On this day 84 years ago, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, New Jersey made brewing history by becoming the first company to offer beer in cans. It was an invention many years in the making, as competing canning companies puzzled over how they would contend with the pressure produced by carbonation and the metal cans skunking the flavor of the brews they contained. In collaboration with the American Can Company, Krueger nevertheless prevailed, and a whole new way of drinking was born.
Today we celebrate that invention with National Beer Can Appreciation Day, a holiday about as legit as National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day (January 11) or National Toothache Day (February 9). But hell, if there were ever a make-believe holiday for October to observe, it’s this one.
Although the earliest beer cans may have been engineering triumphs of their day, they didn’t look that good. That’s certainly not the case now, as craft brewers compete for eyeballs with better and better label designs. Some breweries may never abandon screaming skulls, screaming lizards, and screaming reindeer on their labels, but these are some of the most interesting cans that have caught our attention.
READ MORE: Getting to Know Joe Marston, The Can Man
As our reviewer Jerard Fagerberg writes, “Hats off to Little & Company for creating one of the most resonant can designs in recent memory. Try seeing this polka dot can on a shelf and not bringing a few home.”
For a beer called Ice, this minimalistic retro design declares its cool with a whisper. A pilsner made by San Diego’s Modern Times, Ice stands out from the rest of the brewery’s core lineup with its unique look.
Stillwater Artisanal is nothing if not a hit factory for chic can designs. Our reviewer Tobias Carroll notes, “While many a craft brewers opts for a clever or irreverent label design, Stillwater opts for something more restrained.”
Naming a beer after Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic song “C.R.E.A.M.” is a bold move. Even bolder? Covering that beer’s can in a minimalist Space Age wallpaper of bright yellow honeycomb.
While many of the cans we dig have opted for a less-is-more approach, the same can’t be saif for New Glory’s Juicy Secret, a watercolor acid trip of psychedelic droplets containing “1 Pint of Something Random.”
Want more coverage of beer label design? Check out our interview with Rogue Ales designer Evan Bartholemew and our podcast episode with the creative geniuses at Omnipollo and Solemn Oath.