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    

Pontiled Philadelphia Xxx Porter & Ale Green Squat Pontil Philada Pa Beer BottleRed Amber Whittled British Columbia Beer Victoria Brewing Co Victoria B. C. Pontil Teal Squat Soda Beer Bottle Haebrele Philadelphia Neat Leaf Mold RepairSplit Western Beer Rainer Beer Seattle Brewing And Malting Co 1800's Squat Beer Bottle/brown Stout/early Applied Top/olive Green/nice!!!Nice 1880's Cobalt Blue Old Butte Montana Pint Beer Bottle Nicholson St Louis MoSan Francisco California Quart Western Beer Bottle Red And WhittledSalinas Brewing Co California Cal Amber Qt Blob Top Beer Very Nice Pacific GlassWm. Schimmel San Jose California Qt Blob Beer Original Porcelain Stopper Awesome**rare Pictorial Indian Bottle- Clarksburg Brewing Co.- Handblown2-1950 Schlitz Anchor Hocking Royal Ruby Red Qt. Beer Bottle Great Red ColorNice Blob Top The Muessel Brewing Co. South Bend Indiana Antique Bottle BeerRare Phillip Jung Brewing Co Picture Beer Covington, Kentucky Pre Pro Cincy Area1880s 90's Kenosha Wi Pabst Brewing Co Kenosha Branch Blob Beer Bottle MilwaukeeBlown Anheuser-busch Brw'g. Ass'n. St Louis Pre Pro Beer Bottle Aqua Pint"1896 "pre-pro Robert Smith's India Pale Ale 12oz Blobtop Bottle-philadelphia,paVincent Hathaway & Co Stoneware Beer Bottle With Cobalt Blue Lettering Rare Arlington Bottling Co Blob Top Beer Bottle Washington Dc 1893 Great ShapeJohn Graf 8 Sided Antique Weiss Beer Bottle Milwaukee, Wisconsin Wis Wi Blob Old1900-1910 Burlington Wi Amber F.g Klein Co Pure Weiss Beer Mug Base Beer Bottle1880's Robert Portner Odd Round Slug Plate Alexandria Va. Beer Bottle - 12 Oz.San Jose Bottling Co C. Maurer Prop. California Cal Qt Blob Top Beer Very NiceSan Francisco California Beer Bottle Western SplitAqua 1890's Blob Top Beer Bottle With Stopper Conrad Seipp Brewing Chicago NiceAmber Brown~bartholomay Brewery Company~rochester Ny~eagles~baltimore Md BranchWestern Amber Blob Top Beer Bottle "james Perteira Santa Clara Calif." John Eichler Antique N.y. Labeled Beer BottleCrude 19th C Pint Glazed Stoneware Mead Or Beer - M Moore - Poss Newark Nj BeerVery Scarce 1880's Omaha, Nebraska Blob Top Pony Beer BottleWeiss Beer Fras O'kane Philada "this Bottle Not To Be Sold" Beer BottleAmber Blob Top Beer Bottle Straub Brewing Co. Pittsburg Pa.Pint Blob Top St Helena, California Ca Bottling & Cold Storage Beer Bottle Pcgw1890's "(5) Anheuser-busch Brewery/fred Miller"budweiser Court Letters Archive!4 Antique Blob-top Beer Bottles With Original Closure / Embossed Local BreweriesAr Cox Norristown Pa.blob Top Beer Or Soda Free Ship.Very Nice D. Gubner New Utrecht Long Island New York N.y. Qt Blob Top Beer Oscar Altpeter Baraboo Wisconsin Wis Quart Blob Top Beer Very NiceSet Of 3 Stoneware Beer BottlesSet Of 3 Stoneware Beer BottlesOld Leidiger Select Beer 12 Oz Irtp Labeled Bottle Merrill Wi Wis WisconsinXrare Amber 1870's Antique Bottle Weiss Beer Murphy Bros Syracuse N.y.Thomas Delaney Hibernia Nj Morris County New Jersey Blob Top Beer Or Soda BottleAntique 1860’s Civil War Era Robert Andrews Philada Beer / SodaO.j. Bryer, Blob Top Beer Bottle, Beaver Falls, Pa.- 1890'sEast Tennessee Brewing Company Light Green Beer Bottle {791}Antique Vintage York Pa B.j. King Embossed Aqua Blob Top Bottle Soda Beer1870-90 "anheuser-busch Brewery/fred Miller"budweiser/koehler's Court Letter LotVery Lt. Honey Amber P.c. Stephan Buffalo New York N.y. Qt Blob Top Beer NiceNorthern Brewing Co West Superior Wisconsin Wis Quart Blob Top Beer Very NiceHenry Rahr Sons Co Green Bay Wisconsin Wis Quart Blob Top Beer Very NiceBrown/amber~return To German Brewing Co.~frederick, Md.~9 3/8" X 2 5/8" BaseJohn S. Bollent Yonkers Ny Blob Top Beer Bottle Circa 1890sOld Antique Bottle Blob Top Tampa Florida Brewing Hand Dug Bottle Dump1900-1910 Freeport Il Schmich Bro's Brewing Company Beer Bottles Amber & TealRare Washington County Charleroi, Pa Pint Beer Bottle Monongahela River 1900Jac Schmidt Beer Bottle And Star Cap VintageHome Brewing Co. Indianapolis, Indiana Empty Brown Beer Bottle {801}Antique Advertising Botanical Beer Brewer James Thompson Stoneware Jug U.k. A. Scheidts Brwg Co. Norristown Pa.beer Or Soda With Orig ClosureRarer Picture Amber Pt Size Blob Beer From Ind