One of the best-known moments in Jaws celebrates one of the film’s best-known characters: Quint. A professional shark hunter played by Robert Shaw, Quint’s local charm and dour intimidation are perfectly illustrated by the scene in which he chugs a Narragansett and promptly crushes the can.
What exactly was it about this feat that made an impression on audiences: Quint’s drinking abilities? The brute strength it took to crush a beer can with one hand?
“You need to be a little bit tougher than you would need to be today to crush one,’’ Narragansett Brewing CEO Mark Hellendrung told Boston.com. “To me that was symbolic. It was his tenacity, his absolute conviction that he’s gonna go get that shark and nothing is going to stand in his way.’’
These days, no one can truly crush it like Quint because the 1975 version of the can isn’t made anymore. Today’s are reasonably lighter and easier to crush, resulting in a less impressive feat.
Aluminum beer cans debuted in the late 1960s, and decades of engineering have allowed for more metal-efficient cans. The aluminum used to manufacture beer cans in 1975 was 40 percent thicker than it is now, according to Narragansett’s can distributors.
Those cans were also wider in diameter, and had more durable tops and bottoms. They had a pull-tab opening—which Quint effortlessly rips off—rather than the push-hole mouths of today. Despite the nearly identical logo, today’s cans are shaped slightly differently, with a body wider than their top and bottom.
Hellendrung says the Narragansett cameo in the film wasn’t product placement. “As far as I know, it wasn’t paid for,’’ he said. “It was a relatively low-budget film so many of the Martha’s Vineyard locals were in that movie. To make it as authentic as possible, it made sense.’’
In his years as president and CEO of Narragansett Brewing Company, Hellendrung said “not a week’’ has gone by without somebody asking him about Jaws.
“They’ll say, hey did you know that Narragansett was the beer that they crushed in Jaws? And I play along,’’ he said. “It just goes to show the power of that movie and that scene.’’
Hellendrung says locals have shared stories with him about the film being sold out day after day in Rhode Island when it hit theaters. The brewery has become more involved with the movie’s anniversary celebrations each summer.
“It’s just like Shark Week,’’ Hellendrung said. “It gets bigger and bigger every year.’’
Early Narragansett cans: