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    

1800's Stoneware Cronk Beer Bottle M H Swift & Co. Cobalt Blue Rare1890 Blob Top Squat Beer Bottle Peter Stumpf Richmond, Va (virginia) Home (eagle On Stump) Brewing Co Richmond, Va Amber Picture Blob Top Beer Rare Demott's Porter & Ale Bottle Forest Green Applied Blob Top Jersey City Nj? Early 1870s C. Conrad & Cos Original Budweiser Beer W M Rex Pontiled Porter Squat Soda - PhiladelphiaCobalt Blue J. Wise Allentown Pa Pony Blob Top Beer Or Soda BottleQuandt Brewing From Troy New York Green Swull Base 9 1/2Peter Stumpf Brewing Company Richmond .va. 9 1/2Antique 1820's Pf Heering Early Amber Glass Beer Wine Bottle Super Rare Lewellin & M'mullin Squat Porter - PhiladelphiaGreat Little Stubby Beer Made In New England Olive Green With A Touch Of Amber! Antique Lemp Brewing Co St Louis Aqua Blue Tapered Top Beer Bottle Not FalstaffAntique Pabst Brewing Co Milwaukee Beer L. Speidel & Co Boston Mass Bottle OldCobalt Blue Ja Lomax Chicago Il Hutch Hutchinson Soda Beer BottleExtremely Rare Victoria Brewing Co (victoria Bc) Half Pint Applied Lip.J Stoeckert New Ulm Minnesota Stoneware Pottery Crockery Beer BottleAntique Western Beer "s" Monogram Extremely Rare Victoria Brewing Co. Bc Half Pint Without Not To Be Sold Variant1890s Manchester, Michigan Mi Blob Top Beer Bottle Mich Southern Bottling WorksNice Dark Green Columbia Weiss Beer St.louis Bwy 91/2 TallMrs C Yannes Nuremberg Pa Hutch Hutchinson Soda Beer BottleAntique 1845-1850 (scarce) Iron Pontil M. Mccormack Xxx Porter Ale BottleKansas City,mo. Post Civil War Pre-pro Val Blatz Beer Blob Beer Bottle.1890's.Rare Ohio Blob Picture Beer Lion Bottling Co Cincinnati, Ohio Slug Plate Kgw CoJ Mclaughlin Squat Porter – PhiladelphiaFred Miller Antique Blob Beer Bottle Milwaukee WisAthens, Ga.geo.c.w&co Aqua Mug Base Hutch Beer/soda Bottle, BreweraniaAntique E.m. Walsh & Co Steam Bottlers Beer & Mineral Waters Columbus Ga Bottle"julius Lowe, Maynard, Mass" Honey Amber Blob Top BeerRare Blob Top Beer Bottle Pabst Milwaukee Wi Wheeling Wv BranchKearney & Son Shamokin Pa Hutch Hutchinson Soda Beer BottleSuperb & Original 18thc Squat Beer Or Ale Bottle In Green C1790sAqua Old Pony Style Blob Top Soda Or Beer Bottle J. Andrews PhiladaScarce Amber Quart James Stenson Chicago Ale Or Mineral B F G Co 1870s .......Vintage 1880's Classen Beer Bottle Charleston S.c. Blob Top SlugW H Grimm Freeburg Selinsgrove Pa Hutch Hutchinson Soda Beer BottleSeitz Brothers Easton Pa - Blob Top Soda Beer Bottle Antique Lot Whittled BailThe John Schusler Brewing Co Buffalo, Ny. Amber Pint Pictorial Blob Beer PictureBeautiful Unembossed Porter Bottle - Philadelphia DugBattle Creek, Mich. Beer Type Bottle "the Sanitarium Food Co" Amber, Blob TopWeiss Beer BottleCardinal Beer Bottle San Diego California Tijuana Mexico 11 Oz Heavy 1940/19501890's Home Brewing Co. Richmond Va. Beer Bottle W/ Eagle On Stump - LookEmbossed Beer Bottle Cream City Brewing Milwaukee Wi Applied Crown Not BlobAntique Schlitz Milwaukee Beer Jos. Gahm & Son Co Boston Mass Bottle OldSuperb & Original 18thc Squat Beer Or Ale Bottle In Brown C1790sEmbossed Blob Top Beer Bottle 1890 Wolters Prospect Brewery Philadelphia Pa 1890 Beer Bottle Bachmann Brewing Co.staten Island N.y.(new York Zorn Bros.mgr's1880s Beer Victorian Soda Bottle Hand Blown Embossed Squat BrooklynEmbossed Beer Bottle Cream City Brewing Milwaukee Wi Applied Crown Not BlobHarrisburg Pa Mehring Bottling Works Crown Top Clear Soda Beer BottleEmbossed Beer Bottle Eulberg Bros Portage Wi Applied Crown Not BlobTeal Green Old Pony Style Blob Top Bottle J Andrews Philadelphia Soda Or BeerAntique Primitive Stoneware Bottle Vtg Crock Pottery Jug Wine Water Beer LiquorKilcore Bottling Greensburg Pittsburgh Pa Hutch Hutchinson Soda Beer BottleWinslow Junction Nj Hammonton Area New Jersey Blob Top Beer Or Soda BottleApplied Top J. Walker Brewing Co Cincinnati, O. Beer Slug Plate Pat 85 R&co BaseVtg 8 1/2" H.w. Elson's Ishpeming Mich Blob Top Hutchinson Soda Beer Bottle Light Amber Blob Beer Bottle-weber Albany Ny