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]

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]

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]

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]

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    

Nice 1880's Cobalt Blue Old Butte Montana Pint Beer Bottle Nicholson St Louis MoF.a. Parker Black Glass Ale Bottle Pontiled H Ricketts & Co. Glass Works BristolLarge Vintage 1899 Pabst Beer Bottle & Label Pre-prohibition Brewery Wi Pbr QtEarly Deep Olive Green Black Glass Ale Bottle Heath Collection 2014 *22-117 NrNational Bottling Co. Pictorial Eagle San Francisco California Qt Blob Top Beer Rare C. Schnerr & Co. Sacramento Cal Split Half Pint Beer Bottle CaliforniaSunrise Bottling Co E. Stirnkorb San Francisco California Qt Blob Top BeerAntique 19th C Stoneware Henry Beck Weiss Brewery Baltimore Small Bottle 7" RareAtlantic Brewing Company Beer Tray,charlotte,nc N.c. Beer Of The South,carolinaGipfel Pottery Beer Bottle - Milwaukee, WiGolden Amber Peter Mugler Brewer Sisson California Qt Blob Top Beer Very MintyAngel's Brewery & Bottling Works Ernest F. Hubler Angel's Camp California Cal St Louis,mo.norfolk Branch Anheuser-busch Pre-pro Bimal Advertising Beer Bottle.C1900 Embossed Beer Bottle Buffalo Brewing Co Sacramento Orig Bale Green Aqua1880's Dragon English Whiskey Double Collar Beer Flask-bottle Gasoline Puce-backNice R.a. Shinn Blob Top Beer Bottle Georgetown D.c. Great Shape Lots Of BubblesRare Cal Bottling Wks John Weiland's Extra Pale Sac Split Half Pint Beer Bottle Antique C.r.cowe Detroit Mi Green Glass Beer Bottle Bail & Stopper 12 OunceBlob Top Ohio Ad. Schantz Brewery Dayton, O. N.b.b.&g.co North Baltimore Made Nice Robert Portner Blob Top Beer Bottle Alexandria Va Great Teal Color Two Charleston Sc Beer Bottles 1 Amber And 1 With Palm TreePint Blob Top St Helena, California Ca Bottling & Cold Storage Beer Bottle PcgwMiller Milwaukee Script Slugplate Blob Beer Wf &s Mil Glassmark Varient .......Early Black Glass Ale Dug In Baltimore-dark Olive Refired Pontil-cool Near MintSt Louis,mo.anheuser-busch Pre-prohibition Post Blob Advertising Cap Beer BottleAntique Comstock, Gove & Co Graniteware Beer Bottle, 1800sVintage Apple Green C.d. Kaier Mahanoy City Pa Blob Top Beer Bottle Chas Kaiers Golden Amber National Lager Beer H. Rohrbacher Agt. Stockton California Qt Blob Labeled Prohibition Era Beer Bottle La Tropical Ale Tampa Florida Brewery 19331920's Anheuser Busch Beer Bottle W/ Eagle A - Logo - LookAntique F. Engle Lancaster Pa Short Aqua Blob Top Bim Beer Bottle1890's Kenosha Wi Rare Bloxdorf & Kluender Crown Top Beer Bottle Purple Blob Top - Rice Bottling Co. Cleveland , Ohio Beer Bottle2 Circa 1890's Crown Top Yuengling Beer Bottles Yuengling And Son Pottsville,pa.Max Hoppe Rockford, Illinois Bottle With Wire Cork History Medicine BrewingNice Aqua Falstaff Lemp St. Louis Beer W/shield 1910's Era A. Scheidts Brwg Co. Norristown Pa.beer Or Soda With Orig ClosureRare Fayette County Belle Vernon Pa Aqua Qt Blob Beer Bottle New York BottlingWes Tern Amber Blob Top Beer Enterprise Brewing Co. S. F.Gimlich & White Pittsfield Massachusetts Mass Pint Blob Top Beer Very NiceRice Bros. Pittsfield Massachusetts Mass Pint Blob Top Beer Very NiceAntique Pre-pro Albert K. Zeltner Blob Top Beer Bottle - New York, NyWestern Amber Blob Top Beer Bottle Gambrinus Bottling Co San Francisco, Cal.".Rare Washington County Charleroi, Pa Pint Beer Bottle Monongahela River 1900Cerveceria De Sonora High Life Beer Bottle Cerveza Hermosillo Mexico OldVintage Burkhardt Brewing Co. Boston Mass Brown Beer BottleRare Allegheny County 7 Up Green Eagle Brewery Duquesne, Pa Pint Beer Bottle Coyle Millstone Nj Somerset County New Jersey Blob Top Beer Or Soda BottleAntique J.c. Haggerty,greenwich,conn. Beer/soda Bottle,smith Addis Co.bridgeportBosch Lake Linden Mich Mi Amber Quart Blob Top Beer Bottle Old EstateNorthampton Pa Beer/soda Antique Crown Top Bottle 1900's Christain Heurich Brewing Co Norfolk Va. Branch Beer Bottle Washington DcWm. H. Earl Newton, New Jersey Bright Reddish Amber Blobtop Beer Bottle1905 Rosenegk Brewing Co. Richmond Va. Beer Bottle - Exc. Cond. - LookRare Royal Ruby Anchor Glass Red Beer Bottle & No Reserve. Vintage Lieber's Gold Medal Beer Bottle Paper Label Indianapolis Brewing Company1890s Pictured Blob Top Beer Bottle- George Bechtel Brewing Co Stapleton Si Ny1890s Blob Top Beer / Soda Bottle- Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing Co Staten Island Ny1870s Aqua Blob Top Squat Pony Beer / Soda Bottle- W.w.k. Knight Jersey City NjVintage Glass Beer Bottle American Brewing Ass'n Houston Texas