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January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

Posted January 24, 2007 12:21 PM by Steve Melito

Seventy-two years ago today, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, New Jersey delivered the first canned beer to distributors in Richmond, Virginia. William C. Krueger, the American-born son of a German brewer, selected the distant test market to preserve his company's reputation in case sales of the canned beer fell flat. There was no obvious demand from drinkers, and larger breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and Pabst had long since rejected canning as a packaging method. A "free" canning line from the American Can Company reduced Krueger's risk, however, while dreams of a larger market share promised to ease the financial hangover caused by 13 years of Prohibition. When the results of a product survey arrived, Krueger may have opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Of the 750 beer drinkers surveyed, over 90% approved of the steel cans that the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company had shipped to Richmond.

William C. Krueger's gamble was made possible by the American Can Company, a Baltimore-based packager that first tried to can beer in 1909. Although canned foodstuffs were popularized toward end of the 19th century, problems with pressurization kept larger breweries from being the first to can beer. Plus, the traditional method of opening a "tin can" involved removing the entire lid – a messy proposition in most barrooms. In November of 1933, the American Can Company offered to install a temporary canning line in Krueger's last-remaining production facility. In turn, the brewery agreed to pay for the "free" packaging equipment only if canned beer proved profitable. With nothing to lose, Krueger filled 2,000 beer cans and gave the product away to its faithful customers. Positive feedback convinced the brewery and cannery to test the larger, distant market of Richmond, Virginia.

America's first beer cans were made of steel, not tin. They weighted nearly 4 oz. and were lined so that the beer would not react with the can's steel shell. Strong enough to withstand the pressure from pasteurization and carbonation, Krueger's cans were adorned with metallic paint and colorfully labeled. For several years, they depicted a special can opener from the American Can Company that showed beer drinkers how to punch a hole in the lid, much as a mechanic might open a can of oil. Although Krueger's "oil cans" were more expensive to produce than glass bottles, they could be tightly-packed in order to reduce transportation costs. Distributors, retailers, and consumers also welcomed the lighter, stackable, more durable containers. Soon, other brewers caught on. In May 1935, Pabst became the second American brewer to ship beer in cans. By the end 1935, some 36 breweries had joined the party.

Resources:

http://www.greenmon.com/first_beer_cans.htm

http://www.virtualnewarknj.com/busind/brewery/krueger.php

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#1

Re: January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

01/24/2007 2:38 PM

Three Cheers!!!

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#2

Re: January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

01/25/2007 8:51 AM

Unfortunately, everyone involved celebrated so drunkenly, they forgot to recall this historic moment until now...

Thank you canned beer, for causing a socialist snobbery of the "bottle drinkers"...

Canned beer, i will not discriminate, as long as you stay fresh for me...

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#3

Re: January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

01/25/2007 9:43 AM

Great info!

I have often heard that something was better than "sliced bread or canned beer." Now, if we could just find out how sliced bread came about...

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Re: January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

01/25/2007 10:12 AM

I believe it was Otto Frederick Rohwedder - maybe Moose will do a story

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Re: January 24, 1935: The First Canned Beer

01/25/2007 1:21 PM

Thanks for the tip. I asked my good friend, Mr. Google, what he knew about Otto Rohwedder and he said... http://desmoinesregister.com/extras/iowans/rohwedder.html

Another intersting article from the Kansas City Star http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/ABOUT-WORDS/2004-01/1074732264

So, it would appear that sliced bread predates canned beer; therefore, one could have said (in 1935) that canned beer was the greatest thing since sliced bread!

Tonight, when I pop the top on a cold one and make myself a sandwich, I will think kindly thoughts about Mr. Krueger and Mr. Rohwedder.

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