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A Brief History of Beer Bottles

Now beer in a glass bottle will not surprise anyone. And once it was a rare occurrence. Ferment magazine tells the story of a beer bottle. Pivo.by publishes a translation of the material.

If ten green bottles hung on the wall and one “accidentally” fell directly into my hands, what is the likelihood that it would be filled with beer? Given today’s realities, the correct answer is “very high.” But until the 20th century, with such a development of events, you would hardly have been able to drink tasty ale. Bottled beer gained true popularity only after the Second World War, although, thanks to the modernization of bottling technology, it was well known in the middle of the XIX century. Over time, the bottles changed their shape, size and color – from ink-black to aquamarine.

Usually we imagine a bottle as a glass product, but the first bottles for storing beer were made from clay or ceramics. As technology improved, clay bottles began to be decorated with two-tone glaze and a print with the name of the pottery workshop. Ceramic bottles were in use throughout the 19th century and until the beginning of the 20th century. To protect the drink from the damaging effects of sunlight on hop acids in beer, such bottles were probably better than glass bottles, but they could not compete with them because of their gravity, and they never reached the same level of popularity.

When the brewers first started pouring beer into handmade glass bottles in the 17th century, they were not very popular, mainly due to the fact that they exploded despite corking and wire strapping. The reason for this was the pressure from secondary fermentation and the fragility of handmade glass. In 1615, Gervaise Markham advised homebrewers to “pour ale into round bottles with a narrow neck, and then cork them tightly and put them halfway in the sand in the cellar, tying the cork with strong twine so that the cork would not rise up and let air through, which would lead to imminent spoilage of the drink. ”

Beer in those days was mostly very dense, strong (due to the low level of sanitation, bottled beer spoiled very quickly, and the high alcohol content helped to solve this problem) and with a very low level of carbonation. The first glass bottles often had thick walls and were almost black, because after bottling they were often moved and then reused due to the high cost of glass.
Glass beer bottles of the 19th century.
Only at the end of the XVII century, after a century of development and improvement, people began to get used to glass bottles. In November 1660, a marine official, Samuel Pips, wrote in his diary that he had drunk “a few bottles of Hull ale” with friends in a London tavern called The Bell. At that time, beer and wine bottles did not differ in shape: they were squat and rectangular, when viewed from the side. At the same time, bottle sizes could vary.

In 1691, in one of the first books on brewing, entitled A New Art of Brewing Beere, its author, Thomas Trion, said: “Now it has become fashionable to pour ale into bottles … the main thing that can be said about bottled beer, “It’s that they are stored longer than in a barrel.” However, Trion himself is not enthusiastic about this: “bottle ale is not as good as a drink from a barrel,” and blames the “coldness and gloom” of the bottles for giving the bottle ale a “cool” taste.

Bottles for beer and wine took on a familiar shape around the 1760s. Wine began to be bottled in tall and narrow bottles, and beer bottles maintained a squat shape with low “shoulders” – this form was called “porter”.

In the 18th century, bottled beer remained a luxury and, as a rule, was used only for export. Bottling was carried out manually and was expensive. Outside Europe, bottles were almost never found.

Mass production contributed to the disappearance of the diversity of bottles that existed before. In addition to the export bottle, two other common bottle shapes have emerged. In America, due to the growing popularity of the lager, a new beer bottle was created with very steep shoulders and a longer neck. In the 1870s, a champagne bottle appeared, similar to modern wine bottles, but with a narrow body and a long neck. Many of them were imprinted, but this trend was replaced by labels in the 20th century.

Beer Bass Corkers
Bottled beer gained real popularity after the First World War. One of the reasons for this was taxation: the higher taxes were, the beer , and, therefore, the less it was stored, so regular pubs began to “revive” bad draft beer with a good bottled one.

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