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to look for when trying to date a potential war-era can, which should also have a statement on it that reads, "Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation."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”)
Red Fox Chapter
Bottle Cap Index
Bock Beer Labels
Trappist Beers and Monks
Clubs & Associations
- Red Fox Chapter
- American Breweriana Association
- Brewery Collectibles Club of America
- National Association Breweriana Advertising
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Beer Cans
Source: Google News
Visting the Pike Brewing Co.MyCentralJersey.com, May 19th
These items will soon join the already crowded walls of the brewery, what is known as the Breweriana Museum, which gets just as much attention from visitors as the beer in their glasses. Finkel regularly searches catalogs, antique shops, the internet...Read more
Women Beer Rock! fundraiser, Hofbrauhaus events, more - beer calendarcleveland.com (blog), May 18th
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
Tempe TavernPhoenix New Times, May 16th
The kitschy, bottle-cap-covered walls by the bathroom, vintage beer signs, and full stage all point to a bar that has an identity all its own, with an old-school, relaxed feel. Located just off the Apache/McClintock light-rail stop and across the...Read more
American Homebrewers Association to rally Saturday in GadsdenAL.com, May 14th
For more information, click here. Elsewhere, the taps will be flowing beginning Friday night in several Art of Beer events. Attendees at the festival on Saturday can sample more than 30 craft beers and bid on beer memorabilia in a silent auction. There...Read more
Vintage beer sign discovered in downtown wallColumbus 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
Breweriana show held; Cleveland 'seriously considered' for national convention ...cleveland.com (blog), May 3rd
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A gathering of breweriana enthusiasts celebrated more than just old beer cans Sunday. It was Cleveland history that remained in the nostalgic spotlight that soon might bring the city national attention. The Lake Erie chapter of the...Read more
Annual collectibles show preserves the history of local breweriesLa Crosse Tribune, April 29th
That experience includes hundreds of diverse beer cans in column-like displays throughout the restaurant, an assortment of neon signs that capture the attention of visitors, and a variety of other breweriana spotlighting the city of La Crosse. Johnson...Read more
Vintage Beer? Aficionados Say Some Brews Taste Better With AgeNPR, 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