Tuesday, September 3, 2019

When Canned Beer Came to Oshkosh

Off we go to 1935 when canned beer first arrived in Oshkosh. And what was the first canned beer sold here? That would be this one, Pabst Export...

Pabst was the second American brewery to can its beer. The first was Krueger Brewing of Newark, which released its cream ale in cans in January 1935. In August 1935, Pabst began canning its Export Beer, and in early September 1935, those cans began rolling into Oshkosh.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, September 9, 1935.
These were flat-top cans without a tabbed opening. To get at the beer you had to use this new thing called a churchkey. If you bought the beer, they'd give you a churchkey to go with it. The instructions were printed on the side of the can.

Cans of Pabst Export were distributed in Oshkosh by Kuebler Distributing from its warehouse on the north side of Parkway just east of Main (the building is gone). Pabst advertised the new package heavily here. The ads touted the benefits of the "Keglined TapaCan” lined with a polymer coating to keep the beer tasting like beer and not like tin.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, September 24, 1935.

A case of canned Pabst Export sold for $2.75 when it was first introduced in Oshkosh. At the time, it was the most expensive beer sold here. Budweiser was also being sold in Oshkosh then for $2.75. In today's money that would be about $40. Meanwhile, a case of bottles of Chief Oshkosh or Peoples or Rahr's sold for a measly $1.75.

A few months after the Pabst cans appeared, G. Heilemann Brewing of La Crosse began selling cans of Old Style beer in Oshkosh. They arrived in time for the 1935 holiday season. It was the first cone-top style can sold here. Old Style was distributed here by Lee Beverage of Oshkosh, which is still going strong.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, December 18, 1935.

Next came Schlitz, hitting Oshkosh with its cone-top cans in March 1936. The Schlitz cone tops were also brought in by  Kuebler Distributing. This was an odd one. Schlitz promoted it as a kind of health-food... "Stay on the "sunny side" by drinking SCHLITZ SUNSHINE VITAMIN D BEER. It brings you Vitamin D... developed directly by the sun's rays!"

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 27, 1936.

The cans kept on coming. The local breweries were in no hurry to join in. The Oshkosh Brewing Company became the first brewery here to can its beer. OBC introduced crowntainers of Chief Oshkosh in 1949. But by that time, the novelty of canned beer had faded. It was just another can of beer. Not anymore. The website Breweriana.com puts the value of this can at $2,800. And to think, you could have bought a six-pack of them in 1949 for less than a dollar.

Like to know more? Here's An Illustrated History of Oshkosh Beer Cans.

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