Ireland Craft Beers

Blog

From brewery, can, to bag, the story of Canned beer

Posted By Conor McCaffery on April 23, 2018

Put down the Sudocream! Doctors around the globe are reportedly prescribing a "big bag of cans with the lads" as a treatment for all major illnesses, this is sure to revolutionise modern medicine. Dr. Mick had this to say, "the crisp sound of a chilled can opening while surrounded by the lad's releases tensions from the body more effectively than any other treatment I've come across in my many months of practice".

We completely agree with Dr. Mick, yes, a bottle of beer will have the same content and will surely get you to the same destination, but there's nothing quite like reaching into the fridge for a freezing cold can and hearing that almighty pshhhhhhhh. You just don't get the same satisfaction with a bottle. Who must we worship for this great revolutionary medical treatment? You will need to go back to 1809 when Nicolas Appert, the self-proclaimed "Daddy of canning" first came up with the idea of preserving food by sterilization. This was in response to the French governments offer of 12,000 francs to anyone who could invent a method of preserving food for its army and navy, Interesting indeed.

Fast forward a year and British merchant Peter Durand was granted a patent by King George III to preserve food using tin-plated cans. So, there you have it, Peter Durand the inventor of the tin can, finally I can sleep at night!

One man that clearly wasn't satisfied with that conclusion was Norman Cowell, a retired lecturer at the department of food science and technology at Reading University, whilst giving the patent a closer inspection he discovered that it was "an invention communicated to Mr Durand by a certain foreigner residing abroad". So, wait… it's been in writing this whole time on a patent held at the National archives in London and only now someone read the fine print? If you're interested, the actual inventor is Philippe de Girard from France. Bit of a 19th century Mark Zuckerberg and those Winklevoss twin's situation...

Mr. Durand clearly didn't believe in the concept, as he ended up selling the patent to engineer Bryan Donkin for £1,000, which is around 80 thousand in today prices. Donkin, on the other hand, seemed to have a genuine interest in tin technology being an engineer and all that. It took him two years to perfect the concept, and in the summer of 1813, production began and cans rolled off the floor. The cans ranged from 4lb to 20lb in weight, which would make a trip to Tesco a great gym session. P reserving food, whilst also tackilng the obesity problem, two birds one stone! Efficient, I like it.

Let's get back to why you're really reading this, the birth of the mighty Beer can!

Well the story goes like this, in 1909 Leopold Schmidt, an idealistic German immigrant living in Washington decides it would be pretty cool if beer came in cans so he asked the largest cannery in the US, American Can Company to see if it's possible. They said no chance, time had passed and still no cans. Thanks to the good old American prohibition, the production of canned beer was ‘slightly' delayed.

Quite a few years later in 1925, Charles Stollberg files a patent for a can that's sturdy enough to hold beer. I'm no can expert, but surely those 20lb cans Mr. Donkin had could've done the job, but sure what do I know? I'm sitting here writing a blog piece on cans. After some persuasion, Anheuser-Busch and Pabst finally convinced the American Can Company to start prototyping canned beer. Turns out it's quite difficult to design a can that preserve beer, but hallelujah, after endless attempts they eventually devised a mix of vinylite and enamel in order to keep the beer from coming in contact with the can.

It was Kruger that had the honour of canning the first beer ever in September of 1933, however they didn't actually sell any to customers, instead they sent all 2,000 cans to loyal Kruger drinkers, along with a survey to judge whether people would like beer in a can (91 percent said yes) and the rest is history.

The first canned beer to be sold was Kruger Cream Ale in Richmond, Virginia on January 24, 1935! Things were going quite smoothly, other companies began to can their beers but the largest at the time was the iconic blue ribbon beer by Milwaukee‘s Pabst. Then on September 1st, 1939 World War II broke out and all tin plate was reserved for the US military. Turns out though, soldiers are fond of a drink, and the military ended up buying over 18 million cans of beer from various breweries that used the same recipe.

Even though Anheuser-Busch were the ones that persuaded American Can Company to start prototyping canned beer, they didn't can their famous Budweiser until 1950 with the distinctive red and white, script-filled label, which would go on to become one of the most recognized logos on earth. The first all-aluminum beer can hit the market in 1958 with Primo Beer, not much to say here, to be honest, the beer was now in an aluminium can... moving on, we must take a big leap to 1991 Jeff Fullbright at Mid-Coast Brewing of Oshkosh, Wisconsin canned the first ever craft beer. They would regularly publish ads stating the advantage of canning, but truth is, it was mostly about economics as cans allowed the brewery to save a couple cents per ounce over glass, this was a crucial first step in the can-based craft brew surge that we're in today.

Well there you have it, the history of the can, wasn't that some exciting stuff? Right enough though, cans really are class and the beer industry wouldn't be the same without them so thank you Mr Donkin and that French fella Philippe de Girard who invented the can. Where are we now? Breweries all over the world are canning their beers. Here in Ireland the trend has taken off massively with Rascals Brewing, Whitehag, Whiplash beer,Boyne Brewhouse, Mourne Mountains brewery, Metalman brewery and of course Eight Degrees Brewing are all canning beer now. What does the future hold? We don't have to look too far as Ireland Craft Beers DOWNSTREAM beer is in the process of converting to cans which will have the famous QR code printed on it… another world first!