On Tall Boys, Church Keys and Ponies
When I was very young, cans of beer were made of steel, with a flat top that needed a "church key" to cut a triangular opening, or with a conical top and a regular crimped cap- also needing an opener. They were sold primarily to fishermen and hunters who needed an unbreakable container for their "wildlife adventures." Most beer was sold in 12 ounce bottles, in cases of 24. There were even 7 ounce bottles- "ponies" as they were called- my mother would drink one every night before going to bed.
In the mid-sixties the "pop-top" tab can openers began to show up. They had a little aluminum ring which, when lifted, would detach from the can and in so doing create a die-cut opening in the top, no tools needed. Can beer sales exploded, especially among under-age drinkers. It was said by some teen-aged quaffers that if you dropped the tab back into the can, you would never get caught by the cops.
Beer manufacturers soon realized that packaging sold more beer than the actual product itself, and began making all sorts of innovations to attract the young drinker, with none more successful than the "Tall Boy." 16 ounces of the most god-awful swill imaginable, and as long as it was strong, it sold. Malt liquor was even stronger. This size race effectively ended when Foster's, in a 25.4 ounce can, became widely available. Beer marketing then turned toward inane slogans and concepts ("tastes great, less filling") and other hoopla.
In recent years, the trend in brewing has returned to making quality beers, beers made with good ingredients from traditional and innovative modern recipes; although in terms of quantity, the swill still wins.