Six Special Beers in Designer Glass Bottles

The consumption volume of beer declines worldwide, with the exception of Russia and China. While Russian and Canadian consumers’ acceptance of metal beverage cans is having a cannibalisation effect on the penetration levels of beer in glass. Russia also leads PET consumption within the beer industry with 47% of global unit volumes, with the bulk of PET bottles currently being sold primarily on the economy platform.

Glass is reaching its limits in terms of light-weighting, and there is growing doubt among the brand owners about its ability to evolve with market needs. The growing emphasis on the carbon footprint of packaging supply and end of life management will prove a compelling competitive advantage for plastic packaging. While PET bottlers have long coveted these markets, without ever achieving that step-change breakthrough (PET account for just 7%), there is now a growing interest in and acceptance of PET for beer driven by three things: the improved economics of bottle production compared to glass, PET’s favourable LCA, and the growing emphasis on pack weight reduction.
PET could be the future of packaging in the brewing industry, but that’s all for the (characterless) beer brewed in huge volumes.

That’s of no importance to the micro-breweries which penetrate the market with growing success with their special craft beers. Although in times of recession, consumers typically shift to economy brands. Historic lessons taught us that premium domestic micro-breweries tend to benefit as higher-income consumers reduce the frequency of eating out, but counterbalance this with an increase in at-home premium beer consumption.
It is unthinkable that a craftsman brewer will market his premium product in another container than a glass bottle. As a result, we see beautifully designed and sometimes provoking glass bottles filled with fantabulous beers.

I collected 6 examples of beer bottle designs launched for special craft beer by micro-breweries.

USA – Just Beer
It is not the bottle that drew my attention to this beer, launched by Massachusetts-based micro-brewery Just Beer (fka Buzzards Bay Brewing). The bottle is quite ordinary, but it is the labelling that makes it an attractive collector’s item. Each 22 ounce (652 ml) bottle not only has 22 ounces of (extraordinary they told me) India Pale Ale, but also 1 of the 12 chapters of a detective story printed on the label. Each case has 12 bottles, which makes for the entire tale told in a case.

The ongoing story is a 1920’s-inspired detective melodrama, written by Paul Goodchild, about a wealthy brewer and his intrigues. “The Case of the IPA” is full of references to the beer industry in the USA, packed in a mystery of zany brewers and their intrigues.
According to the website the cases were sold out within a few days. As this is a bottle by bottle mystery, Just Beer reminds all to “please read responsibly”.

Germany – Progusta BraufactuM
Another India Pale Ale. This time the 6,8% vol Progusta from Germany, brewed by Die Internationale Brau-Manufacturen GmbH in Frankfurt am Main. India Pale Ale was created in the beginning of the 18th century. To survive the long sea route to India, the beer was brewed with a high volume of original wort, and additionally mixed with a large amount of hops. Some hops were partly added directly into the transport casks. Progusta emphasizes the characteristics of the used hops. The bitterness is perfectly matched.

The 750 ml glass bottle, designed by Flächenbrand in Wiesbaden, looks really great, that’s the way a special beer should be presented. The beer in the glass is deep orange, a bit brownish, nice creamy head. Aroma is fruity, modest dry, which makes the beer very drinkable.

Estonia – Viru pilsner-style beer
The Baltic Beer Company has given its Estonian beer Viru – a premium 5%abv pilsner-style beer – a new-look to “reinforce the art-deco roots of the brand”. It is brewed in the country’s second largest city, Tartu, by the A. Le Coq brewery. The brand is owned by Baltic Beer Company Ltd (formerly Brand Independence Ltd), based in London, UK, and is brewed under licence in Estonia. A. Le Coq is the second largest brewery in Estonia, with a market share of 36.8% in 2005.

Viru is presented in a 100 year old 300 ml octahedral glass bottle, which gives the brand a major point of difference, stand out and a stylish contemporary feel. The century old design originates from Imperial Russia and intends to resemble the medieval-era turrets found in Estonia.
The subtle redesign, which was carried out by Tallinn design team Brand Manual, includes a deeper, stronger neck label, the use of fonts and images that evoke the 1920-30’s Baltic region, and an embossed ‘V’ on the brand’s unique octahedral bottle. The screw cap has been replaced by a crown cap. The re-work includes a unique 4-pack and a new 20-bottle carton.

USA – Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection
Although the Boston Beer Company is not a micro-brewery, pur sang, you can position some of its Samuel Adams beers between the craft beers.
The Boston Beer Company developed a beer that is barrel aged, and for this offering, needed a very special bottle. The glass bottle, supplied by Anchor Glass Container, is “Black Glass” in a shape somewhat reminiscent of a barrel. The Barrel Room Collection, decorated by Quest Industries, LLC, has an embossed cartouche in the shoulder and the Samuel Adams signature de-bossed in the heel. Sealed with a champagne cork and wire bale, the bottle, designed by Kenneth Hirst at Hirst Pacific Ltd, is decorated with screen printing and pressure sensitive labelling, colour-coded to the brew within. The glossy black finish of the bottle is achieved after exposing the glass to very high temperatures during the curing process.

Germany – Café Blond
Beer drinks have been an interesting growth market for breweries for years. Classic combinations, such as beer with lemon soda or beer with cola, have found a unique niche in the German market. New ideas for these products are propelling the market forward. Currently, clear beer beverages and striking flavours are particularly popular, with a look that appeals primarily to young adults.

Consequently Café Blond, following a concept by TIBOR+, came up with a conceptual design for a seasonal beer mixed drink.
Café Blond is a smooth bitter chilled drink with the stimulatory effect of espresso and a whiff of refreshing lemon. Each Bottle includes one handpicked espresso bean.
It is a new drink to be slated for trendy restaurants and bars in Hamburg, Germany. The beer crate is designed in the retro-style of old wooden crate.

UK – Spindrift in blue glass bottles
Spindrift is a light, blonde beer originally launched as a keg product. The product is very different from Adnams’ traditional cask beers. Spindrift is said to be a fresh take on beer and Adnams Brewery in Suffolk, England, decided to take a different approach to the packaging. Its striking bottle was made from blue glass at O-I’s glass plant in Rinteln, Germany.
The graphic design intends to strengthen the appeal of the sea and the feel of the coast. Clear film neck and body labels feature waves and invigorating bursts of sea spray.

Named Spindrift to reflect Adnams’ coastal location, the beer is made from a blend of East Anglian malted barley, Boadicea and First Gold hops and high grade malted wheat. This is chilled and filtered to allow the aromas and flavours within the beer to remain. Spindrift is a top-fermented beer to deliver a creamy white, continental style head and is designed to be served chilled.

These are the 6 special beers in 6 special glass bottles. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the pleasure to taste one of them.

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