The dynastic aura which clings to the beer industry is based on the solid fact that most of the nationally known U. S. breweries are family-owned. Until last week not a single beer security was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The first such listing, almost two years after Repeal, was 390,412 shares of no-par stock of small Pfeiffer Brewing Co. of Detroit.
Since beer is a cheap, bulky commodity, most breweries depend on a local market. Pfeiffer, which works at top speed to brew 400,000 bbl. a year, is more typical of the industry than Anheuser-Busch, Pabst or Schlitz. Pfeiffer's president is William George Breitmeyer, nephew of the German brewmaster who founded the company. Shy and laconic at his desk but jovial away from it, Brewer Breitmeyer has a simple explanation for his own success: "I have only one hobby. I collect friends." An aid in this hobby is his stock of old German drinking songs, inherited from his uncle.
Brewers were most interested last week in two rival cans which raced each other into the market. Taproom champions of the thesis that beer tastes better from kegs than from bottles rarely consider how it would taste from cans. But canmakers have long toyed with the idea. Cans would stack more easily, weigh less, could be thrown away after using. The problem was to devise a lining. By last week American Can and Continental Can both thought they had the solution.
American Can appealed squarely to the draught-beer fanciers, called its product Keg-lined Cans. The lining, made of a secret formula, looked like lacquer. Since it bore no real resemblance to a keg, American limited itself to a careful claim that "people say" canned beer tastes better than bottled. It also dusted off the notion that light hurts bottled beer. Keg-lined Cans look like soup cans, have a special can-opener.
Continental's Can was lined with a waxy substance. Sealed with a cap, it could be opened with an ordinary bottle opener, could be run on brewery bottling lines with little change of machinery. But Continental's cost more than American's. Continental had another reason why canned beer tastes better than bottled: It can be Pasteurized faster.
American Can has a contract with Pabst, Continental with Schlitz. American's Keg-lined Cans have been tried out experimentally for six months in Richmond, Va., where they upped sales of Kreuger's Beer. National Can Co. also tried out a can, had temporary trouble with the lining. Last week the lining was still the can-makers' greatest worry because improper sealing may cause it to peel off, harmlessly clouding the beer.