "metallic" taste of the metal can to the brew. They had to be opened using a church-key or screwdriver to punch a hole in the flat top. The cans became known as "flattops."
Brewery Krueger in Newark - New Jersey - United States
Brewery Krueger in Newark - New Jersey - United States
Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, New Jersey was the first brewery to take a chance on using the metal cans, and in November of 1933, Krueger signed a contract with American Can Co. to create the first beer cans to go into production. By the end of November, American Can had produced two thousand of the Krueger special beer containers, and they were filled with 3.2 percent beer, that being the highest alcohol content permitted by federal law. It can be said that Krueger's Special Beer was the first beer can ever produced.
These beers were used in a survey and the results were encouraging to Krueger's. When the survey came back, 91 percent of those surveyed gave the Krueger's Special Beer a "thumbs up." Fully 81 percent said the brew tasted more like draft beer than did bottled beer. Leaning on this success, Krueger went ahead full steam and never looked back.
As an interesting historical note, from 1942 through 1947, pursuant with the orders of the War Production Board Order M-81, the domestic use of metals was prohibited. Beer can production for domestic use was stopped, but not for our military personnel overseas. The beer came in olive drab and black camouflage colors.
The ring-tab was introduced in 1965.
The ring-tab was introduced in 1965.
As the saying goes, "You've come a long way, baby." In the 1950s, Coors was the first brewery to use the aluminum can, and in 1965, the ring-pull was introduced. Probably the best innovation was the water-based lining in the can that got rid of the ever-so-slight metallic tang. And this brings us back to today. There is a growing group of craft beer brewers that are embracing the humble aluminum can, so it is expected that the sale of beer in cans will see an increase in the future.
More about beer cans, 80th anniversary, Richmond, Virginia, Krueger Creme Ale
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