Back in 1960, a new type of can lid debuted in the packaging world. Dubbed the ‘E-Z Open‘, the Aluminum soft top can was billed as the world’s easiest opening beer can.
While a churchkey was still required to press a triangle-shaped hole into the top of the can—plus a second hole opposite it—the aluminum soft top was indeed far easier to open than previous flat top lids… which is always important when you are thirsty for a beer.
While a few breweries had begun to experiment with aluminum cans as of 1960, it certainly wasn’t wide-spread. The Coors Brewing Company (now Molson Coors Brewing Company) had, since 1959, a seven-ounce aluminum can, as did several European breweries, and Hawaii’s Primo Brewing, but the use of aluminum wasn’t as widely embraced as everyone hoped.
In an effort to lightweight their beverage cans, Burger Brewing Company worked with Heekin Can Company— both of Cincinnati, OH—alongside Kaiser Aluminum to manufacture a usual steel and tinplate body—but this time with the addition of an aluminum lid.
It was a popular decision, as beer drinkers liked the easy-to-open aluminum soft top cans. Other breweries soon joined in, including Schlitz Brewing Company (see above for advertising image from 1962), who were the first national brewery to use the new lid.
Smart brand marketers also began to utilize the top of the lids to add brewery logos, brand names and more.
However, despite the ingenious nature of the aluminum soft top lid, it was a short-lived success, as aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. (who had purchased the rights from inventor Ermal Fraze of Ohio) convinced Iron City Brewing in Pittsburgh to try their new pull tabs in 1962.
While nearly all breweries in North America had tried the soft-top, not all were as eager to grasp the new pull tabs, as they were a bit more expensive to add, and were reluctant to absorb the cost themselves or pass it on to the consumer. Still, the aluminum soft top can’s popularity in the industry had begun to fade in to history.