Today is a big day in beer history. January 24th marks the anniversary of the first canned beer sold in the U.S. thanks to the American Can Company. It was their innovation that ultimately led to the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company releasing “Krueger’s Finest Beer & “Cream Ale” in a new steel can format (we were still years away from traditional aluminum). The New Jersey brewery test marketed 2,000 cans in Richmond, Virginia for the first time 83 years ago.
Interestingly, the American Can Company started this whole process back in 1909. Unfortunately, the 80 pounds of pressure per square inch needed to maintain carbonation caused the first cans to explode. Despite American Prohibition, the company continued their research in hopes of the day beer was legal once again.
As crazy as it sounds now, the sale of beer in cans wasn’t easy. Adoption took time. Gottfried Krueger was founded in 1858 and was pretty set in their brewing ways and pretty much dismissed the idea of canning when American Can approached them in 1935. That was, until the canning equipment was offered for free.
As it turned out, Krueger’s Finest Beer and Cream Ale sales swelled thanks to the steel can sales, prompting Pabst, Schlitz, Stroh’s and Anheuser Busch to adopt canning just to regain market share.
Beer canning in the United States was put on hold for a few years due to a resource strain during World War II. The heavy steel can only had a few years left in use when canning resumed in 1947, as the more modern aluminum can was ultimately introduced in 1958.
Here in 2019, the United States has swelled to a record-breaking 7,000+ breweries. According to 2016 IRI Worldwide Data, canned beer accounts for more than 50% of beer (all beer) sold in the United States.
In the craft beer segment, Brewers Association economist Bart Watson has found a continued increase in market share by cans, seeing more craft breweries adopting at least a mix of cans and bottles.
To think Krueger turned down the idea. Within three months of the first release, Krueger’s newly adopted can format was in the hands of over 80 distributors (which was a lot back then).
Sadly, two years after Krueger’s 100th birthday, the company was sold and the Newark, New Jersey plant was closed. While the brand may be gone, their aluminum efforts have set off a canned revolution that is only growing in American beer today. Of the Top 25 largest breweries in the U.S., from Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, and MillerCoors to Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, Founders, Bell’s Stone and Brooklyn Brewing – all can at least some of their lineup.
That number just keeps growing every year.