When beer was first brewed, it was served straight from the vat or barrel. In desert nations, it was sometimes transported in goat stomach bags and flasks. Later, lucky patrons could carry home their pails of brew. Next came the glass bottles, but so far, transporting and storage of beer still left something to be desired.

The first attempt at putting beer in a can happened in 1909 when a Montana brewer tested the idea with the aid of the American Can Company. How sad when they discovered the beer’s flavor was ruined when it reacted to the metal.

Adding to the canning of the can was the outbreak of World War I, when all metal was rationed, earmarked for the war effort. Then along came Prohibition in 1918, pulling the plug on all further experimentation.

At the blessed demise of Prohibition in 1933, packaging companies worked diligently to develop a beer can the wouldn’t be the ruination of good taste. They succeeded when American Can patented the “Keglined” process in 1934. They offered to install canning equipment at a New Jersey brewery and guaranteed against losses if the containers flopped. It was a rousing success, and soon Pabst took the beer can nationwide. (Those early cans had opening instructions on them and are valuable collectors’ items today, going for more than $400 each. Sorry, you WON’T be getting one from your favorite Beer of the Month Club!)

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Talk about being bitter! Bill Owens, past publisher of American Brewer, and hisAlimony Ale are in first place. His brew has been touted as “The Bitterest Brew in America.”

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Amy Heydt
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