25 Events, Inventions and Advertising Tools that Influenced Breweriana
1. 4000 BC: the Sumerians brew the first beer. The clay tablets with the recipe, or the crude tools used to stir this live changing brew have to be the oldest pieces of breweriana.
2. The patent application for a corkscrew on August 24, 1795 suggests that collecting could have been active. Varieties of this invention became as ornate as the sacred church key used by many of the clergy to lock up the altar wine.
3. The approval of the Bass red triangle, Britain’s oldest trademark, in 1777, meant everyone could recognize the beer, even though few could read in those days.
4. The American Brewer and Maltster is first published in 1815. This was the voice for the brewing industry, at a time when a flood of European immigrants was about to descend on U.S. soil. Could a magazine called All About Beer be far behind? These early publications are the backbone of many collections in brewerianists’ quest for accurate history.
5. The invention of the glass-pressing machine in 1827 allowed for a lower-cost and more uniform bottle to be produced. These blob-top bottles were crude by today’s standards, but pioneers in their day.
6. 1840: the pilsner beer style is introduced. In less than 100 years, it is the world’s dominant style, and a complement to the new developments happening in glassware in Bohemia.
7. Maine introduces the first Prohibition law in 1846. (Interesting, and maybe ironic, that Maine is also where our most famous horror novelist hails from.)
8. Louis Pasteur publishes studies of beer in 1876. This allowed for the transportation of beer, thanks to pasteurization. Now Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis beers could be shipped greater distances. What would be next? Beers from other countries?
9. Robert Smith invents the wood pulp coaster in 1892, entertaining collectors and saving furniture for over 100 years.
10. William Painter invents the first bottle cap (crown) in 1892. It s one of the few things I have found that could top beer. His company went on to become Crown Cork & Seal, the General Electric of the container and sealing industry today.
11. Marconi opens the world’s first radio factory in Chelmsford, England in 1898. The first item advertised on the first radio station in Cincinnati is Wiedemann’s Fine Beer of Newport, KY. Radio introduces countless unforgettable characters: Bob & Ray, the voice of Bert & Harry Piel; Rege Cordic bringing us Olde Frothingslosh, “the brew guaranteed to fit any shape of glass.”
12. Georges Claude invents the first neon sign in1902. In a bent sort of a way, the red light district was born. Although neon is used to advertise many items, its use is almost synonymous with beer advertising.
13. The standard bottle is put into use, 1905. This allows breweries to use one universal bottle and do away with the expensive task of retrieving bottles from distant markets. Bottling equipment becomes standardized and improves the way beer is bottled.
14. 1919: The Volstead Act approves National Prohibition, and not until 1933 do we see the return of legal brewed beer. What a sad 13 years for breweriana collectors. “Nearbeeriana” just does not have the same ring.
15. 1928: The Federal Radio Commission issues the first television license (W3XK) to Charles Jenkins. Wow, can you imagine what the Super Bowl would be like without all of those beer commercials?
16. 1933: Ralph Wiley discovers plastic. With this invention, not only did beer advertising take on new shapes, sizes and weights but plastic also ushers in items like coolers, refrigerators, and, yes, eventually beer in plastic bottles.
17. January 24, 1935. That’s the day cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale first go on sale in Richmond, VA, in a joint venture between American Can Company and the Krueger brewery. This event is viewed as risky, but is an overnight success.
18. Other events that changed the way beer was packaged in can—1935: Schlitz introduced the cone top can. It looks like brake fluid cans but can be filled on existing bottling equipment. This saved money and allowed many breweries to can that would otherwise not have been able to make the capital investment. 1954: Schlitz introduces the 16-ounce can. Tall Boys turned 50 this past year. 1959: Coors introduces the aluminum can. This was also the beginning of the recycling programs we see today.
19. 1962: Iron City issues the first Easy Open can. Invented by Ermal Fraze of Dayton, OH, this new No-Opener-Needed package put a lot of the mothers of invention to bed early. Never again on a fishing or camping trip would roughing it involve opening your cans of beer with the bumper of the car, a rusty nail or another threatening sharp object.
20. In the 1970s, The East Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA) and Beer Can Collectors Club of America (BCCA) clubs are formed. After years of most collectors thinking they were the only nuts gathering these items, there were now organizations with meetings, dues and newsletters.
21. 1972: Oregon introduces the first deposit law. Also, a number of states issue laws banning the ring tops or pop-tops from cans sold within their borders. Today numerous states have deposit laws to help fight litter.
22. In 1975, Reynolds Metals along with the Falls City brewery of Louisville, KY invent the StaTab can. We would never step on a pop-top again.
23. 1973: The Internet is invented. Within 20 years, this technology becomes the way to research a brewpubbing trip, or search for any and all beers from around the world. Breweries large and small operate fascinating web sites, including the ability to purchase collectibles. The collecting world would never be the same, once eBay debuted. Suddenly, breweriana was being bought and sold internationally.
24. In the hop-growing town of Yakima, WA, Bert Grant opened the first brewpub in 1982. The passion of this pioneering hop chemist introduced us to a new twist to the tied houses of Europe. In 1983, only 51 brewing companies were operating 80 brewing facilities in the U.S, the lowest number in the 20th century. Soon, however, most major and minor metropolitan areas could once again boast fresh brewed beer direct from the source. Thank you, Bert.
25. In 1989 the infamous Government Warning is added to all beer labels. This mandated warning caused many breweries to redesign their packaging in order to still sell their beers from an appealing package without emphasizing this new regulation. It is also a great way to help determine the age of many bottles and cans.
Congratulations All About Beer on 25 years. What a long, strange sip it’s been.
Beer Dave Gausepohl has collected breweriana since 1974 and has a personal collection of over 400,000 items. He has visited over 1,500 breweries and currently is the National President of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America.