Pallet No. 3637117A: Keg Tapping Device

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Today in 1972, US Patent 3637117 A was issued, an invention of Mack S. Johnston, assigned to Republic Corp., for his “Keg Tapping Device.” Here’s the Abstract:

The device comprises a keg adapter mounted about a keg opening and a dispenser coupler releasably coupled to the keg adapter having gas inlet and beer dispensing outlet passages terminating in two side-by-side probes depending from the coupler. The liquid probe is movably mounted in the coupler and biased in one direction. An inverted J-shaped tube is carried by the coupler in communication with the liquid probe and displacement of the tube moves the liquid probe in the opposite direction to open the beer valve in the keg adapter. The gas passage is in communication with a hand operated portable plunger-type pump whereby gas is provided through the keg adapter into the keg.

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Beer In Ads #1446: Decoupage Bud Girl


Sunday’s ad is yet another one for Budweiser, this time from the 1970s. While the ad, or sign, is from the Seventies, I suspect that the image is most likely much older, possibly from the late 19th century. But the decoupage sign? That’s pure 1970s. Even my mom got caught up in the craft craze, decoupaging all manner of do-dads when I was a kid. So this would have seemed right at home in that decade.

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Patent No. 3636888A: Pallet

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Today in 1972, US Patent 172687 A was issued, an invention of John A. Angelbeck Jr., assigned to Pack Rite Packaging & Crating, for his “Pallet.” There’s no Abstract, but it’s described as a “pallet used for the storage and transporting of containers such as beer kegs and the like.” It’s essentially a plastic pallet, and while I’ve seen a few of them, I don’t think they’ve replaced the wooden pallet the way the inventor hoped.
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Happy Burns Night

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Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:

Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.

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John Barleycorn

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Here’s an analysis of the poem, and below is a video of the Scottish St. Andrews Society of Greater St. Louis‘ Burns Night in 2011 and the recitation of John Barleycorn by an Allan Stewart.

And although it has little to do with Burns Night, I still love the version sung by the band Traffic, with frontman Steve Winwood, which appeared on their 1970 album John Barleycorn Must Die.

Patent No. 172687A: Improvement In Beer-Coolers

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Today in 1876, US Patent 172687 A was issued, an invention of Louis Baeppler, for his “Improvement in Beer-Coolers.” There’s no Abstract, but the description includes this:

My invention relates to an apparatus which maybe readily applied to a keg or barrel of any description, so as to cool the beer after it leaves the barrel.

The invention consists of an ice-chamber, provided with an opening at the bottom for the insertion of a cock to be attached to the lower end of the cooling-coil, and an opentopped slot at the top for the insertion and removal of the upper end of the coil, and a cover for closing said chamber, as hereinafter described and shown.

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Patent No. 3231384A: Continuous Boiling And Hopping Of Brewers’ Wort

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Today in 1966, US Patent 3231384 A was issued, an invention of William Ernest Parker and Francis Lloyd Rigby, assigned to Canadian Breweries Ltd., for their “Continuous Boiling and Hopping of Brewers’ Wort.” There’s no Abstract, but partway down in the description is this:

The method of the present invention generally comprises forming a continuously flowing stream of hot brewers wort, causing said stream to flow in a substantially horizontal path, continuously introducing a predetermined mass of hops to said stream, heating said flowing wort, venting said stream of undesirable volatiles above said path of flow and controlling the time flow ratio of said wort and hops as to hop said wort to desired degree, and finally continuously discharging spent and hopped wort from said stream. This may be carried out with the wort and hops flowing counter-current to one another, discharging spent hops at one end of the path and hopped wort at the other. Alternatively, it may be carried out in a co-current flow.

The method may be carried out in particularly simple apparatus which may take the form, for counter-current flow, of a substantially horizontally disposed tubular vessel with provision for introducing wort towards one end thereof and hops in the other end thereof and which includes a perforated auger moving the hops in countercurrent flow to the continuously flowing wort as to cause spent hops to discharge at one end of the apparatus and hopped wort at the other, and which is a preferred type of apparatus proposed although such counter-current flow might be achieved by apparatus of other design. For cocurrent flow, the wort is introduced at one end while the hops are introduced adjacent that end and/or selectively along the length of the vessel.

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Beer In Ads #1445: Why America Prefers Budweiser


Saturday’s ad is another one for Budweiser, this time from 1936. While the ad is shortly after the end of prohibition, and I can only imagine beer lovers were pretty excited to once more be able to legally buy beer, I’m still not convinced Bud’s success had anything to with “age-old taste.” Also, as the ad suggests, when did Anheuser-Busch employ monks?

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Patent No. 1070116A1: Beer Flavor Concentrate

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Today in 2001, US Patent 1070116 A1 was issued, an invention of Matthew L. Tripp, assigned to the Green Bay Beer Company, for his “Beer Flavor Concentrate.” Here’s the short Abstract. “A beer flavor concentrate and a method for making and using the beer flavor concentrate to produce a final beer product through the addition of carbonated water and alcohol.”

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While I’m not sure if this was ever marketed as, or as part of, a product, more recently concentrated beer has become available on the market. For example, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages was made primarily for camping. Over the last couple of years, both Popular Science and Gizmodo have been taken a look at how it works and if the reconstituted beer is any good.

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Beer Birthday: The Beer Can

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Today is “Beer Can Appreciation Day,” because on this day 80 years ago — January 24, 1935 — the humble beer can was sold for the very first time. So join me in wishing the beer can a happy birthday.

Below is an article I wrote about beer cans nine years ago telling the story of their history.

The beer can debuted in 1935, when an otherwise obscure brewery from New Jersey — Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. — test-marketed them in Virginia, as far from their home market as possible. Breweries may have been initially reluctant, but the public loved cans — they were an overnight sensation. By the end of that first year, Schlitz (then one of America’s biggest brewers) had their beer in cans and every other brewery quickly followed suit.

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The beer can was invented by American Can, who patented “Vinylite,” a plastic lining for cans marketed under the brand name “Keglined.” Over the years, the technology continued to improve, from tin to all-aluminum, from cone tops to flat tops, from clumsy openers to pull tops, yet one seemingly intractable problem remained: metal turbity. That’s the technical term for metal leeching into the beer, and consumers increasingly complained about the tainted metallic flavor in canned beer.

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But then craft beer became popular, and with it better beer evangelists preached that canned beer could never be good. And that remained conventional wisdom for decades, made virtually dogma. During that same time, however, research by the can companies solved the metal turbidity problem. Using an organic polymer — really a water-based epoxy acrylic — that was sprayed inside each can during manufacturing, it could now honestly be said that the beer never touched the metal.

Unfortunately, the only beer in cans was not the type that most beer geeks would willingly quaff. The other great hurdle to getting craft beer in a can was the cost. You could buy a cheap, used bottling line but canning lines were quite massive and very expensive. And the people who made cans were used to selling them to big breweries, and so the minimum run for a can was something on the order of a full railroad car, too many and too expensive for even the biggest microbreweries.

But then the bottom fell out of microbrewing, and by the late-1990s equipment suppliers were also feeling the pinch. Hoping to survive the economic downturn, Canada’s Cask Brewing Systems created an affordable solution. They designed a small manual canning line that was cheaper than the average bottling line and persuaded Ball Corporation (a leading can manufacturer) to significantly reduce their minimum orders. All they had to do was convince someone to try canning their beer.

And so Cask started appearing at trade shows and repeatedly sending literature to breweries. When Dale Katechis, of Oskar Blues, in Lyons, Colorado, first read the pitch, he “just laughed and laughed,” thinking there’s “no way this can be done.” But the more he looked into it, the less he laughed. A few months later — in 2002 — Dale’s Pale Ale was released, the first craft beer to be hand-canned. By 2005, Oskar Blues was the biggest brewpub in the U.S. and Dale’s was declared by the New York Times to be the best pale ale in America.

The Oskar Blues team became evangelists for canned beer with the slogan “the canned-beer apocalypse.” Other small breweries noticed Dale’s success and he was only too happy to show them the light. Today, there are nearly forty [in 2006] craft brewers hand-canning their beer.

There are almost as many kinds of beer in cans as there are styles these days, too, from extreme, strong offerings like Surly’s Furious (a 100-IBU Imperial IPA) and Old Chubb (a Scotch Ale) to more unusual beers like Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut Porter and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon to lighter lagers like Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils and Steamwoks Steam Engine Lager. And now that New Belgium Brewing, one of the largest American craft brewers, is canning their popular Fat Tire Amber Ale, expect to see many more beers in cans in the future.

The biggest challenge is unmaking the dogmatic perception of beer in cans as an evil. It’s a persistent prejudice, but is slowly beginning to change as the advantages to canned beer become more widely known. They keep out all UV light, avoiding the skunky taste of clear and green glass. Cans have lower oxygen levels, meaning longer shelf life. They won’t break; they chill faster and can be taken more places, especially where glass is prohibited. And they’re more environmentally friendly, using less packaging plus more of the can is recyclable, with more used in manufacturing recycled cans. Cans are also lighter, resulting in lower transportation costs and fewer fossil fuels needed.

But in the end, the only thing that matters is how the beer tastes. Side-by-side can vs. draft taste tests reveal that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference. That, coupled with the real advantages of the packaging, means that craft beer in cans is where the future of craft beer is heading.

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Shaun O’Sullivan, co-owner of 21st Amendment, showing off one of his early can designs. 21A was the third brewery in California to can their beer.

When I originally wrote that article, around two dozen small breweries were canning their beer, and when I first posted this in 2011 that number had quadrupled, with over 100 small brewers canning their beer. In 2015, the Canned Beer Database lists 480 breweries offering their beer in cans. It’s great to see good beer in cans become more and more common, and we should continue to see more canned beer from craft brewers in the future. Why not pick up some today and see for yourself how good it now is from a can, especially as we celebrate “Beer Can Appreciation Day.”

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Patent No. 2969161A: Bung For Beer Barrels

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Today in 1961, US Patent 2969161 A was issued, an invention of Robert Givens Mcculloch, for his “Bung for Beer Barrels and the Like.” There’s no Abstract, but the application describes it an “invention has been devised to provide a bung (generally called a shive) for beer barrels and like containers for liquids which will enable a tap fitting or pipe to be connected to the barrel without spilling the contents of the barrel during the connecting operation.”
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