In the 1930s the town of Llanelli was known as 'Tinopolis' because of its reputation for the manufacture and international trading of tinplate. Tinplate was extensively used in the preservation and canning of food.
Llanelli also had two breweries of note: Buckley's and Felinfoel, so it was no surprise when the Llanelly & County Guardian of 17th October, 1935 reported that the directors of Buckley's Brewery were to investigate the canning of beer.
Their managing director said, "its general adoption would be really a wonderful thing for the future prosperity of the Welsh tinplate industry".
It would appear that both of the town's breweries moved together: the Western Mail of Friday, 25th October reported that both breweries, Felinfoel and Buckley's, were to adopt what they called the "American method" of canning beer, so called because it had already been adopted in the USA. One month later the Llanelly & County Guardian of 5th December carried the story that Felinfoel Brewery was the first to produce canned beer but, to make the point that they too had canned beer on that day, Buckley's Brewery placed an advertisement in the same newspaper:
"The canning of beer was accomplished at Buckley's Brewery bottling stores on the 3rd December, and samples may be seen at the Brewery and at displays in the Town...."
"until however the directors are satisfied that canned beer has the same estimable qualities as their bottled product, the process will be in the nature of an experiment, and for the time being the canning process will be conducted experimentally with persistence and caution".
The Llanelly Star of 7th December 1935 reported the same event ......
"Llanelly on Tuesday gave this country its first canned beer. Both Felinfoel Brewery Co. Ltd. and Buckley's Brewery Ltd. commenced producing canned beer on Tuesday. It is appropriate that this new development, which may have a revolutionary effect on the brewing industry and may provide an extensive new market for the tinplate trade, should have taken place in the centre of tinplate manufacture. Beer canning has been in the news this past couple of months, and it was known that both the local breweries were interesting themselves in the question largely on account of the assistance they might give to the tinplate industry. Many advantages are claimed for the can as compared with the bottle particularly for export purposes and long-distance transport."
In effect, both breweries were still experimenting with this new process of canning, but on 18th January, 1936 the Llanelly Star headlined the news with 'Canned Beer on Sale Soon'. Wholesale distribution was postponed until the completion of final research to perfect the internal lacquer, and on 20th February, 1936 the Llanelly & County Guardian reported on the address given to the Rotary Club by Mr. Sydney John, director and chief brewer of Felinfoel Brewery:
"We are striving to find the can to hold the perfect beer. The Americans have not made their can to suit the beer, but made their beer to suit the can. Their beer is being pasteurised and the result is that the natural ingredients are being destroyed. That is not and will not be the case with our beer. The difficulties of the London Metal Box Co. have been to find a lining to preserve its best state. After considerable research work, they have succeeded in doing so - the Americans have not. The success of canned beer depends really upon the lining of the tin container, and our ambition is to produce the natural beer for the container."
"An Easy First"
Commercial success in the canning of beer finally reached the Felinfoel Brewery on Thursday, 19th March, 1936 when the Llanelly & County Guardian announced the following news ....
"BEER CANNING EXPERIMENT. METHOD WITHIN THE REALM OF PRACTICAL BUSINESS Following upon successful experiments carried out the by the Felinfoel Brewery Co. Ltd., Llanelly, the "Guardian" understands that beer-canning comes into the realm of practical business from today when beer in cans will be produced for sale at this brewery .... "
Now said to be the oldest brewery in Wales, Felinfoel Brewery continues its long tradition of producing the finest of Welsh ales!
Article produced with the kind co-operation of Felinfoel Brewery