IN DECEMBER 1935, a small Welsh brewery started to sell its beer in a new type of container. Many were sceptical about this new form of packaging, claiming that it was a novelty and would never be an alternative to the bottle.
But this month the British beer can is 50 years old.
The origins of the beer can can be traced back to 1909, when a brewery in the USA approached American Can Co to see if it could supply cans for the packaging of beer. It could not its attempts to produce a can were unsuccessful.
In 1931, anticipating the end of Prohibition, American Can again began to experiment with canned beer. Most cans at that time only needed to withstand a pressure of 2535 lb per square inch, but beer needed a container that would withstand in excess of 80 Ib per square inch, otherwise there would be a major problem with cans bursting along the welded seam.
After two years of research, American Can had overcome the problems of pressure and had developed a coating for the inside of the can to stop the beer reacting with the tinplate. The company now had to sell the idea to the breweries.
This was not easy, the big breweries did not want to risk their reputations on such a radical innovation.
One of the smaller breweries that American Can approached was the Gottfried Krueger Brewery of Newark, New Jersey.
A test run of 2,000 cans was produced in 1933 and these were sampled by regular Krueger drinkers. The results were positive, 91 per cent of them liked the can. It was not until Jan 24, 1935, that the first beer cans went on sale to the general public when Krueger’s Finest Beer went on sale in Richmond, Virginia.
By the end of 1935, no less than 37 US breweries were producing canned beer.
by Arthur Furrowfield