Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canned Beer is 75 Years Old Today

According to Yahoo News, today, Jan. 24, is the 75th birthday of canned beer.

New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company produced the world's first beer can in 1935, stocking select shelves in Richmond, Va., as a market test. The experiment took off and American drinkers haven't looked back since, now choosing cans over bottles for the majority of the 22 gallons of beer they each drink per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Canned beer may have only hit shelves in 1935, but the drink's history goes back much further - at least 6,000 years, in fact, to ancient Iraq.

The first archaeological evidence of beer comes from Iraq, where ancient Sumerians built the first agriculture-based cities approximately 6,000 years ago. A stone seal discovered and dated to that era actually details the beer-making process in a poem dedicated to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of brewing.

Two thousand years later, Babylonians living in the same area had perfected at least 20 different brews. Brewing was a highly regarded profession and almost the exclusive domain of the society's women, as females were also responsible for turning grain into bread.

Beer was enormously popular with all early civilizations, historians believe, since grain was always available and the fermentation process relatively easy. It was also viewed as an important source of nutrition and often rationed as payment; the laborers that built the Great Pyrmids in Cairo, for example, were paid partly in beer.

During the Middle Ages, European monks began to make and drink their own stock during periods of fasting as a way to avoid malnutrition.

The pilgrims sailing from England to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620 originally intended to land at Virginia, but arrived badly off course in Cape Cod instead. Realizing their mistake, they debated continuing on to their original destination, but ruled against it due to a general lack of rations (including beer), according to historical documents. The colony of Plymouth, where pilgrims shared beer produced from barley crops during the first Thanksgiving, was the result.

Beer-making improved during the Industrial Revolution, when steam power and artificial cooling made beers quicker to produce and easier to store. Breweries became a big business across Europe and the United States - slowed only temporarily during the Prohibition years of 1919 to 1933.

The stronger beer that was the norm before Prohibition gave way to much weaker varieties afterwards, as people had become accustomed to bootlegged brews, which were often watered down for maximum profit.

The Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company capitalized on the reintroduction of alcohol in the United States in short order, introducing their beers in cans rather than bottles in stores in 1935.

So, pop open a can to celebrate the occasion!

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