Beer bottles have a distinctive shape that sets them apart from other beverages, and even other alcoholic beverages. The history of the beer bottle to its present short- and long-necked versions is long and glorious--much like the beverage it contains.
The first record of beer was in Sumer, which is located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Sumerians recorded the process of making beer on clay tablets. The first beer bottles were jars out of which the Sumerians drank their beer with a straw.
It was not until the 1700s that glass bottles for beer began to be used, and these glass bottles were much the same bottles that held wine and other alcoholic beverages. The glass of the bottles was black and thick. As twist-off or crown caps were not yet invented, corks stoppered these beer bottles.
Toward the end of the century, the beer bottle began to grow more distinctive, taking on a low-shouldered shape. While the necks of the wine bottles remained long, by comparison the beer bottles' necks were shorter. This shape of beer bottle gained the name "porter."
Late 1840s to 1850s
With the development of a new style of beer in America called lager, a new style of beer bottle developed. The first early lager bottles had a shape one associates with today's mineral water bottles--with very sloped shoulders and longer necks. By the 1850s, ale and lager shared the same shaped beer bottles, which were like the beer bottles of the late 1700s.
In the 1870s, another style of beer bottle made its appearance: the champagne beer bottle. This bottle was pressed into duty for champagne, beer, root beer and small beer. Its shape resembles a modern-day wine bottle, as the body of the bottle is narrower than that of the beer bottles that came before it.
1860s to 1880s
Three so-called weiss beer bottle shapes appeared in the 1860s to the early 1880s. The weiss beer bottle of the 1860s and the Zaun weiss of the 1880s were nearly identical, with the earler version possessing a slightly longer neck. The St. Louis weiss beer bottle of the 1880s had the longest neck of all and resembled the early lager shape beer bottle, except that its body was narrower and the neck longer. All three of these heavy bottles held the German brew, weiss, a wheat-based, foamy beer.
1860s to 1890s
The early export beer bottle shapes were very similar. Generally speaking, these bottles had wider bodies and long necks with ridges on them. Although these bottles were mostly used for export beer, some domestic beer was bottled in them also. Beer bottles for flavored beer made their appearance during this time as well, although the capacity of these bottles was lower than that of the export bottles. The flavored beer bottles also held champagne and root beer as well as Cronk's beer. The malt porter shape resembled the export beer bottles, and was used to bottle malts as well as beer.