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In the early 1930s, just before Prohibition was officially repealed, the American Can Company created a usable beer can prototype that New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company tested with just 2000 cans of their Krueger’s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 They were originally made from tin, then steel, which made them tall and heavy; switching to aluminum eventually made them more manageable.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.

Blue Point Brewing Company's New Bubble Gum Beer Has a Garbage Pail Kids Twist

Blue Point Brewing Company
Blue Point Brewing Company

Craving the taste of 1980s nostalgia? Long Island-based Blue Point Brewing Company's new bubble gum-flavored IPA, Bubble Brain, smells like Bazooka Joe but tastes more like a less-sweet fruity brew, with a tart and bitter finish. Even those who aren’t keen on IPAs might like it, as the deep rose-hued drink looks like wine and doesn’t taste as hoppy as some IPAs and pale ales.

To give the beer an added throwback vibe, Blue Point (an Anheuser-Busch InBev company) tapped Garbage Pail Kids illustrator Brent Engstrom to design the label, which features a rendering of Blue Point’s brewmaster Mike "Stoney" Stoneburg, who came up with the beer.

"It’s a small batch, bubble gum beer, driven by fruit, spices, and yeast,” Barry McLaughlin, Blue Point Brewing’s marketing director, told Forbes. “It’s all inspired by a visit to a dusty novelty store on the west side of town and finding a bit of lost nostalgia of our ‘80s youth.”

“The juicy New England and milkshake IPA styles have become extremely popular, as well as fruited, kettle sours," McLaughin said of the beer's IPA-meets-sour flavor. "As brewers, we wanted to highlight the things we love about all of these styles but also take some risks and push the drinker’s experience further in a new, sub-style of IPA."

According to the beer review site Untapped, some drinkers have described the 6.5 percent ABV Bubble Brain as “weird,” “wild,” and “tastes just like bubble gum.”

You can find the beer—and a sip of yesterday—in pastel-colored tall boy four-packs at select retail outlets in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and at Blue Point’s brewpub in Patchogue, New York.

You Can Now Enjoy a Vodka Made in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone … If You Dare

igorr1/iStock via Getty Images
igorr1/iStock via Getty Images

The HBO limited series Chernobyl has brought renewed attention to the 1986 nuclear accident that occurred in what was then the Soviet Union, which ranks among the worst man-made disasters in world history. The accidental explosion of the nuclear core irradiated a huge swath of land 1000 square miles in size and is believed to have killed thousands.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now apparently safe enough for tourists, who flock to the site to get a glimpse of what amounts to a ghost town. But would you drink a vodka made from grains and water found there?

Scientists and researchers who have worked in the zone believe some people will. They’ve founded the Chernobyl Spirit Company and are now marketing Atomik, an artisan vodka made with rye grains and water from the area. Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at England's University of Portsmouth, led the exploration of land near the Opachichi settlement, which is believed to be one of the zone's least contaminated areas.

Rye grain grown on the site demonstrated levels of radioactivity that were slightly above safe thresholds. After being distilled, the spirit was submitted to experts at Southampton University for additional testing. The distillation seemed to virtually eliminate all but the naturally occurring levels of carbon-14 found in most any spirit. The water, which comes from an aquifer six miles south of the reactor, was found to be safe. The company also says that the soil poses no health issues for workers.

Researchers say the vodka accomplishes two goals: First, it makes use of land that would otherwise be abandoned. Second, proceeds from sales of the vodka will be put back into communities near the Exclusion Zone, which have struggled to improve their economic conditions in the years since the accident.

For now, the Chernobyl Spirit Company has only produced one bottle of Atomik. The goal is to make 500 bottles this year and sell them primarily to tourists to the site. If nothing else, having some Chernobyl moonshine will make for a conversation piece.

[h/t BBC]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER