In 1933, the first canned ale was tested in Virginia—needless to say, consumers welcomed the change which paved the way for easy-to-transport, easy-to-store, disposable cans. Initially made of steel with a flat top, they required a sharp opener, or church key, to pierce triangular openings—one to drink from, and another on the opposite side which allowed air into the can to improve the pour out.
The evolution to lightweight aluminum was inevitable due to the drawbacks of steel—not only was a lining required to protect the contents, steel is inherently prone to rust and the heavier weight meant transportation costs were higher than necessary.
Easy-to-use pull tabs replaced the need to keep an opener handy—but they also heralded an increase in emergency room visits as the sharp edges cut fingers and feet or, in worst-case scenarios, drinkers choked on the tab they’d kept safe in the can. Today, wide mouth openings created by attached tabs are the norm—but as small brews flourish, the capped bottle is seeing a revival.