Today, we take beer packaged in cans for granted. We tote six-packs of our favorite canned brews to pool parties and beaches, rather than risk dropping and breaking a bottle where folks are bare-footin’ it. The story of the beer can goes back to 1909, but the first can of beer was not sold until July 1935.
Set the WABAC machine controls to 1896 in Tumwater, Washington and hang on – we’re looking for Leopold Schmidt, a German immigrant who established the Olympia Brewing Company. Schmidt was looking for a more convenient way for his customers to take their beer home – and came to the conclusion that cans were the way to go. He approached the American Can Company (CANCO) in San Francisco with his idea, but after some research, it was determined that pressures involved with pasteurization of beer were too great for the canning process technology of the time.
Just a few years after Schmidt’s unsuccessful attempt to can beer, Prohibition became the law of the land and the beer industry shut down. The search for a technique to can beer was set aside until June 1933, when CANCO developed a pressurized can with an internal coating that kept the beer from chemically reacting with and consequently taking on foul flavors from tin used to make cans. Its ad-ready term was “keglined.”
By September 1933, CANCO entered into a test deal with New Jersey beer manufacturer Krueger Brewery. In the test, 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Special Beer was sent to 500 families – four cans each – who were asked to complete a questionnaire about the new packaging. The results? An astounding 91 percent approval rating. After months of refining the canning process, Krueger released the first cans of beer for sale to the public in January 1935. In just months, the larger breweries – Pabst, Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch – adopted beer cans and the industry never looked back.
Fast-forward today, when the concept of craft beer in a can seems a bit like mass-produced suds. Breweries such as Oskar Blues – the first craft brewery to can its beers – have been doing it successfully for years, while others have stuck to bottling their product. Slowly, though, craft brewers are seeing the advantages of cans over bottles and have begun canning their brews.
For many hops habitués, however, the primary reason for not sipping from aluminum is taste. For years, canned beer has carried the stigma of having a tinny tinge on the tongue. Today, with modern coating technology, that doesn’t fly. Beer from a can is just as tasty as beer from a bottle – maybe even more so, because the can protects the libation from the ravages of light and oxygen better than the bottle.
Look for these quality craft beers in cans at your local beer seller.
Intuition Ale Works: I-10 IPA Intuition has the distinction of being the first craft brewer in Florida to can their beers. Today, the roster of cans includes the popular and delicious flagship IPA. Grab a six-pack for the pool party and don’t worry about broken glass on the deck.
Bold City Brewery: Killer Whale Cream Ale A perfect summertime ale, Killer Whale is light, crisp and refreshing with no bitter aftertaste. A few cans of these in a bucket of ice guarantees a successful summer afternoon.
Veterans United Craft Brewery: Raging Blonde Ale Heavy on the grains, but still generously hopped, Raging Blonde is a refreshing ale with an attitude. Just how we like our blondes.