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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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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Breweriana enthusiasts come to Topeka to check out cansTopeka Capital Journal, September 28th
Breweriana: Any collectible related to brewing or beer, including labels, signs, trays, openers and stationery. Cone top: A type of can topped with a spout produced from 1935 until about 1960, but most common in the 1930s and 1940s. It quickly was...Read more
Upcoming meetings and eventsTopeka Capital Journal, September 27th
20th annual Beer Can and Breweriana show, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, Crestview Shelter House, 4901 S.W. Shunga Drive. Features beer cans, signs and man cave stuff; with raffles. Lunch will be available. Sponsored by the Carrie Nation Chapter of ...Read more
Suds & Grapes: Midwestern Craft Beer and Wine-cationsChicago Daily Herald, September 27th
Browse the on-site beer memorabilia museum featuring growlers from all over the planet, advertising artifacts and toy cars, trucks and trains. Walk across the street to the new Minhas Micro Distillery (minhasdistillery.com) where you'll learn how to...Read more
The Hazard Family's Mahogany Sideboard - CNY HistoryThe Post-Standard - syracuse.com, September 26th
Century Club by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Knapp. Mr. Knapp was the son of Martin H. Knapp. In 1974 the Century Club donated the sideboard to Onondaga Historical Association, where it is now being used in the Gambrinus Gallery to house beer memorabilia...Read more
Auction of Burton CAMRA breweriana coming to town hallBurton Mail, September 26th
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has revealed that its national breweriana auction is set to take place from 11am on Saturday at Burton Town Hall. A wide range of brewery-related items and advertising material will go under the hammer including items ...Read more
Turn-of-the-Century Style Beer Hall Opens Next to ColumbiaDNAinfo, September 25th
Bloostein brought about 100 antique beer steins from his collection of about 1,000, as well as photographs, antique frames and posters. The lampshades, bars, beer spouts and other odds and ends were found on his numerous scouting trips to antique fairs...Read more
'Breweriana' Show Reveals Pennsylvania HistoryState College News, September 13th
Jim Dickel, a “breweriana” collector from Mount Savage, Maryland, got his start collecting almost 40 years ago when he and a friend stole a pair of antique beer thermometers from the bar where they worked. They were from the Old German and Old Export ...Read more
Wool uniforms, no gloves and vintage beer recipes: Recreating 19th century ...National Post, September 12th
PHILADELPHIA — From afar, it looks and sounds like a regular recreational baseball game: the crack of the bat, the cheering from the bench, the sliding into home. But a closer glance at this field in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park shows something isn't...Read more