Until the late 1800s, most beer was sold in kegs since bottled beer had to be consumed quickly or it would spoil. But the advent of pasteurization in 1876 made it safe to bottle fermented products, and along with America’s growing rail system, the bottled-beer industry boomed. In the early 1890s, Congress passed taxes on bottled beer, along with legislation allowing companies to bottle their brews onsite and bypass an archaic process of barreling, transporting, and packaging their drinks into bottles elsewhere. Prior to this action, beer bottles often featured a bottling credit on them in addition to the name of the brewer, which is one way to date a beer bottle.

While early beer bottles came in a variety of glass colors, including brown, blue, green, and clear, the first American bottles were made from ceramic stoneware. This style was often used for dark beers like porters and stouts or non-alcoholic drinks like root beer or ginger ale. Since bottling was costly, many early containers were embossed with a company's name to help ensure their safe return, although this didn’t deter bootleggers from reusing them. At the time, many would-be brewers made their products out of their homes and used their bottles for multiple beverages, so some of these embossed bottles never even included the word “beer” on them (the brewer's company and city names were all a customer needed to know). As these fledgling enterprises grew into mature companies, though, phrases like “Brewing Co.” were added. Less common embossing features included a company's phone number and graphic icons like animal mascots.

William Painter’s invention of the single-use “crown cap” in 1892 sealed the deal for mass-produced beer bottles. The innovative design, with its crimped edge and cork lining, overtook some 1,500 different styles of bottle stoppers used prior to 1892. The crown cap also led to more uniform, machine-made bottles. Previously, the majority of beer bottles were made with a “blob top,” a rounded lobe at the opening. Typically these bottles came with a porcelain or cork stopper which closed using a wire bail.

As breweries began bottling their own products, they capitalized on the new process, as seen in a 1903 Evans’ Ale ad explaining that its makers “know precisely when and how to handle it, and preciously guard the goodness of the brewing against danger from outside bottling.” Many bottles from this era also included labeling to indicate that the drinks were produced and packaged in the same plant, such as the bottles labeled Trenton Brewing Co. Bottling Dept. or Dawson & Son Brewers and Bottlers.

Before Prohibition, breweries frequently identified their products using paper labels, since embossing was more expensive and required bulk bottle orders. These were initially simple black-and-white printed sheets, improved with color lithography towards the end of the 1800s. During the years when beer was outlawed, from 1919 to 1933, breweries used their facilities to manufacture a variety of food products and soft drinks, as well as “near beer,” a similar tasting brew that contained less than half of one percent alcohol by volume.

Once alcohol was legalized 1933, a few companies switched to applied- or painted-label bottles. The mandatory three-tiered beer distribution system, from brewery to distributor to bar, also spurred developments in beer packaging to allow for easier shipping, like the squatter “steinie” bottle size.

Highly collectible bottle varieties include extinct styles or bottle sizes, such as those labeled “Weiss Beer,” a malt variety made by most breweries in the late 19th century which entirely ceased production after Prohibition. The “picnic bottle,” an oversized container holding a half-gallon of beer for serving a large group of drinkers, also disappeared during the mid-20th century.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Bill Lindsey's fantastic bottle identification and information site. Loaded with detailed descriptions and diagrams… [read review or visit site]

Red Fox Chapter

Red Fox Chapter

The guys at the Connecticut Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America have created a full-on tribute to t… [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

There's a ton of information here, but as with bottles, you have to dig to find the best stuff. Start with the famo… [read review or visit site]

British Beer Labels

British Beer Labels

This pre-1965 collection is organized alphabetically by brand and contains scans of seemingly thousands of beautif… [read review or visit site]

Plopsite.de

Plopsite.de

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Bock Beer Labels

Bock Beer Labels

A quick tour of pre-Prohibition bock beer label designs with nice, high resolution scans. Do the whole slide show o… [read review or visit site]

Old Spice Collectibles

Old Spice Collectibles

Lather up with Creighton Fricek's complete chronology of collectible Old Spice shaving products. Start with the bot… [read review or visit site]

Trappist Beers and Monks

Trappist Beers and Monks

An interesting site dedicated to Trappist beers and the history of the development of beer brewed by Trappist Bened… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Late 1700s Stout Or Ale Dip Mold Amber Olive Dark - Pontil - Whittle Marks NiceScarce Blue Colored Variant 49 Greene St Ny Squat Soda Beer Applied Lip Moosehead Cone-top Beer CanAle Bottle From William Mccully & CompanyPre Pro Labeled Michigan Union Brewing Co Double Beer Ann Arbor Original LabelRare 1880's Henry Luders Blobtop Cider Muskegon Michigan Mich. Mi. Beer Bottle~killer Pontiled~black Glass~small Size~ladie's Leg 1760-80 Dutch PorterRare Western Beer Bottle Sierra Bottling Co. Jamestown, Ca Wielands Best Split1880s Ypsilanti Michigan Mich. Mi. Quart? Mineral Water Beer Bottle Not SaratogaVery Rare John Splitt Lemon Beer Milwaukee Wis Wi Pint Blob Top Beer BottleSquat, Soda, Beer, Mineral Water Bottle, Civil War , 1860's Era Bottle Rare Quart Blob Beer Union Brewery Houghton County MichiganAntique Blob Top Beer Bottle Chesapeake Brew Co.terrapin Porcelain Stopper C1890 Large Clear Glass 5 Gallon Water /beer Bottle-brewhouse Helena Mt-micro-breweryHenry Utzinger Weiss Beer East Water St New Haven Conn Karl Hutter Blob Top OldLot Of 2 Hutchinson Soda Beer Bottles Greensburg Pa Westmoreland County AntiqueOrange New Jersey Amber Blob Top Beer Henry Decker 1880-90Columbus Ga Hutchinson Soda Bottle E M Walsh & Co Steam Bottlers Beer & WaterChris Nacrelli Marcus Hook Pa Rare Blob Top Beer Soda Old Antique Rare Vintage Embossed Blob Top Beer BottleSt.louis,mo. Pre-pro Wittemann Rost Weiss Beer Blob Amber Beer Bottle.Lot Of 4 Hutchinson Soda Beer Bottles Greensburg Irwin Jeannette Pa West PennLoop Seal Beer Bottle M. T. B. 363 M. Street S.w. Washington, Dc Clear Rare??M. B. Shaw Bottling Works Penn Yan New York Ny Aqua Pint Blob Beer Soda NiceShamokin Pa Eagle Run F&s Fuhrmann And Schmidt Amber Crown Top Soda Beer BottleNorristown Pa Blob Beer BottleFlorida Brewing Co. Hutchinson Soda Bottle - Tampa Fla. - ClearRare! Friar Cream Ale Beer Bottle Abner Drury Brewery Hack & Simon Eagle Brewery Beer Bottle Bottle Large Aqua Blue Vincennes IndAnchor Hocking Royal Ruby Schlitz Beer Bottle Red Colored Glass Large SizeClean Aqua Blob Top Pony Soda Or Beer Bottle John E. Kelly Leeds NyNice 1800s Karl Hutter Handblown Blob Beer Bottle Mc Cormick & Burns Ithaca, Ny Brooklyn Beer Crown Top Otto Huber Brewery With Label New York 1900's Vintage Rolling Rock Premium Beer 12oz. Bottle ( Green Tinted )Antique Los Angeles Brewing Co. Bottle Caps, Dug, Mining Camp, Yuma, AzBay Shore Antique Long Island Beer BottleSuffolk Beer Distributors Patchogue, Long Island Etched Seltzer Original TopIsaac Tucker & Co Brewers Beer Bottle Cateshead Hand BlownJohn Robb Malone New York Ny Aqua Pint Applied Blob Beer Soda Very NiceNice Clean Blob Top Soda Or Beer Bottle Em Brown Bottler Salem Nj2014 Original Corona Limited Ed. Golden Boy Boxing Beer Bottles(6) Incl. MaidanaEd Hardy Beer Can Cooler Cozi Set Of 6 New All Different Designs Lot Free ShipBeer Bottle From The Enterprise Brewing CompanySpringfield Ohio Rare Huonker & Hartmann Brewery Bottle 1920's 7 Oz ProhibitionPre-pro Mckenna Home Bottler Quart Blob Top Beer Bottle Pittsburgh Latrobe, Pa Blob Top F.m.schaefer Beer New York 1890 Script EmbossingAntique German Porcelain Beer Bottle Stoppers Cap Engelhardt