The Rise and Fall of Pop-Top Beer Cans

Pop top cans, also known as pull-tab cans, were widely popular in the 1970s. However, their popularity came with a downside – people frequently discarded the pull-tabs on the ground, posing a potential risk of injury to feet or fingers.

Before the advent of pull-tab cans, cone topped cans were commonly used by small breweries. These cans were easier to fill and could be sealed with the same crown caps used on glass bottles. This meant that breweries didn't have to invest in new canning equipment. However, cone top cans started disappearing by the late 1950s.

In 1962, the zip or tab top pull tabs were introduced. The first national brand to feature a “snap top” was Schlitz. The patent for this innovation was credited to Ermal “Ernie” Fraze. Fraze invented the pop top can after encountering a situation where he had to open a can of beer on a car bumper during a family picnic in 1959.

Sadly, Ermal Fraze passed away at the age of 76 after battling cancer. His invention, the pop top can, revolutionized the beer industry and became a common feature in packaging. The patent he obtained in 1963 paved the way for the widespread use of pull-tab cans.

The convenience of pull-tab cans cannot be overstated. With a simple pull, the top of the can easily lifts up, allowing for quick and effortless access to the beverage inside. This eliminated the need for bottle openers or other tools to enjoy a cold drink.

However, the issue of discarded pull-tabs persisted. People often failed to dispose of them properly, leading to litter and potential hazards. To address this concern, advancements were made in can design. In the late 1970s, the stay-on tab was introduced, which remained attached to the can even after opening. This reduced the risk of loose tabs causing harm.

Today, pop top beer cans have become a staple in the beverage industry. They offer convenience, ease of use, and portability, making them a popular choice for both consumers and manufacturers. However, it is important to remember the importance of responsible disposal to avoid litter and potential injuries.

The invention of the pop top beer can by Ermal Fraze revolutionized the way beverages are packaged and enjoyed. It provided a convenient and easy-to-use alternative to traditional bottle openers, making it a hit among consumers. While the issue of discarded pull-tabs remains a concern, advancements have been made to address this problem. Pop top beer cans continue to be a popular choice, combining functionality and portability in a single package.

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What Are The Pop Tops On Beer Cans?

Pop tops, also known as pull-tab cans, are a type of beverage can that feature a small metal tab on top. These tabs allow the user to easily open the can by pulling the tab upwards, which in turn breaks the seal and allows access to the contents inside. Pop tops were widely popular in the past, particularly in the 1970s, as they provided a convenient and efficient way to open cans without the need for additional tools like can openers.

The design of the pop top consists of a metal ring attached to the top of the can, which is connected to a small metal tab. When the tab is pulled upwards, it creates a lever-like action that lifts and breaks the seal, enabling the user to consume the beverage. This mechanism eliminates the need for a separate can opener and makes it easy for anyone to open the can with minimal effort.

However, the popularity of pop tops also brought about some concerns. One major issue was the improper disposal of the pull-tabs. Many people would simply discard the tabs on the ground or inappropriately dispose of them, which posed a potential risk for injury. The discarded pull-tabs could cause harm, particularly to the feet or fingers if stepped on or touched accidentally.

To address this concern, manufacturers began developing new can designs in the 1970s, such as the stay-on tab or the push-in tab. These designs eliminated the need for a separate pull-tab, as the tab remained attached to the can even after opening. This innovation helped reduce the risk of injuries caused by discarded pull-tabs.

Pop tops, or pull-tab cans, are beverage cans with a small metal tab on top that allows for easy opening. While they were popular in the past, concerns about the improper disposal of pull-tabs led to the development of alternative can designs.

What Is The History Of The Pop Top?

The history of the pop top can dates back to 1959 when Ermal Fraze, the inventor, had a moment of frustration at a family picnic. He found himself without a can opener to open a can of beer. So, he resorted to using a car bumper to pry open the can, which sparked the idea for a more convenient method of opening beverage cans.

This incident inspired Fraze to develop a new type of can that would eliminate the need for a separate opener. After several years of experimentation and refinement, Fraze obtained the first patent for the pop top can in 1963.

The pop top can, also known as the pull tab or ring pull can, revolutionized the way people accessed their favorite beverages. It featured a tab or ring attached to the lid of the can, which could be easily pulled to create an opening. This eliminated the need for a can opener, making it more convenient and accessible for consumers.

The invention quickly gained popularity and became widely used in the beverage industry. It provided a simple and efficient way to open cans, especially for outdoor activities like picnics, parties, and sporting events.

However, as the popularity of the pop top can grew, concerns arose regarding littering. The detachable tabs were often discarded improperly, leading to environmental issues. To address this problem, manufacturers introduced the stay-on tab design in the late 1970s. This design allowed the tab to remain attached to the can after opening, reducing the risk of littering.

Over time, the pop top can continued to evolve. In the 1980s, the push-in tab design was introduced, which eliminated the sharp edges of the traditional pull tabs, making it safer to handle. In recent years, manufacturers have also introduced variations of the pop top can, such as the wide-mouth can, which allows for easier pouring and drinking.

Today, the pop top can remains a popular and convenient packaging solution for a wide range of beverages. Its invention by Ermal Fraze in 1959 and subsequent patent in 1963 revolutionized the way people open cans and has greatly contributed to the convenience and enjoyment of consuming canned beverages.


Pop top beer cans have revolutionized the way we consume beer. With the invention of the pull-tab can by Ermal “Ernie” Fraze in 1963, the beer industry saw a significant shift towards convenience and ease of use. These pop top cans, also known as zip or tab top cans, provided a simple and efficient way to open a can of beer without the need for additional tools.

The introduction of pop top cans brought about several advantages. Firstly, it eliminated the need for a separate can opener, making it more convenient for consumers to enjoy their favorite brews. Secondly, pop top cans were easier to open, reducing the risk of injuries that were associated with traditional pull-tab cans. This made them a safer option for beer drinkers, particularly in outdoor settings such as picnics or parties.

Furthermore, the popularity of pop top cans led to the decline of cone top cans, which were previously used by small breweries. The cone top cans required specialized equipment for sealing, whereas pop top cans could be sealed with the same crown caps as glass bottles. This made it more cost-effective for breweries to switch to pop top cans, resulting in their widespread adoption.

Pop top beer cans have become a staple in the beer industry, offering convenience, safety, and cost-effectiveness. Thanks to the innovative thinking of individuals like Ermal Fraze, beer lovers around the world can enjoy their favorite beverages with ease.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.