BEER CANS - Cones, Flats & Pull Tabs
ABOUT BEER CANS
Cans for foods and other purposes were used in the early 1800s. However, they were unsuitable for beer and other beverages before Prohibition (in 1919), because the cans were unable to withstand the pressure of carbonation. Another issue was that it was thought that the taste of beer would be adversely affected by being placed in steel or tin cans. However, by the time Prohibition was repealed, improvements had been made in making cans stronger and in developing an interior coating that eliminated most taste concerns. The first beer cans were tested in 1933 and introduced around 1935 with favorable results. The advantages of cans compared to bottles were that they: 1) were much lighter and easier to bring home or to an event, 2) did not break, 3) took less space to stack / store, and 4) weighed less to transport. To make the use of cans more practical for brewers, different types of beer cans were developed. Following is a description of these variations as they evolved from Cone Tops and Flat Tops, then to Pull Tabs and ultimately to Stay Tabs. Cartons and cases for canned beer are also shown in this section. Please visit A History of the Beer Can for more information.
When beer cans were first used in the mid 1930s, only the larger brewers could afford separate canning operations for Flat Tops. Another problem with Flat Tops was that it required a new type of (can) opener, which took a while to be accepted by beer drinkers. (See Openers.) To make cans more economically viable for most local and regional brewers and so that they could be used with a traditional bottle opener, a funnel shaped can was developed for the cans so that they could have a regular bottle cap. (See Crowns.) These cans were referred to as "Cone Tops." It was a relatively easy transition for most brewers to apply bottle caps (crowns) in their bottling departments to these Cone Top cans. Four versions of the Cone Top were created by three different manufacturers: 1) Low Profile (Continental Can), 2) J Spout (Crown Cork & Seal) and 3) High Profile (American Can). There was also a more compact version 4) called a Crowntainer (Crown Cork & Seal). Some brewers varied their designs and used different varieties of Cone Tops, while others just used one style and the same basic design. Bavarian was on of the latter, only using the J Spout style Cone Top beginning in the late 1940s for Bavarian's Old Style Beer. Their design on the can was essentially unchanged for about a decade. Generally, Cone Tops stopped being used in the mid to late 1950s; only flat tops were used thereafter. It was then necessary for brewers to have separate bottling and canning operations.
FLAT TOPS made in Covington, KY
Bavarian's Old Style Beer 1955 - 1956. Eventually, nearly all brewers were compelled to have a separate canning line for "Flat Tops" - as opposed to cone tops. These first flat top cans were made of rolled steel and needed a new type of opener, referred to as a can piercer or "church key" can opener. Since most people did not have such an opener, they were often included with a six-pack container of cans. (See Openers.)
The first Bavarian's Old Style Beer flat top was not introduced until around 1955. As shown on the side, the design was essentially the same as for the cone top. In order to improve the flow of beer out of the can, it was helpful to puncture two holes in the can as shown by the example presented. The hole that was not used for drinking or pouring was often a little smaller. The design on this flat top was only used for just a couple of years, due to a change in the brand label.
BAVARIAN'S CONE TOP 1948 - 1955. The high profile Cone Top style that Bavarian brewed and bottled for Bavarian's Old Style Beer in Covington, KY (made by Am. Can Co.) is shown above. Apparently, Bavarian's other main brand during this time, Schott Ale, was only distributed in bottles or keys and never canned. The minor variation that occurred with Bavarian's Cone Top is that the ones from 1948 - 1950 indicated Internal Revenue Tax Paid (IRTP) on the upper right and those after early 1950 until 1955 did not.
Bavarian's Select Beer 1957 - 1959, by Bavarian Brewing Co. Bavarian modified the name of their beer to Bavarian's Select Beer (or Bavarian/s) in May, 1957, and introduced a new design, as shown by the can on the side. The printing on the can indicated it was bottled and brewed by Bavarian in Covington, KY. This new design was similar to their label. For sales in Ohio the can needed to indicate a seal as shown below.
Bavarian's Select Beer 1959 - c. 1962 by International Breweries Inc. (IBI) After Bavarian Brewing Co. was sold to International Breweries Inc., the name of this firm was reflected on the side of the can. This Bavarian/s steel flat top on the right was made in mid-1959. It was used until about 1963 when IBI switched to an aluminum zip top pull can.
IBI had other breweries that also produced Bavarian/s Beer in Buffalo, Findlay and Tampa beginning in the early 1960's in bottles. It's known that IBI also brewed and filled cans of Bavarian's in at least the Tampa plant, as shown by a 6-pack carton from this location at the bottom of this page. It's possible that some if not most of IBI locations may have also distributed Bavarian's in cans.
Other IBI Brands circa 1960 - c. 1963. There were at least four other brands that IBI made and distributed from their Bavarian Brewery plant in Covington, KY. These include FrankenMuth Ale, FrankenMuth Beer, Silver Bar Ale and Tropical Ale. Flat top cans from this plant are shown below. Labels also indicated these brands were bottled at IBI's Covington, KY location. In addition, it is believed that Old Dutch Beer may be another IBI brand made in Covington. (Please see Beer Labels.)
BAVARIAN/S PULL TABS
c. 1963 -1964. Zip Top. Unfortunately, flat tops became very inconvenient when someone didn't have a can piercer / opener to drink or pour a can of beer. To make the use of cans more convenient, the Zip Top Pull Tab began to be used in 1962. However, beginning in 1965 the Ring Top Pull Tab was created. In 1966, IBI went out of the brewery business and the Covington plant was closed. Examples of both Zip Top and Ring Pull Tabs are displayed on the right and below.
ASSOCIATED BREWERIES circa 1966 - 1972. Even though IBI divested from the brewery business and the Bavarian Brewery plant closed, Bavarian/s was still a popular brand. Consequently, IBI licensed the rights to brew and bottle/can Bavarian/s to Associated Breweries. Associated was headquartered with a brewery in Detroit, but also had breweries in Chicago, IL, Evansville, IN, South Bend, IN and St. Paul, MN. The first can below was from Associated at their Evansville, IN plant. The flat top can without a red flag is rather curious. Associated moved its operations from Detroit to Chicago shortly before it decided to exit from the beer business in 1972. Since this can mentions Chicago, but not Detroit, it's possible that this can was just used for a short period in one or more of Associated's remaining locations before they sold their breweries. However, if so, it would seem a can made in the early 1970s, would be a Pull Top or Stay Top, not a Flat Top.
c. Late 1960s by Associated Breweries,
AFTER 1972. After Associated Breweries decided to exit the beer business in 1972, selling some of their larger breweries to G. Heileman, some other entities continued to brew Bavarian's Select Beer. They included Bavarian's Brewing Co., Bavarian Brewing Co. and Iroquois Brewing Co., as shown by the pull top cans on the side and bottom. This may have been done similar to the license agreement that Associated had with IBI, However, before then, it's also possible that Associated may have established the aforenoted companies as part of their own company, and that these Bavarian/s cans were distributed somewhat before 1972. In any event, Bavarian/s was brewed and canned/bottled in at least three different locations from the pull tops from the aforesaid brewing companies depicted herein. It's not certain when Bavarian/s was no longer produced, but it was probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
c. Early 1970s by Iroquois Brewing Co.,Buffalo, NY.
c. Late 1960s - Early 1970s by Associated Breweries, Detroit MI.
c. Early 1970s by Bavarian's Brewing Co, Evansville, IN.
c. Early 1970s by Bavarian Brewing Co., Detroit, MI.
Since Pull Tabs often wound up in unwelcomed places after they were pulled off the can, they caused numerous problems and were phased out about a decade later. To eliminate the issues of Pull Tabs, Stay Tabs were invented in the early 1970s. However, around this time the production of Bavarian's Select was declining and was probably curtailed shortly thereafter. Consequently, there may not have been any Stay Tab cans for Bavarian/s.
CAN CARTONS & CASES
Just as bottled beer had cartons and cases, so did canned beer. A picture on the right shows a woman in the 1950s shopping next to cartons and cases of Bavarian's Old Style Beer in Cone Top cans. Below, and a few years later, are cartons of this beer in Flat Tops. On the far upper right is a 6-pack can carton of Bavarian's Select Beer and below it, a Flat Top carton from IBI's Tampa plant.