Canned beer 'officially' turned 82 this week

The first canned beer
For those of you who like to pop open a cold one from time to time, do so today to celebrate a remarkable achievement. It was this week in 1935 that the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, NJ, sold the first canned beer -- in Richmond, VA.

So, even though January 24 became the "official" birthday of canned beer, it actually made its debut 14 months earlier when the American Can Company showed off its workable beer can. Krueger was the first company to agree to use it.

"By the end of that month, American had installed a temporary canning line and delivered 2,000 Krueger's Special Beer cans, which were promptly filled with 3.2% Krueger beer -- the highest alcohol content allowed at the time," according to a history of the process from the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA).

'Church key' collection
The photo above of a can of Krueger's Special Beer appeared in the December 28, 1933, issue of Brewer's News but, according to the BCCA, no current example of an actual can has been positively verified to exist.

"The 2,000 cans of beer were given to faithful Krueger drinkers; 91% gave it thumbs up, and 85% said it tasted more like draft than bottled beer. Reassured by this successful test, Krueger gave canning the green light, and history was made," the BCCA article goes on. 

The first cans were made of steel and weighed about four ounces, a far cry from today's lightweight thin aluminum cans. And, they required that iconic device colloquially called a "church key" to open them by puncturing a triangular-shaped hole on one side of the top and a small hole punched opposite it to equalize the pressure of the carbonated beverage.

In that fine American tradition, many brewers and beverage companies had their names stamped on the openers, which usually had a sharp piercing point on one end and either a hole at the other end for putting the opener on a hook, or a slotted or bent end for prying bottle caps off soft drink containers.

• Go here for Notes On Napkins
• Go here for Dowd On Drinks
• Go here for Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

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