Beer Can Appreciation Day is celebrated on January 24th of each year. The staff at National Whatever Day were unable to discover the origin of Beer Can Appreciation Day.
A Beer can is a metal container designed to hold a fixed portion of beer and are made of aluminum or tin-plated steel.
Beginning in the 1930s, after an established history of success with storing food, metal cans were used to store beverages—first with beer and then not long after that sodas with their higher acidity and somewhat higher pressures. The key development for storing beverages in cans was the interior liner, typically plastic or sometimes a waxy substance, that helped to keep the beverage’s flavor from being ruined by a chemical reaction with the metal. Another major factor for the timing was the end of Prohibition in the US at the end of 1933.
Canned beverages were factory-sealed and required a special opener tool in order to consume the contents. Cans were typically formed as cylinders, having a flat top and bottom. These would become known as “punch top” cans, they required an opener, typically a wedge shaped metal cutter known as a church key that latched onto the top rim for leverage where lifting it by hand would cut a triangular opening at the top edge of the can. A small second hole was usually punched at the opposite side of the top in order to let air in, allowing the beverage to flow freely.
In the mid-1930s, some cans were developed with caps so that they could be opened and poured more like a bottle. These were called “cone tops”, as their tops had a conical taper up to the smaller diameter of the cap. Cone top cans were sealed by the same crimped caps that were put on bottles, and could be opened with the same bottle-opener tool. There were three types of conetops: high profile, low profile, and j-spout. The low profile and j-spout were the earliest, dating from about 1935. The “crowntainer” was a different type of can that was drawn steel with a bottom cap. These were developed by Crown Cork & Seal (now known as Crown Holdings, Inc.), a leading beverage packaging and beverage can producer. Various breweries used crowntainers and conetops until the late 1950s, but many breweries kept producing the simple cylinder-cans.
The popularity of canned beverages was slow to catch on, as the metallic taste was difficult to overcome with the interior liner not perfected, especially with more acidic sodas. But one significant advantage that cans had over bottles is that they were discarded after use, unlike the deposit typically paid for bottles and not reimbursed until after consumers returned the empties back to the store. For the distributors, flat-top cans were more compact for transportation and storage, with cans also weighing less than bottles. By the time the US entered World War II, cans had gained only about ten percent of the beverage container market. And this was brought drastically down during the war to accommodate strategic needs for metal.
In 1959, Ermal Fraze devised a can-opening method that would come to dominate the canned beverage market. His invention was the “pull-tab”. This eliminated the need for a separate opener tool by attaching an aluminium pull-ring lever with a rivet to a pre-scored wedge-shaped tab section of the can top. It was like having an opener tool built into every can. The ring was riveted to the center of the top, which created a wedge opening long enough so that one hole served to both let the beverage flow out while air flowed in. Into the 1970s, the pull-tab was widely popular, however its popularity came with a significant problem as people would frequently discard the pull-tabs on the ground as litter. One technique that avoided littering was to drop the pull-tab into the drink. The littering problem was also addressed by the invention of the “push-tab”.
Used primarily on Coors Beer cans in the mid-70s, the push-tab was a raised circular scored area used in place of the pull-tab. It needed no ring to pull up. Instead, the raised aluminium blister was pushed down into the can, with a small unscored piece that kept the tab connected after being pushed inside. Push-tabs never gained wide popularity because while they had solved the litter problem of the pull-tab, they created a safety hazard where the person’s finger upon pushing the tab into the can was immediately exposed to the sharp edges of the opening. (An unusual feature of the push-tab Coors Beer cans was that they had a second smaller push-tab at the top as an airflow vent—a convenience that was lost with the switch from can opener to pull-tab.)
The safety and litter problems were both eventually solved later in the 1970s with the invention of the non-removing “pop-tab”. The pull-ring was replaced with a stiff aluminium lever, and the removable tab was replaced with a pre-scored round tab that functioned similarly to the push-tab, however the raised blister was no longer needed as the riveted lever would now do the job of pushing the tab open and into the interior of the can.
In 2008, an aluminium version of the crowntainer design was adopted for packaging Coca-Cola’s Caribou Coffee beverage. In 2004, Anheuser-Busch adopted an all-aluminum bottle for use with Budweiser and Bud Light beers.