Technology

A Short History of the Beer Can

In the past few years, hundreds of craft breweries began canning their beer. It wasn’t an easy decision because canned beer was associated with national-brand lagers, and canning equipment was an expensive investment for small breweries.

Even though canned foods date back to 1813, it took more another century, and then some, for a brewery to successfully put its beer in cans. In 1933, the American Can Company invented a can that was strong enough to hold a pressurized carbonated liquid lined with a coating that prevented metallic tastes from flavoring the beer. Two years later, the Kreuger Brewing Company test-marketed two of its beers in Richmond, Virginia.

Kreuger’s cans were a success, but there was plenty of room for improvement. The early cans were made of heavy steel coated with a thin layer of tin to prevent rusting. Those gave way to aluminum cans, first used by the Hawaii Brewing Company in 1958. Nowadays, cans are made out of an aluminum alloy, which is even lighter weight and more resistant to rusting.

The beer can’s shape also changed over time. Early cans looked like cylinders with flat tops and bottoms. The next generation of cans had cone tops, which became popular with small breweries because they were easier to fill and could be sealed with the same crown caps as glass bottles. By the late 1950s, however, cone-top cans were replaced by cylindrical cans with flat tops and bottoms.

Opening canned beer has gotten easier as well. The original flat-top cans required a device called a “church key”, which punctured a triangular hole at the top of the can, out of which a person could drink, and a second, smaller hole on the opposite side to let air into the can and allow the beer to flow. In 1962, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company released a can with a “zip top,” a small flat tab riveted to the center of the can’s top that could be pulled back to puncture the can. Three years later, a pull ring, similar to those used in cans of pet food, replaced the flat tab. However, the discarded tabs created an environmental problem. In 1975, Reynolds Metals Company solved it with a “stay-tab,” which is now standard technology in beer and pop cans worldwide.

Canned craft beer has several advantages: it can be hermetically sealed; it cools faster than bottled beer; and it’s friendlier to outdoor activities. As for the belief that canned craft beer tastes of metal, that has long since been debunked.

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The Friday Mash (Lamont Cranston Edition)

Eighty-five years ago, the radio drama The Shadow debuted. The title character, who know “what evil lurks in the hearts of men,” became a major influence on later comic book superheroes, Batman in particular.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Kabul, Afghanistan, where non-alcoholic beer is popular, and costs only 30 cents a can. Alcohol is banned in this Muslim country–but there’s a thriving black market in beer and spirits.

Lululemon, the yoga pants company, is using beer to attract male customers. Curiosity Lager, which features hints of lemon drop and Chinook hops, will soon be available at select locations in Canada.

Heavy Seas Brewing Company will mark the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken, Jr., setting a new Major League Baseball consecutive-games-played with a retro lager called Fielder’s Choice.

Vault Brewing Company invented a new way of canning nitro-conditioned beer. Vault adds the nitrogen when the beer is canned, bypassing the famous Guinness “widget.”

“Session beers”—those with less than 5% ABV—have gained a following among Colorado drinkers. The trend has spread from India pale ales to other styles, such as sour beers and saisons.

Producers of the zombie drama The Walking Dead have teamed up with Terrapin Brewing Company to make the show’s official beer: a Red India pale ale brewed with blood orange peel.

Finally, not all Utahns are Mormons, and some stage an alternative to the Pioneer Day state holiday. It’s called called “Pie and Beer Day,” and celebrants are invited to gather friends and family. Beer is optional.

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The Friday Mash (Very Endangered Species Edition)

On this day in 1844, the last two known great auks were killed. These large flightless penguin-like birds, which lived in the North Atlantic, were hunted to extinction because their down was in high demand in Europe.

And on that auk-ward note…The Mash!

We begin in China, where designer Li Rongjun has built an office out of 8,500 empty beer bottles. Rongjun has a degree in construction from the Inner Mongolia University of Science & Technology.

Lagunitas Brewing Company will build a third brewery in Asuza, California. The new plant, with a projected capacity of more than 400,000 barrels a year, is expected to open in early 2017.

Molson’s Beer Fridge will make an appearance at this month’s Pan-American Games in Toronto. The latest edition will dispense a free Molson to those who say “I Am Canadian” in any of 40 languages.

Anita Brown, an artist in Los Angeles, has designed beers for each of the books in the Harry Potter series. They include Pilsner of Azkaban, Amber of Secrets, and Deathly Hops (h/t Jay Brooks).

Queen is the latest rock group to release its own beer. It’s a pilsner that will be called—what else?—Bohemian Rhapsody. The bottle’s design features a crest designed by Freddie Mercury himself while he was in college.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria has pulled a custom-brewed batch of ale from Chicago’s Trump Tower in protest of Donald Trump’s comments about Mexico. 5 Rabbit’s founder, is a native of Costa Rica.

Finally, New Orleans is rarely associated with German culture, but Tchoupitoulas Beer Garden, a year-round, Oktoberfest-inspired beer hall, will open this summer in the city’s Warehouse District.

The Friday Mash (UN Edition)

Seventy years ago today, representatives of 50 countries meeting in San Francisco signed the Charter of the United Nations. The UN’s original five Security Council members were the U.S., Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China (Taiwan)–which shows up in this week’s Mash.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Goose Island Brewing Company is launching a series of beers brewed by its alumni. First up is Greg Hall, who returned 27 years after his first day on the job.

Duquesne Brewing Company is rolling out a beer honoring Joe Paterno. Part of the proceeds from the Vienna-style lager will go to charities chosen by the late coach’s family.

Carlsberg Brewing, with 8 percent of the world beer market, is pitching a line of grooming products to the men who drink its beer. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion.

Beer has been linked to “man boobs”. But even though hops contain phytoestrogen, it’s found in many other foods. The real culprit is calories, not beer itself.

Chestnuts aren’t just for roasting on an open fire. Dennis Fulbright, professor emeritus at Michigan State University, says they make for sweeter, smoother beers—which are also gluten-free.

A Portland, Oregon, a beer hall that opens next month will pay its workers at least $15 an hour, and will enforce a no-tipping policy. Beers, sandwiches, and sausages will cost $6 apiece.

Finally, the Wunderman Taiwan brewery gave a new meaning to starting a “buzz.” It dressed up drones as bees to deliver its new Honey Beer to office workers.

The Friday Mash (Juneteenth Edition)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom–which actually had been granted more than two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation. The anniversary, known as “Juneteenth,” is officially celebrated in 42 states.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Mystic, Connecticut, where members of the StoneRidge retirement community are brewing their own beer. Why not? It’s educational, it’s fun, and it’s beer!

Massachusetts has strange liquor laws, one of which bans breweries from donating beer to charity events. Oddly, the ban—enacted by the legislature in 1997—doesn’t apply to wine donations.

“Sweet Baby Jesus” is DuClaw Brewing Company’s flagship beer. However, an Ohio grocery chain has pulled the beer from its shelves after customers complained about the name.

The New York State Brewers Association has created Statewide Pale Ale. The beer, made entirely with in-state ingredients, is projected to raise $20,000 for the association.

What is the link between Magna Carta and the English pint? According to Britain’s Communities Minister, the “London quarter” mentioned in the 800-year-old document is equivalent to two imperial pints.

There are hard-to-find beers, and there are truly rare beers, which make “Pappy Van Winkle seem as easy to find as a can of Coke.” Esquire magazine’s Aaron Goldfarb acquaints you with ten of them.

Finally, DNA meets IPA. Gianpaolo Rando, a European chemist who loves beer, wants to sequence the DNA more than 100 different beers in the hopes of producing an app that will match beers to drinkers’ own hereditary makeup.

The Friday Mash (Baseball Hall of Fame Edition)

On this day in 1939, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, New York. Currently, 310 people are enshrined in the Hall. They will be joined this summer by Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez, and John Smoltz.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Bavaria, where President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rankled traditionalists by drinking non-alcoholic weissbier during the G-7 conference of world leaders.

Collaborative brewing has taken off in the past few years. One notable collaboration is the one between San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Company and Belgium’s St. Feuillien.

Snoop Dogg has filed a breach of contract suit against Pabst Brewing Company. He contends that the brewery’s sale of Colt .45 triggered a clause entitling him to part of the purchase price.

You’ll have to wait to buy a bottle of Founders Breakfast Stout in New Hampshire. Citing the state’s underage-drinking problem, Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed legislation that would allow children to be depicted on beer labels.

Tech Times has assembled a list of 13 beer apps for Android and IoS that are generally rated at the top of their category:

Hard cider sales have skyrocketed in Central Europe, the home of the world’s heartiest beer drinkers. Global brands like Heineken and SABMiller are trying to cash in on the trend.

Finally, Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune hosted a panel of beer experts headlined by Randy Mosher at the famed Map Room to discuss the state of craft brewing. There are more than 60 breweries in Chicagoland.

The Friday Mash (Orient Express Edition)

On this day in 1883, the first regularly-scheduled Orient Express, a long-distance luxury train, left Paris for Vienna. The Orient Express’s route and rolling stock changed many times over its lifetime, but the train has become synonymous with luxury, intrigue, and a famous fictional murder.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Pennsylvania, where Jonathan Cooper has developed “Thinking & Drinking,” a card game that encourages players to explore local breweries through conversation-starting questions.

Inventor Staton Lorenz has developed the “Growler Collar,” a plastic device that screws onto the top of growlers and lifts them off the counter to allow for proper air circulation and drying.

In the May 28 New York Times, Dr. Daniela Lamas describes how she and a medical student offered comfort to a terminally-ill cancer patient in the form of a cold bottle of Guinness.

The fantasy-league craze has extended to craft beer. Tyler Moss of Paste magazine describes his league, in which team owners submit beers from their roster for a competitive tasting.

In California, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s popularity has municipal officials struggling to handle traffic. Lagunitas will spend $30 million to up production and make its headquarters easier to visit.

Entourage star Adrian Grenier has launched his own brand of beer, the Churchkey Can Company. Why “Churchkey?” Customers have to use a traditional can opener to open the retro-design cans.

Finally, Soweto, in South Africa, is best known for apartheid and poverty. It’s also the home of uBuntu Kraal (”Togetherness Ranch”), South Africa’s only majority black-owned brewery, whose Soweto Gold is aimed at the emerging black middle class.

The Friday Mash (Little Rhody Edition)

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago today, Rhode Island became the 13th and last of the original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Even though the state ranks last in area, it has the longest name of any U.S. state: “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Hamburg, Germany, where the Astra brewery has installed a billboard that uses facial detection to detect one’s gender If a woman passes by, it plays her an Astra commercial.

Last November, Whole Foods Market added a Criveller brewing system to its store in Houston. A month later, it started brewing beer at its store in Emeryville, California.

Dock Beer, a golden saison by Dock Street Brewing, will be aged with an extra ingredient: nonstop music by Wu-Tang Clan, whose bass notes will move the yeast around.

A 2012 law raising the ABV cap on beer has kick-started craft brewing in Mississippi. Hank Sforzini of Paste magazine names five of his favorites.

A man who has been paralyzed for 13 years can once again enjoy a beer, thanks to a mind-controlled robot arm developed by Caltech and its partners.

Finally, Dick and Nancy Ponzi needed another business to generate income for their planned pinot noir winery. That business was the 31-year-old BridgePort Brewing Company, Oregon’s oldest craft brewery.

The Friday Mash (Mickey D Edition)

Seventy-five years ago today, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a fast-food restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Businessman Ray Kroc bought out the brothers’ equity, and turned it into a world-wide franchise operation.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Greater Detroit, where Griffin Claw Brewing Company has brewed an amber ale for the Detroit Zoo. It hopes to distribute the ale statewide, with part of proceeds going back to the zoo.

Can Belgian beer help you lose weight? Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London contends that it contains bacteria that keeps people slim. Junk food, on the other hand, kills these bacteria.

Many craft beer lovers hold Blue Moon in low regard. However, investment firm executive Charles Sizemore believes the beer is a winner for MillerCoors: it appeals to high-income casual drinkers who want a beer or two after work.

Munich’s Hofbrauhaus is franchising another American location. The latest is a historic dining hall in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, which will be given the HB look and feel.

In her ad for [redacted] Beer, comedian Amy Schumer unleashed a snark attack on beer commercials. Fair warning: the video in this link is not safe for work.

The next-to-last episode of Mad Men showed Don Draper in an Oklahoma watering hole, listening to veterans telling war stories while drinking Lone Star beer and other adult beverages.

Finally, YouTuber Dave Hax shows you how to turn a box of tall-boy beer bottles into a picnic cooler. Cut open the top of the box to make a lid, pull all of the beer out, line it with a plastic bag, and put the beer back in. Add plenty of ice…and voila!

Using DNA to Spot Bad Beer

The Russian River Brewing Company is famous for its Pliny IPAs. It also brews sour beers steeped in Pediococcus and Lactobacillus, which give them their funky taste. Problem is, those bacilli can destroy the taste of IPA. As a result, Russian River has gone to great lengths to make sure the equipment and people associated with the two styles are kept separate.

Tiny amounts of bacteria can ruin thousands of dollars worth of beer. Most breweries use a technique called plating, in which a small sample of beer is placed in an incubator; if the beer is infected, a bacteria colony will appear. However, plating takes time. To find bacteria faster, Russian River has bought BrewPal, a new testing technology from a Philadelphia-based company called Invisible Sentinel.

BrewPal identifies the DNA of the specific types of Pediococcus and Lactobacillus that damage batches of beer. It uses a three-step process. First, a sample of beer is run through a centrifuge, and then into the BrewPal hardware. Second, the sample is heated and then cooled for 2-1/2 hours so that the bacteria’s DNA can be amplified. Finally, the sample is dropped into a disposable plastic reader that resembles a home pregnancy test: it tells whether the bacteria are present, and whether the infection is mild or severe.

A full BrewPal system retails for around $5,000, so it’s affordable for many craft breweries.

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