Innovations in Canned Beer
By Russ Phillips
Editor of craftcans.com
The cans holding today’s craft beers are very different from those that first hit shelves over 75 years ago. In those days, cans were made from rolled and riveted tin and steel made into flat-top cans and cone-top cans (cans that were formed so they could be filled on bottling lines). Cans sold today are made entirely of aluminum, something that first took place in Hawaii in 1958, and are made up of two pieces of the metal that are then seamed together—with the average empty 12-ounce can weighing less than 14 grams.
There have been landmark can innovations, and even a few gimmicks here and there. Here are a few that are notable.
1935—First Krueger’s beer cans go on sale in Richmond, VA. Earlier surveys had shown that 85 percent of those who tasted the beer from cans said it tasted more like draft beer than did bottled beer. Can sales were instantly successful, and by the end of the year a number of other breweries were either canning or planning to can.
1954—Schlitz introduced the first 16-ounce can.
1958—Primo Beer in Hawaii becomes first American beer packaged in an all-aluminum can.
1962—Pittsburgh’s Iron City Brewing introduces the pull tab. Within a few years, the flat-top can, which required a “church key” to puncture holes in the top, becomes almost obsolete.
1963—The ring tab is introduced as another can-opening option.
1969—Canned beer outsells bottled beer in the United States for the first time.
1975—The Sta-Tab is introduced. Beer can opening now becomes a lot easier and a lot less damaging to both the environment and bare feet.
1991—Guinness introduces the widget to its cans. Containing nitrogen that is released when the can is opened, widgets give cans of Guinness a more draftlike pour, look and taste.
2002—Oskar Blues Brewery begins canning Dale’s Pale Ale.
2009—Coors introduces thermochromic ink to cans of its Coors Light. Now consumers can tell whether their beer is cold simply by checking to see if the mountains on the can are blue—the mountains are actually printed white with a special ink that will turn blue once a certain temperature is reached.
2012—Seattle’s Churchkey Can Co. re-introduces the flat-top steel can. Six-packs of its Churchkey Pilsner include a church-key opener, allowing beer drinkers to open a can of beer the same way their grandparents once did.
2013—Sly Fox Brewing Co. becomes the first North American brewery to package beer in Crown’s 360 End. Crown originally launched the world’s “first full aperture end” during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The cans use “a combination of food and beverage can technology so that the entire lid can be removed, turning the can itself into a drinking cup and removing the need for separate glassware.” Sly Fox currently uses these cans for its new Helles Golden Lager and for cans of Pikeland Pils exclusively at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
2013—Budweiser releases its “bowtie-shaped can.” The cans, which had been in development since 2010, hold a little over 11 ounces of beer and are sold in eight-packs. Almost 20 million of the cans are being produced at a facility in Newburgh, NY.
2013—REXAM introduces the first ever thermochromic can ends. Translation: The top of your beer can may soon feature color-changing ink that is directly affected by either sunlight or temperature.