The average consumer probably doesn’t pay much attention to the shape and color of their beer bottles these days. With an exploding market and a vast variety ranging from short, squat bottles to tall long necks, from glass to aluminum, from the average brown to the rare green, the bottles are as different as the brews. Often, imports such as Belgian beer, favor green or clear bottles, while domestics are a classic brown glass. The aesthetic can be as effective as a well done label, but the science behind the colors of the glass beer bottles may surprise you.
The glass bottle rose to popularity after the First World War. Thanks to these clear longnecks, beer stayed fresher, longer. This convenience was quickly overshadowed by a rather unpleasant discovery: when left in the sun too long, the beer became skunked. The sun’s UV rays broke down the hop’s alpha acids, which in turn reacted with the sulfur, and formed a chemical almost identical to what skunk’s use to spray predators.
Not exactly appealing for a beer.
The solution? Dark colored bottles. These brown bottles served the beer in the same fashion your sunglasses serve your eyes. UV rays were filtered out and prevented the beer from spoiling. Now, the beer would stay fresh and delicious for much longer. Brown bottles have been the most common color bottle ever since.
So how did green and clear bottles come back into production? Thank World War II. Brown glass was in high demand for military production, meaning the beer bottling plants had to resort to clear class. Only, clear glass bottles were equated with cheap, spoiled beer.
European brewers began exporting their beer in green glass bottles to separate them from the lower quality “riff-raff”. These imported beers were of higher quality and more expensive than beer in clear glass bottles. Soon, the green bottle became synonymous with excellent beer. It was a status symbol.
These days, glass production is far and beyond the days of the great wars. No matter the color, glass suppliers can apply a clear, UV-protected coat to the bottle, ensuring protection for great tasting beer, no matter the color.
Brown bottles are a long-standing classic. Clear bottles show off the color and texture of a beer. Green bottles are an excellent throwback to the ultimate beer status symbol.
No matter the color of your bottle, thanks to advances in science, every beer can be a great tasting beer. The color, shape, and size of the beer bottle is often nothing more than eye-catching marketing or classic branding.
Want to learn more about our Belgian beers? Contact us at: