A Brief History of the Beer Can

istock.com/SlobodanMiljevic
istock.com/SlobodanMiljevic

National Beer Can Appreciation Day is your day to celebrate the blood, sweat, tears, and ingenuity that went into you being able to crack open a cold one.

Before Prohibition, the main vessels for consuming beer were bottles and glasses used to down draft suds. But Pabst and Anheuser-Busch knew there was a better way, so they attempted to engineer a functional beer can in the 1920s. Unfortunately, their plans fizzled in the wake of the 18th Amendment.

In the early 1930s, just before Prohibition was officially repealed, the American Can Company created a usable beer can prototype that New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company tested with just 2000 cans of their Krueger’s Special Beer. The 12-ounce cans offered the highest alcohol content possible at the time—3.2 percent—and received rave reviews from 91 percent of those dedicated drinkers who were invited to partake in the first batch, with the vast majority of them saying it tasted more like draft beer than its bottled counterpart (which was a good thing).

Given the production and shipping costs for heavy bottles, canned beer was financially smarter for breweries in the 1930s, too. Bottles were also returnable at the time, which not only added another shipping cost for breweries, but necessitated more man-power for inspection of whether or not a bottle was fit for reuse. Which is why the invention of the beer can was so revolutionary—and why it has an official holiday on the calendar (January 24).

Since its invention in 1933, the beer can has undergone several remodels and tweaks.

The Flat-Top Can

Beer cans started with a flat-top design, where you needed to puncture holes in two opposite sides of the top for the beer to pour out properly. Although it was just a standard cylinder, these cans were almost unwieldy. They were originally made from tin, then steel, which made them tall and heavy; switching to aluminum eventually made them more manageable. Pabst popularized the flat-top can in 1935 as the first large brewing company to distribute canned beer.

The Cone-Top Can

Also in 1935, the G. Heilemann Brewing Company and Schlitz switched to a cone-top (or spout-top) style of canning. After some dissatisfaction with the flat-top, the spout-top offered a more convenient way to swig suds; its opening resembled the opening of a bottle, but with the promised quality of a can. Cone-top cans were embraced by smaller brewing companies because their factories were better-suited to cone-top production. As breweries continued to upgrade, though, cone-tops cans went nearly entirely out of production by around 1960.

The Pull-Tab Can

It wasn’t until 1963 that the beer can underwent its most revolutionary—and lasting—change. The Pittsburgh Brewing Company began canning their beloved Iron City Beer with a then-brand-new pull-tab style can. The pull tab-style can (also known as a tab top or pop top) required no accessory other than your hand to be opened. Just pull the tap to rip open the spout and enjoy a crisp, cold beverage. Shortly thereafter, Schlitz switched over to the pull-tab, and by 1965 it was the can standard among breweries big and small.

The Stay-Tab Can

What the pull-tab can offered in convenience, it lacked in waste efficiency. The pulled tabs often ended up on the ground, causing litter and some significant environmental issues. Animals—both wild and the domesticated kind—regularly attempted to snack on the shiny (and sharp) metal tabs they'd find, and ended up choking on them. When dropped in places where people often went shoe-less, like the beach or a backyard, they were a hazard to bare feet. Then along came the stay-tab.

Introduced in 1975 by Kentucky's Falls City Brewing Company, the stay-tab can is the one we use today—the kind of can that you can pop open without fear of a stray tab wreaking havoc on your feet, or your dog. Which is yet one more thing to be grateful for on National Beer Can Appreciation Day.

Why Choosing the Second Cheapest Wine on the Menu Isn't Such a Good Idea

iStock.com/kupicoo
iStock.com/kupicoo

For those whose knowledge of wine is limited to whatever lessons they picked up while watching Sideways, it can be tempting to order a glass of the second-cheapest vino on the menu at bars and restaurants. According to this line of reasoning, you don't want to look cheap by choosing the least expensive wine—but at the same time, it doesn't make sense to order a pricey vintage red if you're not the kind of wine enthusiast who confidently throws around terms like "mouth-feel" and "hints of oak" and would therefore understand and appreciate the difference in quality.

Although this wine hack is widely observed, the Skimm points out why it isn't such a sound method. For one, restaurants are well aware of this customer habit and might even use it to their advantage by taking a bottle they're looking to get rid of and placing it in the second-cheapest slot. That could mean that you're getting a not-so-great bottle of wine and may have been better off ordering the cheapest one on the list.

"I can confirm that restaurants will occasionally reprice a wine that they need to move to make it the second-cheapest spot on the menu," sommelier Kirsten Vicenza tells Atlas Obscura. "It sells!"

And then there are the markups. According to Wine Enthusiast, the cheapest wines tend to have the highest markups, so while your bill may be lower than if you had ordered a top-tier wine, you're also getting the lowest value. The magazine recommends ordering a wine somewhere in the middle—perhaps the third or fourth cheapest wine—to get more bang for your buck.

This isn't a "hard and fast rule," though, as VinePair notes. Sommeliers will sometimes lower the price of a lesser-known wine to encourage customers to try it. If you're unsure what to order, it never hurts to ask for a recommendation.

[h/t Skimm]

How Much a Pint of Beer Will Cost You Around the World

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

After updating your passport and packing your suitcase, there's one last thing you should check before going on vacation: How much will a pint of beer cost at your destination?

Just as food and lodging varies in price from country to country, so does beer. To make sure you're prepared for whatever you find on beer menus abroad, The Wall Street Journal has compiled the average cost of a pint of beer in major cities around the world, using data from the travel site OMIO's Beer Price Index.

According to this data, Hong Kong is home to the most expensive brews, with bar patrons shelling out an average of $10.86 per pint in the city. Beer prices don't look much better in the U.S., where the average pint of beer at a bar costs $8.97 in both Miami and New York.

To find cheap beer, you need to head to Eastern Europe or South Asia. A pint costs an average of just $2.22 at bars in Bratislava, Slovakia, the cheapest of any of the cities the WSJ looked at. In Delhi, India, you can get a pint for $2.31, and in Kiev, Ukraine, you can find one for $2.36.

If you're factoring beer prices into your future vacation plans, check out the five most expensive pints and five least expensive pints by city below. And for a different way to look at international beer prices, here's how much beer you can get for $1 around the world.

Cities With the Most Expensive Pints of Beer

1. Hong Kong: $10.86
2. Geneva, Switzerland: $10.77
3. Tel Aviv, Israel: $9.53
4. New York City: $8.97
5. Miami: $8.97

Cities With the Cheapest Pints of Beer

1. Bratislava, Slovakia: $2.22
2. Delhi, India: $2.31
3. Kiev, Ukraine: $2.36
4. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: $2.58
5. Kraków, Poland: $2.70

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

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