Here's a brief history of the good old beer can
| The beer can went through a lot of changes to get to where it is today. It didn't look anything like it did when it first was introduced. Can makers were experimenting with putting beer in beer cans way back before prohibition started in 1919. In the late 1920s some of the major brewers were working on the idea of canning beer, even though they could only sell near beer at the time. Looking at all of these old beer cans is certainly among fun things to do when you are bored.
One of the biggest draw backs for the beer can was the lack of a proper lining material for the inside of a can. There had to be some sort of a lining to separate the beer from the metal itself or there would be a chemical reaction beer would result in a bad tasting beer. After many years of research the American Can Company developed "Vinylite", which was a synthetic plastic.
In 1934 after many months of coaxing, the American Can Company persuaded Krueger brewing company to try selling their beer in cans. They chose Richmond, Virginia as their test market, and put the beer cans into the stores by January of 1935. The results were good, and by the end of 1935 there were 23 different breweries using the beer can to sell their product.
The advantage of selling beer in cans was their compact size and lightness. They could also be filled a lot faster than bottles. But some brewers weren't ready to cast aside their expensive bottling machinery for new, expensive canning lines. So the Continental Can Company developed what we now call today the "Cone top" can, which could be used on existing bottling lines. The cone top beer cans were made in 12, 26, and 32 ounce sizes.
Since the flat top beer can was much more compact, and could be filled much faster most brewers who started off with cone tops changed over to flat top beer cans as soon their machinery needed replacing. By the middle of the 1950s the cone top beer can was no longer in use. The flat top beer can became very popular both with the consumer, and with the beer industry itself. Up to this point the beer can was made completely constructed, and made out of steel.
In 1960 Reynolds Aluminum developed an aluminum flat top for their beer cans. In 1962 the zip top or "Snap top" beer can was marketed. There were a number of problems with these tops, such as cut fingers and cut lips. After much experimenting the pull ring can emerged in 1965. The pull ring can has been almost problem free except for the litter from the tabs, and an occasional swallowed tab from an ecology minded soul who tucked the tab back into the can after pulling it off. So in the early 1970s Coors brewing company was the first brewer to come out with the button top beer can. In 1977 the ecology tab appeared on the market, and that's what we've had ever since. Also in the 1970s the steel beer can became obsolete as the more inexpensive aluminum beer can, which was first developed by Coors in 1959 hit the markets full blast. The aluminum beer can was cheaper to produce, lighter weight, and took less time to chill the beer than the steel beer can did.
Today the beer can costs more than the beer inside. That's why researchers continue to look for a cheaper substitute for the metal beer can. A number of plastic devices been tried over the years, but the same beer doesn't taste anywhere near as good as it does in bottles and cans. Compressed wood with a liner has even been experimented with, but the metal industries are huge and rich, so down the road we can expect to be buying beer in metal cans for some time to come.