The first canned beer in the United States goes on sale in Richmond, Virginia. By the end of the year, 37 breweries follow the lead of the Gottfried Krueger Brewery.
The American Can Co. began experimenting with canned beer in 1909. But the cans couldn’t withstand the pressure from carbonation — up to 80 pounds per square inch — and exploded. Just before the end of the Prohibition in 1933, the company developed a “keg-lining” technique, coating the inside of the can the same as a keg.
Krueger had been brewing beer since the mid-1800s, but had suffered from the Prohibition and worker strikes. When American Can approached with the idea of canned beer, it was initially unpopular with Krueger execs. But American Can offered to install the equipment for free: If the beer flopped, Krueger wouldn’t have to pay.
So, in 1935 Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer were the first beers sold to the public in cans. Canned beer was an immediate success. The public loved it, giving it a 91 percent approval rating.
Compared to glass, the cans were lightweight, cheap, and easy to stack and ship. Unlike bottles, you didn’t have to pay a deposit and then return the cans for a refund. By summer Krueger was buying 180,000 cans a day from American Can, and other breweries decided to follow.
The first cans were flat-topped and made of heavy-gauge steel. To open, a hole had to be punched in the top with the sharp end of a church-key style opener.
Some breweries tried out cans with conical rather than flat tops, but they didn’t stack and ship as easily. Cone tops were sealed with a crown cap just like the cap of a glass beer bottle.