According to the Brewery Collectibles Club of America, the first beer can was developed in 1933. The Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, NJ sold Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale in 1935.
First Beer Can in 1933
The first beer can was developed in 1933 by American Can, for Gottfried Krueger’s Brewing Company. By the time it hit shelves in 1935, the benefits were already obvious. The cans were lighter than glass bottles and less likely to break. They weren’t totally light, though. The flat-top cans that had to be opened with a churchkey weighed about four ounces each. They were originally made out of tin, then steel, then aluminum in 1958. It didn’t take long for the development of the small New Jersey brewers to gain national attention. Pabst, out of Milwaukee, jumped on board and started producing their blue ribbon-winning beer in cans in 1935 as well.
Cone Top Cans in 1935
The idea of packaging beer in cans was fine and dandy, but not possible for all breweries — especially smaller ones that didn’t have the money to revamp their bottle lines for the new technology. This is where the cone top came in. This design allowed brewers to use their bottle and packaging lines to fill cans and seal them with bottle caps. According to the Brewery Collectibles Club of America, there were four cone styles: low profile, high profile, J-spout, and container. Though this style was mainly used by smaller breweries, hence why we don’t see many in vintage and antique shops, Schlitz used this design for a while.
Easy-open Cans in 1962
After a lull in can production during World War II, canned beer came sweeping back into the mainstream. With more beer brands sticking to canning as opposed to bottling, the need for versatile packaging was less important, and cone-top cans started fading out. The next iteration of canning started in Pittsburgh, home of aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. Iron City Beer was the first to use the easy-open can with a pull tab. Not one to sleep on beer trends, Schlitz adopted this style can as well, tweaking it a little with the first finger loop.
Beer Can Sales in 1969
For the first time, the sales of canned beer surpassed those of bottled beers.
Fixed-tab Beer Can in 1975
Since humans are apparently unable to be trusted with small pieces of metal, lest they toss them on the ground, the first fixed-tab beer can as we know it now was developed. With the tab and piece of metal staying attached to the can, people and animals rejoiced as they stopped accidentally swallowing sharp pieces of aluminum. The first fixed-tab beer can was produced by Falls City Brewing Company and is used by just about every brewery and soda company to this day. While some hip breweries might use old can designs as part of their gimmick, the 43year old design still seems to be going strong!
Aluminum Cans Today
A whole new generation of American craft breweries has built passionate followings for their can-only products and philosophy, further establishing craft beer in cans as the new norm for the industry.