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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

What could be better than a beautifully rusted antique beer can? How about Mark Benbow’s handsome w… [read review or visit site]

Red Fox Chapter

Red Fox Chapter

The guys at the Connecticut Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America have created a full-on tribute to t… [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Bock Beer Labels

Bock Beer Labels

A quick tour of pre-Prohibition bock beer label designs with nice, high resolution scans. Do the whole slide show o… [read review or visit site]

Trappist Beers and Monks

Trappist Beers and Monks

An interesting site dedicated to Trappist beers and the history of the development of beer brewed by Trappist Bened… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare National Ale Cone-top Beer Can Indoor #174-23 NrKings Cream Ale Oi Irtp Flat Top Beer Can Brooklyn New York Nyc National Can Co.Nice Ohio Hudepohl Pure Lager Red Beer Can Cone Top Cincinnati,oh Big Buck CrestKrueger Finest Beer Quart Can Beer Can (red One) Krueger Brewing Co. Newark, Nj Gretz Beer Cone Top(3) 1953 And (4) 1956 Esslinger Parti Quiz Flat Top Beer Cans~the Last Of Them!Biermann Flat Top Beer Can - Fox Head Brewing Co., Waukesha, Wisconsin (empty)Vintage Heilemans Old Style Lager Cone Top Beer Can 12 Griesedieck Bros St Louis Missouri Steel Beer Cans Flat Top Hoosier Cone TopSuper S Lager Beer 12 Oz Zip Tab Beer Can Grace Bothers Santa Rosa CaliforniaIrtp Maryland's Own National Bohemian Pale Beer Can Baltimore,md Ny Cone Top TinBlatz Beer Cone Top Can - Blatz Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WiPabst Bock - Flat Top Beer Can - Milwaukee, Wisconsin (empty)Valley Forge Beer Oi Irtp Flat Top Beer Can Adam Scheidt Norristown PennsylvaniaGolden Age Beer Cone Top Can Ale Spokane Washington Wa Irtp Vintage Old Export Pilsener....very Very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer Can/ ConetopEnglish Lad Ale... Very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer Can1930s Schiltz "bullet" Sign Half Dome Cone Top Milwaukee WisconsinNeuweiler's Beer 1946 Cone Top Beer CanBest Export....very Very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer CanRare 1936 Old Tankard Ale Irtp Flat Top Beer Can Wopening InstructionsVintage 1940's Falstaff Beer Cone Top Can Bottle 15" Sign~niceValley Forge Beer Flat Top Beer Can Adam Scheidt Norristown Pa Minuteman MilitiaEssex....very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer CanBeverwyck Famous Beer Rare Low Profile Old Cone Top Beer Can Very Nice ConditionEinbock 6 For $1.09 Tough Pulltab 12 Oz Beer Can Maier Brewing Los Angeles, CaPabst Blue Ribbon Bock Flat Top Beer CanEsslinger Pull Top Beer Can (jacob Ruppert New York Ny.)Manhattan... 4-panel Very Nice Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer CanAcme Gold Label Pale Dry Flat Top Beer Can**tough C.1950s Goetz Pale Near Beer Hp Cone Top Beer Can From St. Joseph, MoBlackhawk...very Very.very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer CanPilsner....very Very Tough Chicago Flat Top Beer Can/ ConetopGriesedieck Bros Flat Top Beer Can - St. Louis, MoVery Nice E & B Special Old Cone Top Beer Can Wiedemann Cone Top Beer Can With Cap (newport Ky.)Northern Flat Top Empty Beer Can Superior, WisconsinCone Top Beer CanLinden Brand Light Beer CanEarly Original Vintage Lucky Strike Cone Top Soda Pop Can Vancouver BcChampagne Velvet Cone Top Beer Can With Cap Terre Haute Brewing Co. Ind.One Gallon Beer Can, Pfeiffer 1889 Party Keg Draught BeerMeister Brau Happy Days Flat Top Beer Can ~ KeglinedRhinelander Flat Top Empty Beer Can Rhinelander, WisconsinRare Official Expired Busch Light White Crappie Prize Contest Beer Can Man Cave Higher Grade Burgermeister Pale Flat Top Beer Can (san Francisco Calf.)Piels Flat Top Beer CanCanadian Ace Quart Cone Top Beer CanEhrets Extra Near Beer CanGoetz Country Club Cone Top Beer Can With Cap St.joseph Mo.)Kamms Cone TopBeer Cans - International 9 2/3 Oz.- 70 Can Collection1972 El Rancho Beer Unrolled Flat Sheet Beer Can Los Angeles California Mile Hi Beer Can -tivoli Brewing Co *mint Condition*Collection Of 7 Different Cone Top Beer Cans 1930s Haas Gibbons Old GermanMeister Brau Happy Days Flat Top Beer Can ~ C. 1957Set Of 7 Vintage Schmidt Flat Unused Unrolled Beer Cans *no Reserve*Schaefer Irish Brand Cream Ale Flat Top Beer CanBohemian Club Really Nice Irtp J Spout Cone Top

Recent News: Beer Cans

Source: Google News

Budweiser Clydesdales arrive in Ashland
Mansfield News Journal, June 29th

The horses pull a 1903 Studebaker antique beer wagon, which Thomas said weighs about 4,000 pounds when empty, as it is in parades and other public appearances. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Thomas said, similar wagons were used to deliver ...Read more

Tri-C to offer beer class; other dinners, tastings set - beer calendar, June 29th

Sunday, July 12: The Lake Erie chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America will hold its 30th annual summer breweriana show 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Ottawa Point Picnic Area of Cleveland Metroparks' Brecksville Reservation. Free admission. The show...Read more

Beer Baron: Potosi brings major production back to 'beer's hometown', June 26th

It's been more than 10 years since the American Breweriana Association picked Potosi for the site of the National Brewery Museum, putting the feather in the cap of a redevelopment that also includes one of the Great River Road's interpretive centers, ...Read more

Innovative dive bar set to rise from the Embers
Sacramento Bee (blog), June 24th

A trendsetting Bay Area restaurateur and cocktail innovator has picked an unlikely site for his first Sacramento venture: the former Embers strip club on Auburn Boulevard. Tom Schnetz, a Sacramento native who owns five East Bay restaurants and bars, ...Read more

Breweriana show to bring in beer-book illustrator, June 24th

CLEVELAND, Ohio – When the BCCA started in 1970, its focus was solely on trading cans. It evolved, altering its mission and changing its name from Beer Can Collectors of America to its current Brewery Collectibles Club of America. Now it's broadening ...Read more

Meet collectors of beer memorabilia June 13 in Mesa, June 2nd

On Saturday, June 13, a beer-collectibles show is scheduled as part of the American Breweriana Association annual meeting. The show will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel, 200 N. Centennial Way in Mesa, and will feature such items as cans, ...Read more

Vintage beer sign discovered in downtown wall
Columbus Telegram, May 7th

Jeff Gokie, who owns Henry on 11th Reception & Banquet Hall in downtown Columbus, holds a tin sign, possibly from the 1930s, advertising Blatz Old Heidelberg Beer. Gokie found the sign inside a wall while renovating the building. 2015-05-07T08:00:00Z ...Read more

Vintage Beer? Aficionados Say Some Brews Taste Better With Age
NPR, January 9th

In the late 1970s, a young Southern California beer enthusiast named Bill Sysak began doing something quite novel at the time. He bought cases of beer and stashed the bottles in his basement to age like wine. Over several years, Sysak discovered that ...Read more