The practice of selling beer by the can coincided with the end of Prohibition in 1933. Anticipating, perhaps, a change in the political climate, American Can Company had a flat-topped steel beer can ready to go, but it had to offer to install its canning line for free before a Newark, New Jersey, brewer named Krueger would agree to package its beer in cans. In fact, Krueger was so worried its customers would reject beer in cans that it didn’t launch its new product until 1935, and chose Richmond, Virginia, as its test market. Richmond was deemed far enough away from headquarters not to hurt the brewer’s reputation if the cans were crushed by the bottled competition.

Canned beer, though, was an immediate hit, prompting National Can and Continental Can to tool up that same year. National’s first customer was Northampton, which canned its Tru-Blu brands in flat-top cans. National canned beer for numerous other small brewers, too, from Red Top in Cincinnati to King’s Brewing in Brooklyn. American Can landed big national accounts like Anheuser-Busch (maker of Budweiser), Pabst, and Ballantine. Continental was famous for the cone-topped cans it produced for Schlitz.

Cone-top cans appealed to customers because they were easy to pour, and they were popular with brewers because the cans could be slotted into existing bottling lines. There were low-profile cone tops and high-profiles ones, as well as mid-profile J-spout cans, all of which were assembled from three pieces of metal. The exception to this rule was the Crowntainer, whose concave base anchored that can’s one-piece body.

Flat tops were simpler to make and cheaper to ship than cone tops—in the end, that won the day. Because flat-top cans were ubiquitous compared to cone-top cans, which had all but disappeared by the end of the 1950s, cone tops are generally more sought after by collectors.

Another subset of beer-can collecting focuses on cans made during World War II. All beer sent to the military, which was supposed to account for 15 percent of each brewer’s output, had less alcohol in it than beer brewed for domestic consumption (3.2 percent versus 4-to-7 percent). That’s one differentiator to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation." By 1944, the domestic labels used for canned military-bound beer were replaced with olive-drab packaging, which makes these cans even easier to identify.

In the postwar years, all flat-top cans had to be opened manually with a church key. In 1960, Burger Brewing of Cincinnati introduced a steel can with an aluminum lid to make this task easier for consumers. But the major change in beer cans occurred in 1962, when Pittsburgh’s Iron City Brewing canned its beer in Alcoa-made zip-top cans. Over the next two years, numerous different types of zip-top cans would be introduced, some with no instructions on the can’s tops, others with sharp edges on the tab itself, and a few that left an opening in the top of the can that collectors refer to as a dogbone for its shape. Schiltz called its zip tops "pop tops." Call them what you like, but these small, sharp strips of metal littered beaches and parks until 1975, when they were replaced by stay tabs.


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Recent News: Beer Cans

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Fort Mill man reports stolen autographed baseballs
Fort Mills Times, September 1st

FORT MILL — A Fort Mill man reported to police that thousands of dollars worth of valuable baseballs signed by Hall of Fame players – as well as six vintage beer steins – were stolen from his home. The seven baseballs included 1970s balls signed by...Read more

Weekender's DetailsDetails calendar of events
Centre Daily Times, August 29th

East Coast Breweriana Association and Frothingslosh Fall Fest, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 12-13, Otto's Pub and Brewery, 2235 N. Atherton St., State College. www.eastcoastbrew.com, 867-6886. The Great Insect Fair, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 13, Bryce Jordan Center, ...Read more

Shane Weston · Top Commenter · Wollongong, New South Wales
The Escapist, August 29th

Everyone is dressed to the nines and that bar looks expensive, there is a painting on the wall rather than vintage beer adverts. Reply · Like. · 37 seconds ago. Add a Reply... James Yakura · Colorado Springs, Colorado. Vintage? Lacking in plot? With...Read more

Movin' on down: Lodo sets up shop in former Jeremiah's building
Southeast Missourian, August 28th

After 10 years in Cape Girardeau, LoDo now is settling into its third location, 127 N. Water St., in what used to be Jeremiah's. The familiar decorations have made the move well; the Pabst clock with the bent minute hand reads 10 and rusted antique...Read more

Four new books for beer lovers
Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 27th

Patrick Dawson's book “Vintage Beer”(Storey Publishing, $14.95) answers these questions and more. Dawson outlines the characteristics that make beer suitable for aging — think malt-forward and high-alcohol — and provides several examples of...Read more

Leon's masters fine dining — and char-grilled oysters — in a curated-casual ...
Charleston City Paper, August 27th

Fresh-shucked half-shell oysters are served over ice on vintage beer trays. There's typically a house selection for a $1.50 each and a high-end one, like local Caper's Blades, for $3. Other preparations are served on heavy white plates with elegant...Read more

Unclaimed property goes to the highest bidder — some are winners, some not
The Providence Journal, August 23rd

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Going, going, gone! Diamond-encrusted gold and silver bracelets, baubles, fobs and flatware. Suisse gold, whales' teeth with scrimshaw and a misprinted $20 bill. Several hundred people showed up to Saturday's live public auction of ...Read more

National Breweriana Auction returning to Burton next month
Burton Mail, August 14th

AN auction next month will allow Burton residents to own a piece of brewing history. Run by the Campaign for Real Ale, the National Breweriana Auction returns to Burton on Saturday, September 27. More than 150 items are up for auction including...Read more