Did You Know

24 years ago this week the first canned craft beer hit the market. 

Canned beer was introduced in 1935 by Kruger’s, and soon followed by Pabst, Budweiser, and other mass-market brewing companies. These companies typically canned American lagers, which was the overwhelming majority until 1991.

{ image via }

{ image via }

Due to its introduction during hard economic times, canned beer was considered low-brow. It was the least expensive packaging option, and advertised offering better protection and being environmentally friendly compared to bottles. By the early nineties, cans had a down-scale image. Craft beer drinkers neither liked nor were excited about their beloved beers being stored in aluminum. This became an issue when Jeff Fulbright, founder of Mid-Coast Brewing Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, sought out a cheap way to package his product Chief Oshkosh..

“The idea that great beer doesn’t come in a can hurt me,” said Fulbright.

Originally, Chief Oshkosh was a non-alcoholic “near beer” and was sold in 1928 during the Prohibition before becoming a “true beer” in 1933. After a 44-year production run, the Oshkosh Brewing Company closed after a new recipe hurt the beer’s reputation. 18 years later, Fulbright revived the beer using a new recipe.

The updated version of Chief Oshkosh beer was a toned down version of an Oktoberfest that could be enjoyed throughout the year. Using an all-malt recipe, Fulbright created America’s first red lager.

On June 19th, 1991 Chief Oshkosh Red Lager hit the market with a public tasting of about 45 people. The beer gained positive recognition and was favorable among beer writers. Within a year, more than a dozen similar red lagers were being sold in the U.S.

As competition grew, Chief Oshkosh remained in production for only four years — the last batch brewed was in December 1994.

Today, canned craft beer is all the rage — no longer considered inferior; and in 2002, Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale became the first canned modern craft beer.

{ Credit to the Oshkosh Beer blog for information on Chief Oshkosh beer and Jeff Fulbright.}

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