BEER CANS - Cones, Flats & Pull Tabs

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  However, by the time Prohibition was repealed, improvements had been made in making cans stronger and in developing an interior coating that eliminated most taste concerns.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 in 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 (Zip Top & then Ring) 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 by 1938  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 different manufacturers: 1) Low Profile (Continental Can), 2) J Spout (Crown Cork & Seal) and 3) High Profile (American Can, Continental Can & Crown Cork & Seal) and 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 used just one style and the same basic design.  Bavarian was one 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 when they transitioned to flat top cans in 1955. 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. 

BAVARIAN'S CONE TOP 1948 - 1955.

There were two versions Bavarian's Old Style Beer high profile Cone Top cans, which were very similar. The first one was produced from about 1948 until 1950 and included the statement "Int. Revenue Tax Paid" (IRTP) to the right of the trademark symbol. The second version excludes the IRTP statement, which was no longer required beginning in 1950, and was made until 1955 when flat top cans began being used.  It is believed the earlier cans were manufactured by  Crown Cork and Seal and the later ones by Continental Can Co. Evidently, the "cone" part of the can and the rims were first painted with a silver primer and then with gold. Over time, the gold paint often flaked off, but some of the primer paint could remain. This explains why the two Cone Tops shown have different top and rim colors.  The more common cone top without the IRTP is classified by the Brewery's Collectors Club of America (BCCA) , formerly the Beer Can Collectors of America, in their reference book U.S. Beer Cans on page 151, item 3. Collectors identify this as 151-3. The rather scarce cone top with the IRTP is not referenced by BCCA.

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 a couple of  years, due to a change in the brand label. It's classified by the BCCA as 35-11.

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 brewed and bottled/canned by Bavarian in Covington, KY.  This new design was similar to their label on bottled beer. For sales in Ohio the can needed to indicate a seal as shown below. It's classified by the BCCA as 35-12.

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. It's classified by BCCA as 35-13.

IBI also brewed and filled cans of Bavarian/s in their Tampa plant, as shown by the different views of the can below and  a 6-pack carton from this location at the bottom of this page. It's classified by the BCCA as 35-10.
In addition, IBI had other breweries that produced Bavarian/s Beer in Buffalo NY, Findlay OH and Tampa FL  beginning in the early 1960's in bottles. However, it does not appear that IBI packaged Bavarian/s in cans at their Buffalo and Findlay plants.

Other IBI Brands c. 1960 - 1963. Besides Bavarian/s Beer, there were at least five other brands that IBI made and distributed in flat top cans from their plant in Covington, KY. These include FrankenMuth Ale, FrankenMuth Beer, Silver Bar Ale Tropical Ale and Stolz Beer, as shown below. These cans are respectively referenced by the BCCA as 85-19, 85-20, 85-21 and 137-2, with no reference for Tropical Ale in cans from Covington.

In addition, labels indicated other names brewed and bottled at the Covington plant included; Old Dutch Beer, FrankenMuth Bock Beer, Phoenix Beer & IBI Malt Liquor, as well as Bavarian/s Bock Beer. (Please see Beer Labels.) In total, about a dozen different IBI brands were brewed and distributed from the Covington plant. 

The brands shown above were also all distributed in cans from IBI's plants in Tampa and Buffalo, besides Covington. Silver Bar Beer was also distributed in cans from Tampa and Buffalo, but apparently not in Covington. Iroquois Beer and Iroquois Ale were only bottled and canned by IBI in Buffalo. The IBI Findaly OH plant was IBI's first plant to close and only produced Old Dutch Beer and FrankenMuth Beer. As discussed below, after IBI was dissolved in 1966, there were other entities that brewed and distributed Bavarian/s in Evansville, IN, Buffalo, NY, and Detroit, MI, as discussed below.


c. 1963 -1965. Zip Top Cans by IBI. 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 was invented by a tool and die maker named Ermal Fraze from Dayton, OH in 1959. Fraze sold his invention to Alcoa and it began being used with aluminum cans in 1962.  An example of this tab is displayed on the right. Beginning in 1965 the Ring Top Pull Tab was created, but IBI went went out of the brewery business in 1966, the Covington plant was closed and there may not have been any Ring Top Tabs made by IBI for Bavarian/s. However, a Ring Top Tab was used for Bavarian/s by Associated Brewing,a/k/a Bavarian/s Brewing Co., and  by Iroquois Brewing in Buffalo, NY.  (See below.)

ASSOCIATED BREWERIES c. 1966 - 1972.  Even though IBI divested from the brewery business and the Bavarian Brewery plant closed in 1966, 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 with only blue and green flags and 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, Evansville, IN.  

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. in Buffalo, NY, as shown by the accompanying pull top cans.  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 aforementioned 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 and/or bottled in at least three different locations from the brewing companies depicted herein. It's not certain when no other brewer was producing Bavarian/s, but it was probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s. 

c. Early 1970s by Bavarian Brewing Co., Detroit, MI.

c. Late 1960s - Early 1970s by Associated Breweries, Detroit MI. 

c. Early 1970s by Bavarian's Brewing Co, Evansville, IN.  

c. Early 1970s by Iroquois Brewing Co.,Buffalo, NY.


Since Pull Tabs often could cause finger cuts 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 1975.  However, around this time the production of Bavarian/s was declining and was probably curtailed shortly thereafter. Consequently, there may not have been any Stay Tab cans produced for Bavarian/s


Just as bottled beer had cartons and cases, so did canned beer. From left to right below is a carton for cone tops, a case for cone tops, and in the picture with the woman in the 1950s shopping and standing next to a display of Bavarian's Old Style Beer in cone top cans with both cases and cartons. Those cases in the display are the same as the case shown, but the cone top carton below is  different.