In 1960 Cincinnati's Burger Brewing Company tried an experiment to alleviate the complaints of people who found it difficult to punch a hole in the lid of the flat top cans with a churchkey. Flat tops cans had been the first beer cans used, starting in 1935, and you used a churchkey to open a triangular shaped hole in the steel/tin lid to pour out the beer.
As time went on cans had begun using thinner metal, including on the lids, but it still took a little bit of strength to use a churchkey. Cone top cans, which had a crown on the top like a bottle, had also come into use in 1935, but by 1960 only one or two brewers were still using them. Burger Beer, along with Cincinnati’s Heekin Can Company and Kaiser Aluminum decided to make the flat top can a bit more user friendly. Burger began using a aluminum lid which was much easier to punch into with a churchkey than the normal lids.
The idea was not new to Burger. European breweries had been using aluminum cans for several years and both Primo and Coors breweries had been using (with mixed success) all aluminum cans. Other breweries would soon follow. Burger, however, was the first US brewer (and maybe the first anywhere) to use the aluminum lid along with a normal "tin" can.
The new lid, named the "E-Z Open," was introduced in the Summer of 1960. (see August 2008 COM for details). The lids did prove popular. Many other breweries used them. Lone Star in Texas adopted them early. Schlitz Brewing was the first national brewery to adopt the new lids. They used other names besides “E-Z Open” including “Softop.” The lids also provided a space to include brewery logos, brand names, tax stamps, etc.
A couple of Schlitz Soft Top lids. (Thanks to Robert F.)
While the new lids were a success, they were short-lived. In 1962 Iron City began testing a pull top can that didn’t need a church key to open at all, the zip top (or pull tab). Schlitz adopted the pull tab in 1963 and by 1965 over three-quarters of all breweries were using them, including Burger. However, for a short time the E-Z Open lid was a popular feature on many cans as brewers fought for some sort of marketing advantage.
Breweries Using the Aluminum Lid
(This list last updated 20 August 2011)
Breweries Using the Aluminum Lid
10, 11 and 12 oz
(12 oz unless otherwise noted)
Beckers (11 oz)
Black Label (Nantick, MA. Other brewery locations as well?)
Buckhorn (Buckhorn Brewing Co.)
Coors (11 and 12 oz)
Drewrys (need confirmation)
Falstaff (Galveston, El Paso)
Fesenmeier Centennial (63-8)
Fox Head Stout ML
Fox Head Sparkling Malt Liquor
Fox Head 400
Fox Head 400 Real Draft (65-29)
Fox Head Bock
Gambrinus (August Wagner)
Golden Brew (Cold Spring Brewing Co)
Gold Seal (72-17) Miami, FL.
Heidleberg (aluminum can, Tacoma)
Heidel Brau (81-4)
Heilemans (powder blue)
Holihan's Beer (50th Anniversary New Aluminum Easy-Tap Top, 1962)
Karlsbrau (Duluth Brewing And Malting)
Krueger (with Narragansett top)
Matt's Premium Lager
Mexicali (Mexican can)
Mustang Malt Lager (101-05)
Old German (Queen City)
Old Heidel Brau (Maier)
Old Milwaukee Draft
Regal Select Bock
Schlitz (10 & 12 oz)
Utica Club Ale
Utica Club Beer
Utica Club Bock
West Virginia (Fesenmeier)
Wisconsin Premium (146-23)
*Primo. Had an aluminum top, but was an all-aluminum can that pre-dated the soft-tops.
7 and 8 oz
Schlitz Malt Liquor (& Malt Lager) 8 oz
Coors 7 oz (aluminum can, predates the soft-top)
Lucky 7 oz
Olympia 7 Oz
Grace Bros, 8oz
Gunther, 7 Oz (aluminum can)
Naty Boh, 7 Oz (aluminum can)
14, 15 & 16 oz
ABC (Maier) 16 oz
Astro - 16 oz
Black Label 16 oz (Nantick, MA. Other brewery locations as well?)
Brew 102 16 oz
Burgermeister - 15 oz
Eastside - 16oz
Hamms – 15 & 16 oz
Narragansett Lager 16 oz
Old Milwaukee – 14 and 16 oz
Pabst Blue Ribbon 16 oz
Regal Select - 16oz
Schlitz – 14 and 16oz and "TallBoy"
Utica Club - 16oz
Thanks to all the RBers for helping me update this list!