Beer Can Appreciation Day
annually on January 24th
Where do you like the beer you drink to come from? Do you prefer draft, bottles, or cans? On January 24, 1935, Krueger's Finest Beer and Krueger's Cream Ale became the first beers to be sold in cans, and it is on this anniversary that we celebrate Beer Can Appreciation Day.
The American Can Company began working on canning beer in 1909, but they were not successful at the time. They found that carbonation was too much for cans, leading them to sometimes explode. They eventually found a remedy: coating the inside of cans as they did with kegs.
An April 7, 1933, light beer, which had no more than 3.2% alcohol by volume, began being sold. The Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company made a canning deal with the American Can Company in November 1933, right before the repeal of Prohibition. The can company installed canning equipment for free and 2,000 cans of beer were canned and made available in Richmond, Virginia. A poll was conducted and the results said that 91% of people liked the canned beer. Because of the positive feedback, Gottfried Krueger decided they would continue to can beer.
On January 24, 1935, Krueger's Ale and Krueger's Beer began being sold in cans. (Multiple sources contradict each other here. Some sources say that the January 1935 date is when the 2,000 cans were sold, which led to the 91% favorability rating. Other sources say this happened in 1933 and that January 1935 brought about the selling of canned beer on a wider scale). By the summer of 1935, Pabst began canning their Export Beer in cans, being the first major brewer to do so. By the end of the year, over 200 million beer cans had been sold by thirty-seven breweries.
Some of the attraction of cans over bottles was that they were easier to stack and didn't require a deposit. Cans also keep beer better than bottles, as they protect beer from sunlight that can ruin it. Aluminum cans were introduced in 1958, which were cheaper and lighter than steel cans. Still, with the many benefits of cans, it took until 1969 for them to outsell bottles.
There have been four main styles of cans over the years. Krueger's and other early cans were flat top style cans. They weighed almost four ounces, their tops were flat, and they had to be opened with a church key. They were made until about 1970.
Another style of can was the cone top. Having tops shaped like funnels with caps just like bottles, the cone top style was first used in September 1935, by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Soon afterward, they began being used nationally by Schlitz. There were four variations of cone tops: low profile, high profile, J-spout, and crowntainer. Cone tops were favored by small brewers because they could use the bottle lines they already had to can the beer. Eventually, big brewers drove out smaller brewers and the cone top stopped being used.
The pull tab style can, also known as the tab top or pop top, was introduced in March 1963 by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, for their Iron City Beer. This was the first style of self-opening can—a ring had to be pulled off the can's top. Pull tab cans went national after Schlitz started using them, and by the mid-1960s, 75% of cans were pull-tab cans. But pull tabs often became litter and were bad for the environment. Wildlife ate them and people cut themselves on them while walking on the beach.
Pull tab cans reigned for about a decade, but were replaced after the stay tab style can was introduced in 1975. First used by Falls City Brewing Company in Louisville, Kentucky, the tabs from these self-opening cans remained on them after they were opened, and the littering tab problem was solved. Today, almost all cans filled with beverages are this type of can.
Besides drinking out of them, some appreciate beer cans by collecting them. Although not as popular as it was in the late 1970s, some still partake in the hobby. The Beer Can Collectors of America was founded in St. Louis in 1970. It is now known as the Brewery Collectibles Club of America and is the largest of the breweriana collectors clubs.
How to Observe
The best way to celebrate the day is to drink a can or two of beer. Here are a few other ways you could celebrate:
- Start a beer can collection or add to an existing one.
- Pick up a book about beer can collecting such as Beer Cans Unlimited, United States Beer Cans, or Beer: A Genuine Collection of Cans.
- Learn more about beer cans and can collecting through breweriana collectors clubs such as the Brewery Collectibles Club of America or the American Breweriana Association.
- Visit the Beer Can Museum.