Beer Containers Across History


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It is commonly known that beer has been with mankind for a long time. The way we drank beer developed as beer expanded, grew, and improved. The earlier receptacles man used for drinking included stoneware, pottery, wood, and even sewn-together bits of leather. The quality of the beer glass saw little improvements as time passed on. During the bubonic plague beer steins were essential because of their closed top to prevent flies from landing in the beer and making them ill.

Nowadays, the most important factor to affect modern beer glass production was the creation of glass. As customers started to be able to see what they were consuming from the beer glass they started to demand a beer with improved taste and a better hue. Customers didn't want chunks in their drinks anymore so breweries began to filter their products. With this new, more aesthetically pleasing wave of beer glasses, it appeared beer steins were on the way out.

A variety of beer glasses were developed and manufactured for the various types of beers. The most popular in America is the 16-ounce pint glass. It was originally developed to cover the top of a Martini shaker, but bartenders soon discovered that as the brew flowed out of the beer tap handles the pint glass was the perfect receptacle because it let part of the carbonation to be released and allowed the smell of the beer to be more obvious. It is also favored for its storage capabilities; pint glasses may be stacked on top of each other and stored easily on shelves, rapidly making them popular with the bartenders who ended up having to clean out each individual glass.

An attempt to get consumers to purchase their kind of beer by breweries led to some unique and groundbreaking moves on the marketing and promotional front. Handing out glasses to customers was a way that breweries found to promote their products even though it was prohibited. This led to the breweries creating glasses that were works of artistic merit unto themselves. Gold or silver embossing on both sides of the glass was not uncommon for these first flashy and pricey glasses. Eventually, artists for the breweries started doing detailed etchings on either side of the glasses or steins and even created a way of firing enamel paint onto the glasses. These enameled glasses remain some of the most rare beer collectibles, even though they were manufactured later than the others. Nowadays eager collectors all around the planet continue to collect these signs and collectables that are often worth thousands. Have you been up in the top of Grandpappy's dresser in a while?

Michael Usry is a long-time beer lover and contributing author for “Beer Maniac" fanzine in Austin, Tx. He is also a top affiliate at , a website for household draft beer accessories.


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