I'm old enough to still remember having to open a can of beer with a church key opener. For you young whippersnappers who have never heard that term, that's your standard can opener with one end sharpened to a point and the other end flattened to open bottle tops.
That handy device was followed by the pull tab, where you pulled on a riveted ring to reveal a teardrop-shaped opening, though I also recall the dismay when the ring would come off but leave the tab behind. I also remember being told horror stories of swallowing the tab, which is why you should never drop it back into the can, and could plausibly have been the reason it was succeeded by the stay-on tab, which also uses a riveted tab to depress a scored lid to open the container.
These are heady days, though, and can manufacturers are innovating once more. Still, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same as can makers are returning to the vent hole.
First, the SABMiller and Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP ) joint venture MillerCoors came out with its punch-top can, followed by the vented can from Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD ) to allow for smoother beverage pouring. Now the company perhaps most synonymous with home canning jars (at least in consumers minds), Ball (NYSE: BLL ) , says its packaging division is unveiling a new "easy flow end" in Europe that brewers can use to create more "rituals" around the way we drink beer.
All three cans are derived from the same concept the church key popularized, of opening a large hole to drink from and a second smaller hole for air flow. Whereas Ball provides the same rationale as the others for the new lid -- of making it a better pouring experience without that "glugging" sound (though to my mind, that sound heightened the anticipation for the taste of the beer that was to follow) -- it also, in their words, "creates a new drinking ritual."
While the can could be adapted to any beverage from which you can pour the contents, sodas and juices are less likely to be a poured-and-shared experience than beer. Pouring beer accentuates its color and enhances the flavor. Anyone who's ever drank a Samuel Adams from the special glass Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM ) created for its lager can appreciate the rich malt flavor its design delivers and understand what can makers are trying to achieve.
Unlike the Bud Light can pictured above, both Ball's new easy-flow can and Miller's punch-top can require the drinker to punch out the hole using some other object, whether it's a pen, key, or even a dollar bill! And both Bud and Ball locate their vent holes under the pull tab to prevent the contents from spraying themselves everywhere if you were to puncture the vent hole first before the main hole.
While these innovations aim to further intensify the drinking experience, somehow I think I like Crown Holdings (NYSE: CCK ) "360 End" can, where the whole end of the can comes off! Completely eliminating the need for vent holes or church keys, it's a real wide-mouth can that's sure to make your next beer-chugging party a success.
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