This Day in History — First Can of Beer is Sold
It’s almost the weekend, which is my favorite time to crack open a can of…well, if I’m honest, these days it’s usually PBR. Times are tough, but not as tough as they probably were before this day in 1935, when the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered it’s first batch of 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Cream Ale to one of my favorite cities in America: the dirty river city of Richmond, VA.
By the late 19th century, canned goods had become a major source of food distribution, but it wasn’t until 1909 that the American Can Company made it’s first (failed) attempt at canning beer — they didn’t try again until after Prohibition.
The test-drinkers in Richmond were then surveyed to find out if the canned beer was as good as bottles. 91% of the James River drunkards gave it the green light, and so Krueger moved forward with production.
What did Krueger change, in their second test run? Researchers had developed a method of canning beer that utilized pressurization, and developed a special coating on the inside of the can to protect the beer reacting to the tin. After their initial failure, Krueger was skeptical that canned beer would catch on, but within three months of the initial test, over 80% of beer distributors were selling the cans, and Krueger began to compete with the big market names – Anheuser-Busch, Pabst and Schlitz. The other companies followed suit, and by the end of 1935, over 200 million cans of beer had been sold in America.
Why did the can become so popular? Back then, cans did not require a deposit, they were also much easier to stack and store, were much more durable than glass, prevented against light oxidization and “skunking,” and chilled much more quickly. Popularity further exploded during WWII, when brewers began to ship beer to soldiers overseas. The only real downside to this change was that it took power from local breweries, who did not have the means to produce at such a high volume.
Today, half of the $20 billion that Americans spend on beer is on cans, and even micro-breweries are joining in. Join me in cracking open a tall boy of Colt 45 tonight in celebration, and don’t forget to pour a little bit out for Krueger, may he rest.