While beer experts might know a thing or two about the color of a beer bottle, many consumers don’t take much notice to why one bottle color is different from the other. Some are green, others clear, brown, and now we even have aluminum bottles. What’s the point of all these different colors? Well, some of it is aesthetic while a lot of it is science.
- Why Glass Bottles?
Brewers experimented with glass bottles for beer as early as the 16th century, though evidence of commercial bottling doesn’t arrive until the second half of the 17th century. The biggest trouble being that glass made for bottling wasn’t strong enough to hold the CO2 pressure. However, a hundred years or so of innovation helped brewers realize the effectiveness of the long neck bottle.
- Different Bottle Shapes
These days, beer comes in a variety of bottle shapes, long neck being the most popular; there are also stubbies,growlers, forties, and more. Of course, glass is stronger these days so the shape of the bottle can differ without serious consequences. Though bottles have been around since the mid 17th century, the production and demand for glass bottles didn’t rise until after the First World War.
- So Why Different Colors?
Brewers started to use glass because it kept beer fresher, longer. However, there was one serious issue, if the beer was left in the sun too long, brewers found the beer would smell and taste skunky. Literally, it smelled just how a skunk smells. Scientists discovered that Ultra Violet rays from the sun break down the alpha acids in hops which then react with the sulfur present in beer to form a chemical that is almost identical to the chemical that skunks use to spray predators. Those damn UV rays. The solution was to tint the beer bottle to protect it from UV rays. Similar to how sunglasses help protect your eyesight; the dark brown beer bottle helps protect the beer from going bad. Why the green beer bottle then? Green beer bottles offer very little protection from the sunlight. Though, slightly more than a clear bottle, it does not help protect from UV as much as one might want. However, the story behind green bottles is kind of awesome.
- The Green Bottle Story
Around World War II, brown glass rose in demand and many companies had to forfeit their brown glass for their country. Unfortunately that meant companies with higher quality beers had to use clear glass, which made their beers look like cheaper, clear glass beers. Higher quality brewers’ solution was to sell their beer in green bottles so a consumer could tell the difference between a regular beer and a higher quality. The green beer bottle became a status symbol for many European breweries. These days, there’s not much of a reason to sell a beer in a green bottle other than for marketing and aesthetic. Many companies use it to distinguish their beer from others. Of course, some beers have used green bottles for so long, it would seem silly to switch to a brown glass now. Lucky for us, glass suppliers are able to apply clear, UV protected coats to glass that help keep beer fresh no matter what kind of bottle it is in. However, the best advice for any beer drinker is to keep your bottles in a cool, dark storage container that will keep the beer fresh.