Beer bottles

Beer bottle is a bottle made to contain beer, usually made of glass and comes in various sizes, shapes and colours. Dark amber or brown glass greatly reduces the UV light passing through and spoiling the beer.[1] However, lighter-colored bottles are often used for marketing reasons.

The common alternatives to glass bottles are beverage cans and aluminum bottles as well as kegs for larger quanities.

Bottling lines

Main article: Bottling line

Bottling lines are production lines that fill beer into bottles on a large scale.

This typically involves drawing beer from a holding tank and filling it into bottles in a filling machine (filler), which are then capped, labelled and packed into cases or cartons. Many smaller breweries send their bulk beer to large facilities for contract bottling—though some will bottle by hand.

The first step in bottling beer is depalletising, where the empty bottles are removed from the original pallet packaging delivered from the manufacturer, so that individual bottles may be handled. The bottles may then be rinsed with filtered water or air, and may have carbon dioxide injected into them in attempt to reduce the level of oxygen within the bottle. The bottle then enters a "filler" which fills the bottle with beer and may also inject a small amount of inert gas (CO2 or nitrogen) on top of the beer to disperse oxygen, as O2 can ruin the quality of the product by oxidation.

Next the bottle enters a labelling machine ("labeller") where a label is applied. The product is then packed into boxes and warehoused, ready for sale.[2]

Depending on the magnitude of the bottling endeavour, there are many different types of bottling machinery available. Liquid level machines fill bottles so they appear to be filled to the same line on every bottle, while volumetric filling machines fill each bottle with exactly the same amount of liquid. Overflow pressure fillers are the most popular machines with beverage makers, while gravity filling machines are most cost effective. In terms of automation, inline filling machines are most popular, but rotary machines are much faster albeit much more expensive.[3]

Shape and size

Stubby and steinie

A short glass bottle used for beer is generally called a stubby, or originally a steinie. Shorter and flatter than standard bottles, stubbies pack into a smaller space for transporting. The bottles are sometimes made with thick glass so that the bottle can be cleaned and reused before being recycled. The capacity of a stubby is generally somewhere between 330 and 375 ml (11.6 and 13.2 imp fl oz; 11.2 and 12.7 U.S. fl oz). The Canadian stubby bottle was traditionally 341 ml (11.5 U.S. fl oz; 12.0 imp fl oz) while the U.S. longneck was 355 ml (12.0 U.S. fl oz; 12.5 imp fl oz). Some of the expected advantages of stubby bottles are: ease of handling; less breakage; lighter in weight; less storage space; and lower center of gravity.

After the relaxation of Prohibition in the U.S. in 1936, many breweries began marketing beer in steel cans. The glass industry responded by devising short bottles with little necks, nicknamed stubbies, and types with short necks were called steinies. Capacities varied, with 12oz being the most common size used for soft drinks. The steinie dominated in the U.S. by 1950, and the neck became longer, such as seen with the familiar Budweiser bottle. Stubbies were popular in Canada until about 1970. Today, standard SP Lager from Papua New Guinea is one of the few beers still sold in 12oz neckless stubbies. The U.S. steinie shape now dominates for small beer bottles the world over, in sizes from half-pint to the European 500ml. The word stubbie is now only in common use in Australia.

Stubbies are used extensively in Europe, and were used almost exclusively in Canada from 1962 to 1986 as part of a standardization effort intended to reduce breakage, and the cost of sorting bottles when they were returned by customers. Due to their nostalgic value, stubbies were reintroduced by a number of Canadian craft brewers in the early 2000s. In the U.S., stubbies have generally fallen out of favour, with only a few brands still using them such as the Session Lager by the Full Sail Brewing Company, and Red Stripe, a Jamaican brand import.


Belgian beer is usually packaged in 330 ml (11.6 imp fl oz; 11.2 U.S. fl oz) bottles in four or six packs, or in 750 ml (26.4 imp fl oz; 25.4 U.S. fl oz) bottles similar to those used for Champagne. Some beers, usually lambics and fruit lambics are also bottled in 375 ml (13.2 imp fl oz; 12.7 U.S. fl oz) servings.


Through the latter part of the 20th century, most British brewers used a standard design of bottle, known as the London Brewers' Standard. This was in brown glass, with a conical medium neck in the pint and with a rounded shoulder in the half-pint and nip sizes. Pints, defined as 568 ml (20.0 imp fl oz; 19.2 U.S. fl oz), and half-pints, or 284 ml (10.0 imp fl oz; 9.6 U.S. fl oz) were the most common, but some brewers also bottled in nip (1/3-pint) and quart (2-pint) sizes. It was for example mostly barley wines that were bottled in nips, and Midlands breweries such as Shipstone of Nottingham that bottled in quarts. This standardisation simplified the automation of bottling and made it easier for customers to recycle bottles as they were interchangeable. They carried a deposit charge, which in the 1980s rose to seven pence for a pint and five pence for a half-pint. Some brewers however used individual bottle designs: among these were Samuel Smith, which used an embossed clear bottle, and Scottish and Newcastle, which used a clear bottle for their Newcastle Brown Ale (both designs survive in the 500 ml (16.9 U.S. fl oz; 17.6 imp fl oz) size today). Other brewers such as Timothy Taylor had used their own embossed bottles and rare examples continued to be reused into the 1980s. At around the turn of the 21st century the industry turned away from refillable bottles and UK beer bottles are now all one-trip, and most are 500 ml (16.9 U.S. fl oz; 17.6 imp fl oz) or 330 ml (11.2 U.S. fl oz; 11.6 imp fl oz) in volume.

De Nederlandse Bierfles (pijpje)

Most beer producers in the Netherlands sell their beers in a 300 ml (10.6 imp fl oz; 10.1 U.S. fl oz) bottle called De Nederlandse Bierfles. De Nederlandse Bierfles is more commonly known as pijpje (little pipe) and carries a 10-cent deposit.

Longneck, Industry Standard Bottle (ISB) or North American longneck

A North American longneck is a type of beer bottle with a long neck. It is known as the standard longneck bottle or industry standard bottle (ISB). The ISB longnecks have a uniform capacity, height, weight and diameter and can be reused on average 16 times. The long neck offers a long cushion of air to absorb the pressure of carbonation to reduce the risk of exploding. The longneck also provides a handle for drinking directly from the bottle without transferring body heat to the beer from one's hand. The US ISB longneck is 355 ml (12.5 imp fl oz; 12.0 U.S. fl oz). In Canada, in 1992, the large breweries agreed to all use a 341 ml (12.0 imp fl oz; 11.5 U.S. fl oz) longneck bottle of standard design (named AT2), thus replacing the traditional stubby bottle and an assortment of brewery-specific long-necks which had come into use in the mid-1980s. In Australia, the term "longneck stubby" is applied to bottles of this style with 330 and 375 ml (11.6 and 13.2 imp fl oz; 11.2 and 12.7 U.S. fl oz) capacity.

Large bottles

In the United States, large bottles are 22 U.S. fl oz (650.6 ml; 22.9 imp fl oz) (colloquially called a "rocket", "bomber", or "deucer"); the European & Australian standard large bottle is 750-millilitre (25.4 U.S. fl oz; 26.4 imp fl oz) (in South Africa and Canada referred to as a "quart", in Australia known colloquially as a "longneck" or "tallie", in the United States known as a "buster")


A forty is American slang for a 40-U.S.-fluid-ounce (1,182.9 ml; 41.6 imp fl oz) bottle commonly used for cheaper varieties of beer and of malt liquor,[4] though some 32-U.S.-fluid-ounce (946.4 ml; 33.3 imp fl oz) bottles are erroneously called forties.


A growler is a glass or ceramic jug used to transport draft beer in Australia, the United States and Canada. They are commonly sold at breweries and brewpubs as a means to sell take-out craft beer. The exploding growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of collectible growlers.

Growlers are generally made of glass and have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porcelain gasket cap, which can provide freshness for a week or more. A properly sealed growler will hold carbonation indefinitely and will store beer like any other sanitized bottle. Some growler caps are equipped with valves to allow replacement of CO2 lost while racking. The modern glass growler was first introduced by Charlie and Ernie Otto of Otto Brother's Brewing Company in 1989.[5]

While 64 U.S. fl oz (1,892.7 ml; 66.6 imp fl oz) is the most popular growler size, growlers are commonly found in 32 U.S. fl oz, 128 U.S. fl oz, 1-litre (33.8 U.S. fl oz; 35.2 imp fl oz), and 2-liter sizes as well. The two most popular colors for growlers are amber (a brownish hue) or clear (often referred to as "flint"). Clear growlers are often 25% - 35% cheaper per unit than their amber counterparts. Glass handles are the most common type of handle for growlers, although metal handles (with more ornate designs) can also be found. Some growlers do not have handles – this is especially common with growlers smaller than 64 U.S. fl oz that have Grolsch-style flip-tops.[6]

The term likely dates back to the late 19th century when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one's home by means of a small galvanized pail. It is claimed the sound that the CO2 made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around sounded like a growl.[7]

Growlers can usually be refilled for between $5 and $15 in America, but carry a significant (sometimes non-compulsory) deposit.

Small bottles

There are also smaller bottles, called nips,[8] ponies (not to be confused with a pony keg), cuartitos (in Mexico) and other names. In the U.S., the size of these bottles is usually 7 U.S. fl oz (207.0 ml; 7.3 imp fl oz). The 7 oz. bottles that were made for Rolling Rock Beer may be the first to be referred to as ponies. The size serving became popular when prohibition was repealed in 1933 and while America was still coming out of the Depression - the smaller beer was more suitable on a working man's budget. The Rolling Rock bottle carried a picture of the beer's logo, a horse; thus, when coming into a tavern or pub, the customer would ask for either a horse or a pony, meaning a large beer or a small beer respectively. Beers that come in small bottles today include Corona (labeled as Coronita),[9][10] Rogue Ales,[8][11] and Bud Light "Limeys".

"Darwin Stubby"

A Darwin Stubby refers to several large beer bottle sizes in Australia. It was first introduced in April 1958 with an 80-imperial-fluid-ounce (2,270 ml; 76.9 U.S. fl oz) capacity.[12] The 2-litre (70.4 imp fl oz; 67.6 U.S. fl oz) Darwin Stubby is available by NT Draught in the Northern Territory. The 2.25-litre (76.1 U.S. fl oz; 79.2 imp fl oz) Darwin Stubby has an iconic,[13] if kitsch status in Australian folklore.[14]

"Caguama" bottles

In Mexico, caguama is the popular name for a 940 ml (33.1 imp fl oz; 31.8 U.S. fl oz) beer bottle. The Mexican beer brands which are sold in these bottles include Tecate, Carta Blanca, Sol, Indio, Victoria, Corona Familiar and Pacífico. The name of the bottle refers to the Loggerhead sea turtle, which is called "caguama" in Spanish.[15] There are larger sizes of beer bottle called a super caguama or a caguamon.




Bottled beer is sold with several types of bottle cap, but most often with crown caps (also known as crown seals). Some beers (for example Grolsch) are sold in "beugel" style bottles, known as "swing top" in some English speaking countries. A number of beers are sold finished with a cork and muselet, similar to champagne closures. These closures were largely superseded by the crown cap at the end of the 19th century, but survive in premium markets. Many larger beers, including most forties and some growlers, use screw caps due to their resealing design.

Bottle fermentation

Some beers undergo a fermentation in the bottle, giving natural carbonation.[16] These beers are usually referred to as bottle conditioned. They are bottled with a viable yeast population in suspension and to start what may be a second or third fermentation. If there is no residual fermentable sugar left, sugar and or wort may be added in a process known as priming. The resulting fermentation generates CO2 that is trapped in the bottle, remaining in solution and providing natural carbonation. Bottle conditioned beers may be either filled unfiltered direct from the fermentation or conditioning tank, or filtered and then reseeded with yeast.[17]

Use as weapons

Beer bottles are sometimes used as makeshift clubs, for instance in bar fights. Pathologists determined in 2009 that beer bottles are strong enough to crack human skulls, which requires an impact energy of between 14 and 70 joules, depending on the location. Empty beer bottles shatter at 40 joules, while full bottles shatter at only 30 joules because of the pressure of the carbonated beer inside the bottle.[18] A test performed by the TV show Mythbusters suggested that full bottles are significantly more dangerous than empty bottles. They concluded that full bottles inflict more damage in terms of concussion and skull fracture. However, they found that both full and empty bottles do the same amount of scalp damage.

Lightstruck beer

Lightstruck, or "skunked" or "skunky", beer has been exposed to ultraviolet and visible light. The light causes riboflavin to react with and break down isohumulones, a molecule that contributes to the bitterness of the beer and is derived from the hops. The resulting molecule, 3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol, is very similar chemically and in odour to the musk-borne mercaptans that are a skunk's natural defences.[19]

In some cases, such as Miller High Life, a hop extract that does not have isohumulones is used to bitter the beer so it cannot be "lightstruck". A dark brown glass bottle gives some protection to the beer, but green and clear glass bottles offer virtually no protection at all.[20]

There are also other solutions available to improve beer bottled in clear and green glass from becoming skunked or light-struck, such as Samuel Adams (beer) tall 6-pack.

See also


Further reading

  • Colin S. Burns, Arne Heyeric, Malcolm D. E. Forbes, (2001) "Mechanism for Formation of the Lightstruck Flavor in Beer Revealed by Time-Resolved Electron Paramagnetic Resonance"
  • Richard Pozdrik, Felicity A. Roddick, Peter J. Rogers, and Thang Nguyen, (2006) "Spectrophotometric Method for Exploring 3-Methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (MBT) Formation in Lager"

External links

  • Historic beer bottles
  • Article on stubbies which mentions the newer longnecks.
  • Curious Cook - In the dark: olive oil, milk, butter, and beer
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