The Houston House Covered In 50,000 Beer Cans

There’s a certain seemingly fun, ultimately annoying, never-ending song about beer. You’ve probably heard it. You’ve probably even sung it. It’s called “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” OK, we admit, it ends. It ends at 1. It ends if you make it down to 1 from 99 without physically attacking whoever is singing with you. Fortunately, outside of bar managers and brewers, most people won’t encounter 99 bottles of beer anywhere outside of that song.

Except for John Milkovisch, that is. That’s right. We said Milkovisch. He’s not the guy John Cusack enjoys being, or even the guy who eventually pays Matt Damon his money. He’s the guy who coated his entire Houston house in beer cans. About 50,000 of them.

Milkovisch in front of the house
Milkovisch in front of his house, photo courtesy of

It might seem like an act of insanity, or highly un-neighborly decorative aggression, but it’s neither. Milkovisch was an upholsterer before he retired, working for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He clearly loved beer, and he just so happened to live in Houston, the biggest city in America with basically no zoning laws.

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For those of us who’ve forgotten our Zoning Laws 101 — it’s like French, you really do lose it if you don’t use it — zoning laws are the things that keep people from putting strip clubs near churches. They’re why skyscrapers tend to huddle together “downtown” or in the “business district” rather than right next door to your house. And a lack of zoning laws is why Milkovisch was able to plaster his house with the aluminum from 50,000 flattened beer cans without legal action, creating what’s now known as “The Beer Can House.” (It’s not the only booze house out there: there’s an entire village in Scotland with houses constructed out of used whisky vats.)

So why did this happen? Maybe it’s a testament to what retirement can do to the restless mind. Or maybe Milkovisch just liked shiny things. According to the Beer Can House website, Milkovisch started the project in 1968 after finishing another super unlikely project: “inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, and metal pieces into concrete and redwood to form unique landscaping features.” If you’re looking for any insight into Milkovisch’s motivations, he did that insanely meticulous project because “‘he got sick of mowing grass.’” Once he got sick of all the marbles and rocks, “he turned to the house itself and began adding aluminum siding,” upholstering his house in cans of Coors and Schlitz, much to the confusion of the neighborhood and the total delight of random passers-by. (There’s also a glass bottle fence in the back and strings of beer can lids hanging from the roof.)

Beer Can House in Twilight
The Beer Can House in twilight, photo courtesy of

Milkovisch passed away in 1988, but the house was quickly purchased and turned into a folk art museum, even though Milkovisch really had zero artistic pretensions. When asked what the house “represented,” his response was, “I say it just represents saving beer cans.” But the results are still surprisingly beautiful. This photo taken at twilight makes it look like the house exists in a perpetual Christmas. Or Vegas. Or, come to think of it, happy hour.

No word on whether Milkovisch was ever gifted or somehow thanked for the incidental advertisement from the beer companies themselves. But we can guess how he’d have liked his reward.

Header image via