The Keg (Eastern Coast Breweriana Association) Spring 1998
From The Western Brewer : Beer in Cans
by Rich Wagner
I've been intending to share this item from The Western Brewer with can collectors for a number of years. Does the beer can actually date back to the nineteenth century? Collectors reply that the beer can which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1985 was lined and sealed. So I guess the point is whether we're talking about beer cans or beer in cans. Beer has been sold in a variety of metal containers throughout time, the simplest of which was a pail known as a growler.
Greg Kitsock's article "Craft Beer In Cans?" appeared in The New Brewer recently. He listed the date of the first beer can as 1935. Steve Bradt, from Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence, Kansas wrote a letter to the editor saying that he had seen a reference to a beer can from Brandon & Beal Brewery in Leavenworth, Kansas (KS 26.1: 1887-1911). The editor replied that the photograph published in Kansas Breweries and Beer to which the letter referred did not verify that it was in anyway similar to today's beer can and could have been up to one gallon in volume.
This "cork" from The Western Brewer about Joseph Kohnle's Bush Hill Brewery (PA 543) supports the editor's comment, and sheds some light on how beer was being peddled in metal cans way back when.
The Western Brewer August 15, 1888
Corks. As usual the stringent terms of the new Pennsylvania high license law is productive of many schemes to evade its tyrannical provisions. Here is a new one. The Philadelphia papers report that Joseph Kohnle, proprietor of the Bush Hill Brewery, having received a brewers' license, has had 250 one-gallon tin cans made resembling cream cans, and provided with deep lids holding about a glass of beer. These cans he fills with beer, and sells at the rate of 30 cents for the beer and 25 cents deposit on the can. The purchasers are not allowed to drink the beer on the premises. They stand along Buttonwood street in groups of four or five and drink from these cans. The matter was brought to the attention of the Superintendent of Police, who, however, said, after consulting the license laws, that he did not see that the law had been violated. Brewers are not permitted to sell less than one gallon of malt liquor at a time, and there was nothing in the law, he said, specifying that it should be sold in a vessel of any particular shape or material.