Twelve ounce longneck bottles are the standard, not just for homebrewers, but for beer in general. Larger twenty two ounce bombers and 750 milliliter corked and caged bottles have become very popular in the craft beer scene. Even beyond these, there are a lot of options available to homebrewers looking to bottle their beer.
Swing top bottles are a favorite time saver for many brewers. These are more common in Europe, I brought a bunch home from my trip to Munich, so they are often in metric sizes. Mine are half liter bottles, or about seventeen fluid ounces. American standard sized versions are available at most homebrew shops, though. I have two quart bottles that I use mainly for mead. Swing top bottles are also sometimes called flip tops or Grolsch bottles, after a brewery that used them for their cheap beer and became a favorite source for homebrewers.
These bottles do not require caps or cappers. The built in bottle topper is simply secured in place using a clasp. These clasps, toppers and the rubber ring that ensures a seal beneath the topper can all be replaced. The metal clasps fit into the specially molded bottles. I have never had to replace any of mine, but I always check the rubber to make sure it hasn’t gone bad.
My favorite part of my own bottle collection is two cases of returnable sixteen ounce bottles from Straub Brewing. There are very few breweries still doing returnable bottles, in fact Straub had to order their bottles from Canada because they are no longer produced in America. These bottles have lots of advantages. Pint bottles are strangely rare and I appreciate this size very much. Returnable bottles are made to be reused over and over by the brewery, so they are extra thick glass. In addition to the rugged bottles, they come in an extra sturdy case, which is also meant to be reused. The top flips open and then locks into place via ridges in the case. I haven’t used these bottles in a while, but I’ll be breaking them back out for Elkland Golden and Amber Lagers this Summer.
I mentioned the recent popularity of corked and caged bottles. I have a few of these bottles that I’ve saved from commercial breweries, but I’ve never caged them. They will usually fit standard corks and are good for holding uncarbonated wine or mead this way, but carbonation will pop the cork without a cage.
Speaking of carbonation, never bottle a carbonated beverage in a container that is not meant to hold carbonation. Wine bottles WILL shatter under the pressure of bottle conditioning beer and it can be very dangerous and extremely messy.
Another option, if you are planning to take your beer to a party or otherwise finish a large portion of it in one night, is to bottle in a growler. These containers can range anywhere from a nondescript brown jug to an intricately ornamented piece of art. They should all be made to hold carbonation, though. The screw top varieties should be emptied as soon as possible once opened. The flip top versions will keep for longer, but that depends on the level of the beer inside. If you open it and take a sample, then reseal it immediately, it should be okay. The amount of headspace will play a crucial role in keeping the beer fresh, so if you drink half of it, be prepared to drink the other half.
That about wraps up bottling week. I know that packaging is not the most exciting part of homebrewing, but I hope someone got some useful information or inspiration out of this and I promise to write more about the actual beer next week.