With all the major sports in high gear, I thought it would be a good time to discuss one of my favorite beer can genres.
When I first started collecting breweriana in the early 1980s, small, regional breweries still existed in the United States and produced a number of commemorative cans. These could vary from the promotion of local businesses to the retirement of a brewery employee.
By doing so, a link was established between the brewery and their customers in the region which they served. This level of personalization is no longer possible as the majority of breweries are run on a national or international level.
The most popular type of commemorative can had to do with sporting teams or events that took place in the breweries home town or state. Nothing goes together like beer and sports and the breweries were well aware of this.
Pittsburgh Brewing of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was the undisputed king in terms of producing cans of this nature. Be it at a college or professional level, if the team originated from the Pennsylvania area, a can would be produced to capture their moment of victory.
One of the first cans to grace my shelves celebrated the Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 World Series victory. It was given to me by a friend of my uncle who was visiting in the area when the can was produced. When one is starting a collection, word of mouth is an excellent way to get it growing.
The key to having your team enshrined on a can is winning (and having a brewery in the area that supports you). No team is represented more than the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. By winning championships in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979, it seemed like a yearly event for the team to be featured on a can.
Another common theme concerning sports cans was the celebration of annual events. One of my favorites is from Carling National Breweries of Baltimore, Maryland who produced a can to celebrate the 103rd running of the Preakness horse race in 1978 and past Triple Crown winners.
In terms of collecting, sports cans are very desirable as they celebrate a pastime, have a historical significance and display graphics that are pleasing to the eye. After 30 years, some of these cans are still my favorites and have a prominent position on my shelves.