Happy birthday aluminum can! We still like bottles more.

From left to right: flat top, pull tab, stay tab. Photo montage created from photos on Art’s Beer Cans.

Today’s the 50th anniversary of the aluminum can.

If you believe the line Molson Coor’s is selling, Mr. Coors invented aluminum cans because he was terribly worried about what tin cans were doing to the environment. The popular tin-plated cans weren’t easily recycled and were “littering America’s landscapes.”

The real reason had more to do with the their awful taste. I admit to never having tasted a tin-can beer but the process used to make them — the cans had steel bodies with tin plates lined onto the inside with lead seams — does not sound too appealing or safe.

Aluminum cans have improved dramatically since 1959. The originals were opened just like tin cans — with a church key. Pull tabs were introduced in 1963, but they created their own litter problems and injured everyone from animals to barefoot hippies. Finally in 1975, the stay-tab was introduced.

On the taste side, aluminum cans are still inferior to glass bottles, but they do have their purposes. They’re easier to store, they won’t shatter if you drop them, they’re much easier to sneak under a coat into a baseball game and they’re cheap, making them a perfect container for cheap beer.

While aluminum cans may never catch up to bottles, I’ve come to respect them as a younger, poorer but still useful brother. Tonight, I’ll raise a can of Natural Light or Bud Ice to Bill Coors and his semi-wonderful invention.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink