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The beer bottle, which has been on the market for at least 140 years, caused beer revolution

The beer bottle (Museum of U Fleků Restaurant, Prague)Prague, 1 June 2011 – The beer bottle has been becoming in recent years the most commonly used container in the distribution of beer. Only ten years ago breweries distributed more than 50% of their beer in kegs to the customer, and the beer was largely consumed in pubs and other catering establishments. This proportion has gradually decreased to 45.1% last year. The market position of beer bottles, by contrast, has strengthened. With regard to the bottles, in 2000, the dominant position was held by glass which then accounted for 45.7% of the market share. Ten years later, the market share of beer bottles has risen to today’s 48.8%. Glass bottles now account for 46% and PET bottles and materials for 2.8% of all the types of packaging used in the distribution of beer. PET bottles have been available on the market for ten years, but even three years ago their share was virtually zero and only reached its peak in 2009 and thereafter.

Beer bottles have served beer drinkers for at least 140 years. The bottle in which we buy a beer has caused a revolution in beer consumption in the country. Thanks to it beer has done what it essentially needed for its development. To get closer to the consumer, it had to leave its place of birth – the brewery – and find its way closer to the customer. Drinking beer has gradually expanded from the tap rooms, pubs and restaurants and later to intermediaries, which are shops. Beer drinkers could buy beer at many more points of sale and what consumers had called for materialised. They were now able to drink beer in places other than the factory, regardless of the opening hours of public houses.

The brewers’ originally cautious approach to beer bottles, whether glass or PET, had two causes. First, the brewers feared that such packaging could not fully guarantee the quality of the beer consumed in the brewery or from a barrel, or more recently from the ever popular cistern. Second, it was believed that the relationship between the beer and its brand was mostly created in the pub, a cult site for the Czech beer lover and Czech culture, which often has its genius loci. These two factors only apply only to a certain extent, however. Surveys of the Centre for Public Opinion Research have repeatedly shown in recent years that although beer is consumed less in pubs and other catering facilities, it still remains a phenomenon. In addition to its taste and other properties it is crucial that it is a social and society drink. The research has also confirmed that a change of lifestyles goes hand in hand with change of the place where beer is mostly consumed, as well as the growing popularity of beer bottles, whether made of glass or PET materials. In addition, people prefer to drink beer with their families and friends, during a barbecue or sports events, social events, and other occasions.

“Brewers do not perceive the natural competition between the glass beer bottle and other materials as a conflict and encourage the use of both packages,” said Ing. Jan Veselý, executive director of the Czech Beer and Malt Association. “The beer bottle allows consumers a sort of choice. They decide independently when, with whom, and especially where they will have a beer. It is refreshing to drink a beer in places where its consumption was not possible before just because there is no pub. You take a bottle of any size and material with comfortably. Even such a trifle often decides whether a consumer buys a beer or not,” added Jan Veselý.

The oldest known beer bottles come from a time when we still did not use the metric system. At first people used one pint beer bottles but reportedly there were also quart bottles. The Viennese holba contained a little over 0.7 litres and two holbas (Viennese quart) were slightly more than 1.4 litres. After the introduction of the metric measure system the volume content of beer bottles was either one pint or one litre. The oldest extant beer bottles made by the Order of the Cross monastery were made from clear and colourless glass. Later, because of the influence of direct sunlight impairing the quality of beer, bottles from green and brown glass were introduced.

Authorizations to sell beer were only held by licensed restaurants so selling bottled beer in grocery stores expanded its sales. Beer was bottled not only by breweries but also by bottling plants. To prevent returns of bottles for which the deposit was not charged, metal tokens were used without which the deposit was not refunded.

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