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”)

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]

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]

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]

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    

Vintage Nehi Starr X Wall Mounted Stationary Soda Beer Bottle OpenerRare 1880's Haar & Tienken Yellow Amber Wilmington N C Blob Top Beer Bottle John Ryan Xx Porter&ale Hattop .very RareRare 1880's Rhodron Farms R Guastavino Black Mountain N C Blob Top Beer Bottle Antique Soda C. & K. Eagle Works / Sac City Squat Cobalt Blue Soda Ale BimalRare 1880's I. V. Wagner Kinston N C North Carolina Blob Top Beer Bottle New Brunswick, Nj - Rare Mug-based Amber Lager Beer - StrongHamburg, Pa. W.h. Raubenhold Squat Soda Porter Ale Bottle Amber PennsylvaniaTeal Blue Squat Soda Or Beer Bottle W Hat Top Mccrudden & Campbell & Co PhiladaVery Rare H.w. Stoll Western Blob Top California Beer Bottle Los Angeles, Cal. Early Antique Blob Top Green Beer Soda Bottle Marked WWestern California "richmond / Bottling Works" Split Beer BottleNice Color Dark Aqua Seitz Beer Bottle Easton, Pa.Dinger & Butterman Cronk Beer Blob Top Beer Bottle Scranton Pa.The Henry Elias Brew Co New York Lager Beer Fairbanks & Snyder BostonJohn Ryan Porter And Ale Xx Green 1866 1" Letters Savannah Ga BottleGrace Brothers Brewing Santa Rosa California Antique Blob Top Quart Beer BottleJ Gahm Boston Ma Joseph Schultz Milwaukee Lager BeerPhiladelphia Xxx Porter & Ale Graphite PontilJ. Wise Antique Blue Allentown, Pa Bottle Beer- Mineral Water- See Pictures.Early H. Levin & Sons Chicago Liquor House Pueblo Colorado Beer BottleAntique Rare Thos Mccloskey Mantuaville Slug Plate Dumpy Squat Soda Ale BimalSeitz Bros. Squat Beer Bottle, Easton, PaThe Stork Brewing Co. Antique Beer BottleRare Dayton, Ohio Blob Beer Sachs-pruden Br'g Co Dayton, O. In Slug Plate PreproRainier Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. Beer BottleKeeler Auburn Ny Gravitating Stopper New York Beer Or Soda BottleAmber * Copland Brewing Co.* Toronto Beer BottleRahr's Elk Head 12 Oz. Beer Bottle-oshkosh,wisconsinAntique Squatty Bimal Blob Top Geo. Schaumloeffel & Co. Beer Bottle Trenton, NjRare Old "the Halm Brewing Co." Bryan, Ohio Blob Top Beer Bottle!Antique F. Sandkuhler's Weiss Beer Brewery Stoneware Bottle Baltimore 7 1/4" TQuart 1890's Blob Beer Pabst Brewing Co Milwaukee Beer Battle Creek, Michigan19th-20th Century Utility Glass Bottle Lot: Cone & Umbrella Ink, Early Beer, EtcAltes Golden Lager Beer Keg Tapper Knob, San Diego, Calif. & Detroit, Michigan10¼ Inch Quart Chappel & Litchfield Stoneware Beer Bottle Newark Nj Nice GlazeVtg Geo Walter's Adler Brau Beer Bottle Window Cling Sticker Label Appleton Wis!J Gahm Charlestown Mass Milwaukee Lager Beer Mugbase Honey Amber BeerRare Beer Bottle (bim) / Klausmann Brewery / St. Louis (mo.)Antique 1-pint, A. Natter, 73, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1873Antique 1-pint? Ham's Xx, Stoneware Beer BottleMartins Bottling Works Blob Top Beer/soda Bottle Lebanon PaAntique 1-pint, G. Froescher, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1870'sAntique 1-pint Wnh Maack Ny City? Stoneware Beer BottleAntique 1-pint A Koch 71, Ny City? Stoneware Beer Bottle 1871Early San Francisco, Ca. Gambrinus Bottling Co. Embossed Quart Amber Beer BottleSchlitz Blob Top Beer Bottle Manchester New Hampshire Milwaukee1918 Rockford Illinois Beer BottleCooperstown Ny Hartson Nice Amber Color Tall Blob Top Beer Soda BottleAntique 1-pint, A. Koch, 73, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1873Antique 1-pint, C. Trapper, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1870'sMichael Katch Blob Top Soda Water Beer Bottle Keiser Mt Carmel ? Shamokin ? PaAntique Black Glass Bottle Applied Top Light Olive Green Ale Aqua Blob Top Beer Or Soda Bottle The Property Of Aug. Giebelhaus Rahway NjAntique 1-pint, John Relmer, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1870'sAntique 1-pint, G, Froescher, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1870'sAntique 1-pint, G, Roerner, 71, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1871Antique 1-pint, ? Moore, 71, Ny Or Nj American Stoneware Beer Bottle, 1871Antique 1-pint Helm & S, Ny City? Stoneware Beer Bottle10¼ Inch Quart Hf Clark Stoneware Beer Bottle Very Nice Orange Peel Glaze