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Great moments in canning

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Craft brewers are realizing the benefits of canning their wares (cheaper to ship, no chance of lightstrike) and jumping on the aluminum bandwagon. Here’s a rundown of how the humble can got to where it is today.

 

1795

The stage is set for the first can when Napoleon offers a 12,000-franc reward for a way to preserve food for his military. Thank the little guy the next time you pop open a cold one.

Napoleon

1810

Napoleon’s challenge is met by “the father of canning,” Nicolas Appert. The Frenchman’s simple glass sterilization process quickly spreads, setting the stage for tin canners yet to come.

 

1818

British inventor and merchant Peter Durand patents the tin can. He brings his idea overseas, and Americans finally get their hands on some cans.

 

1856

Gail Borden receives a patent for the first canned liquid: condensed milk.

Borden

1933

The American Can Co. submits a patent for its new process of lining cans with tarlike “brewers pitch.” Within a year, the substance is replaced by enamel, and the beer-ready “keglined” can is born.

 

1935

Krueger Brewing sells the nation’s first canned brews: Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread—which was only seven years old at the time.

 

1937

America’s favorite block of canned meat, SPAM, debuts. The first SPAM joke is created shortly thereafter.

Krueger Cream Ale

 

1941

Troops fighting in WWII rely heavily on canned rations. Back home, Americans do their patriotic duty and take their cans to be melted down and used in the war effort.

 

1962

The lowly can becomes high art with Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.

 

1963

Ermal Fraze replaces the cumbersome pull-tab by creating the pop-top that still graces cans to this day. The reign of the can opener is destroyed in one fell swoop.

 

1969

The times, they are a-changin’: canned beer outsells bottled beer for the first time. The war between glass and aluminum gets serious.

Moose Drool

 

1985

Coca-Cola becomes the first canned beverage to be consumed in outer space aboard the Challenger space shuttle.

 

1999

Aluminum gets a new twist when Big Sky Brewing bottles its popular Moose Drool brown ale in the United States’ first aluminum bottle.

 

2000

Tempra Technology creates a self-chilling can that drops its own temperature 30 degrees in three minutes. Twelve years later and we’re still waiting.

 

2002

Colorado’s Oskar Blues becomes the first American craft brewer to can its beers exclusively.

 

2009

The world’s largest celebration of canned beer, appropriately named CANFEST, debuts. Coors Light introduces color-changing mountains on Cold Activated cans; you know you’re good to go when the Rockies change from white to blue. And Craftcans.com launches to track the rising popularity of canned beer; more than 400 canned brews are currently available for can fans to tick.

 

2011

In September, Great Crescent Brewery canned its Bourbon’s Barrel Stout; one month later, Tallgrass Brewing released the first canned tripel, Velvet Rooster, challenging the stigma of the packaging and the preconceptions of beer connoisseurs everywhere.

 

TODAY

The canning craze continues. First out: aluminum-clad Sierra Nevada launches in California.

PLUS: In what is certainly the world’s biggest ode to the beer can, John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, began covering his Houston home with beer cans in 1968. Over the years, he added curtains, fencing and artwork made from cans, too, and the completed Beer Can House is estimated to contain more than 50,000 empties. Milkovisch died in 1988, but the house lives on as a tribute to recycling, and is open for tours.

 

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