Everyone appreciates a cold brew on a hot day, but it takes a true beer lover to amass a collection of 480 different beer cans. And John Russo is that man. Beer: A Genuine Collection of Cans is a just-published book from Chronicle that showcases Russo’s passion for collecting old-fashioned beer cans. Produced by Dan Becker and Lance Wilson, the book offers an interesting (if slightly superficial) glimpse into the origins of beer culture over the past century.
The book itself is more of a picture-heavy coffee-table book than an account of our country’s beer culture, but it’s worth a read to see the forgotten beer cans of yore along with trivia tidbits. For example, did you know that during World War II, most breweries stopped producing cans to preserve metals? The exception was beers sent to the troops. And Ballantine’s Export from P. Ballantine & Sons was colored to avoid reflecting light at night so a soldier wouldn’t reveal his location inadvertently (why the soldier was drinking on the job isn’t explained, though). Or that Billy Carter, capitalizing on the fame of his brother, President Jimmy Carter, had a beer called “Billy” created just for him?
From an aesthetic perspective, the book offers a visual history of product design and beer advertising, although it would have been more interesting to have included more cans from additional eras since it mostly focuses on the1940s through the 1980s. More history about each can and its manufacturer would have been appreciated (or even additional detailed information about where Russo found each one), too, and it’s easy to gloss through the book without getting a real sense of worldwide beer culture.
Still, though, you gotta love a man who kept nearly 500 different beer cans in his basement for decades. Or at least love the wife who put up with that.
Watch the video below for a closer look at Beer.