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Types of Beer Containers: A Complete Guide to Your Beer-Carrying Capabilities

When you stroll into your local brewery itching for a fresh pour or meander through the beer aisle seeking the perfect brew, you’re faced with an array of container options. Each type of beer container has its own story, often rooted in tradition, and understanding these vessels can add a new layer to your beer-drinking experience. Whether it’s the classic glass bottles, the modern aluminum cans, or the substantial glass growlers, brewers choose their packaging to preserve the beer’s quality and enhance its storytelling.

couple of beer bottles and a mug

Craft beer enthusiasts may already be familiar with the growler, a jug-like container typically made of glass that’s perfect for transporting brewery-fresh beer. For those interested in the homebrewing scene or unique beer packaging methods, exploring the various sizes and shapes of beer containers from growlers to bombers and crowlers can be an exciting endeavor. Each container is selected based on factors including portability, shelf life, and the type of beer it holds.

While bottles and cans are ubiquitous, lesser-known containers such as casks also play a crucial role in beer packaging; their historic use resonates with the age-old process of beer storage and aging. So next time you pick up a beer growler or crack open a can, ponder the history and design that went into bringing that beer to you, from the brewery to your hand.

Types of Beer Containers

When exploring the world of beer, you’ll find that the container it’s served in is almost as important as the brew itself. Each type plays a role in preserving the beer’s quality, flavor, and freshness.


Glass bottles are your classic choice, coming in 12-ounce and 22-ounce sizes known as bombers. Whether they’re capped, corked, or have a swing-top lid, glass bottles have been a stalwart in the beer industry for their ability to protect against light and oxidation.


Cans have surged in popularity due to their convenience and protective qualities. Your average beer cans are made from aluminum, with pint cans and even crowlers being a modern, recyclable option for beer enthusiasts looking for a lightweight and light-proof container.

Kegs and Casks

When you’re at a bar, you’re typically drinking from a keg—a large metal container that keeps draft beer fresh and carbonated. Casks, on the other hand, might be made from wooden barrels and introduce unique flavors at craft breweries and bars.

Growlers and Crowlers

For taking craft beer home fresh from the brewery, growlers—jug-like glass containers with a sturdy handle—are perfect. Crowlers are a newer addition, essentially a large aluminum can that’s sealed right at the brewery for a one-time use.

Be sure to check out our comparison of growlers vs. crowlers.

Unique and Specialty Containers

There’s no shortage of unique vessels; think swing-top bottles made of ceramic, or even intricately designed glassware that compliments specific types of beer. These containers often become collector’s items and are cherished by beer connoisseurs.

Disposable and Plastic Options

For more casual occasions, you’ll see PET bottles and other plastic containers—they’re cheaper and won’t break if dropped. Although BPA concerns have risen, many are designed to be BPA-free for safer enjoyment of your favorite brews.

Homebrewing Vessels

Homebrewers cherish their setup, often featuring demijohns and plastic carboys. These vessels, complete with an airlock, form the starter kit for many beer-making enthusiasts, providing an airtight environment for the fermentation process.

Beer Container Materials

Different materials are used for beer containers, impacting everything from taste to maintenance. You’ll want to understand what sets each one apart to choose the right one for your beer’s aging and maturation needs.


Glass containers are traditional for beer storage, especially when considering beer bottles. Glass doesn’t react with beer, which means it won’t affect the taste or cause oxidation. Plus, if you’re into aging beer, glass is your best friend for letting those flavors mature properly.


When you grab an aluminum can, you’re choosing a lightweight and convenient option. Aluminum cans are cheaper to produce and transport, and they completely block out light, reducing oxidation risks. But they’re not often used for aging beers, as they’re not designed for long-term storage.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a heavy-duty player in bars and breweries. Not only is it durable, it’s perfect for maintaining the brew in transport or in-house storage. You’ll see this material in kegs that undergo regular maintenance for bar use, ensuring clean taste and airtight storage.


Now, plastic containers might come in handy as a lightweight and potentially airtight storage option. However, some plastics may contain BPA, which could leach into the beer. Still, they’re easy to lug around and won’t break like glass if you drop ’em.

Ceramic and Wooden

Choosing ceramic or wooden barrels adds a dash of the craft to your beer storage. These materials can influence the taste of your beer, adding unique elements during the maturation process. Especially in craft scenes, these containers signify a classic method that’s stood the test of time at the bar.

Sealing Methods and Preservation

When you stash away a beer, the seal is crucial not just to prevent leaks, but to protect the brew’s flavor and freshness. Different sealing methods also impact the beer’s aging process, affecting its eventual maturity and character.

Caps and Corks

Crown caps are your standard, go-to seal for most bottled beers. They’re affordable and effective at maintaining carbonation and freshness. Corks, on the other hand, are often reserved for specialty bottles like bombers or large-format beers, where they lend a traditional appeal and can be better for beers that benefit from a bit of oxidation during aging.

Aging and Maturation

Aging beer is a delicate dance of time and taste. You’re looking for that sweet spot where flavors deepen without the beer succumbing to too much oxidation. Barrels are the classic vessel for aging, as they allow for micro-oxidation which can add complexity and smoothness to your beer over time.

Swing-Top and Airtight Seals

Swing-top bottles come with a built-in, airtight seal — a handy contraption if you’re into reusability and want to keep your beer’s carbonation on point. These lids, with their iconic flip-top mechanism, are not just charming in a retro way; they’re a practical choice for homebrewers and craft breweries alike.

Sizes and Volumes of Beer Containers

When you’re checking out the beer aisle, you might notice that bottles and cans come in a variety of sizes. The most common bottle is likely the 12-ounce, your standard size that’s perfect for a single serving. But if you’re after something with a bit more heft, you can grab a 22-ounce bomber, often used for special release or craft beers.

Beer packaging isn’t just about bottles, though. The pint can, equal to 16 ounces, has become quite popular, especially among craft breweries. If you’re hosting a party or just want to stock up, you might go for a growler, which typically holds 64 ounces of your favorite brew.

Here’s a quick rundown of common sizes:

  • Nip can: Sometimes called a stubby or grenade, usually 8 ounces
  • Standard can: The typical can size, coming in at 12 ounces
  • Pint can: Often referred to as a tallboy, holding 16 ounces
  • Bomber: These larger bottles hold 22 ounces
  • Growler: A jug-like container, most often 64 ounces

Whether you’re sipping solo or sharing with friends, there’s a beer container size that’s just right for your needs. Just remember that these sizes are not only about volume; they can also sometimes hint at the beer’s style and the experience the brewer intended for you to have.

Practical Considerations for Storage and Transportation

When you’re thinking about beer storage containers, it’s all about striking a balance between protecting your brew and making it easy to handle. For example, storing your beer in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight or fluorescent lighting is essential to prevent the dreaded “skunky” taste, as sunlight can cause chemical reactions in the beer that lead to off flavors. You want to make sure that light doesn’t spoil the party!

Aging your beer right requires a bit of thought. Each style has its preferred temperature range, with most falling between 45°F and 60°F (7°C to 16°C) to ensure it matures nicely without any unwanted flavor changes. This is particularly important if you’re using beer packaging that allows for some gas exchange, which can be good for certain beer styles.

Choose your vessels wisely, as they can impact both flavor and freshness. Glass bottles are great and all, but they’re not exactly lightweight or budget-friendly when you’re looking to transport your beverages. Plus, they might not be the best for maintenance. On the other hand, kegs are robust and reusable, making them a pretty convenient choice for lugging around larger quantities without worrying about oxidation or things getting too pricey. They’re a breeze to clean and maintain, which will save you hassle in the long run.

In terms of practicality, you can’t beat the classics. Cans are king for being lightweight, and they protect your beer from light exposure superbly. They also tend to be easier on your budget compared to some other options. Just remember, whatever you go for, the key is to keep your beer safe from its two arch-nemeses: light and air. Avoid them, and you’ll be good to go.

Labeling and Branding of Beer Containers

When you pick up a beer, the label’s design is often the first thing you notice. It’s more than just artwork; it’s a critical aspect of a brand’s identity. Think of beer labels as a storytelling canvas where brand names and imagery work together to capture your attention and convey the brewer’s message.

Beer labels come in various forms, fitting the many types of containers from traditional bottle labels to modern can art. As a brewer, you might opt for a quirky, bold aesthetic highlighting your unique product names – a popular trend in craft brewing. Your choice in typography, color, and design elements can make your beer stand out on crowded shelves.

For your beer containers, whether it’s a classic glass bottle or a sleek aluminum can, the label should reflect the essence of your beer. Keeping regulatory requirements in mind, your label should also provide essential information like alcohol content, ingredients, and origin. Balancing creativity with info gives your customers everything they need to know about what’s inside.

Influence of Container Type on Beer Quality and Taste

When you’re enjoying a cold one, the container it comes in is not just a vessel; it can shape your beer’s quality and taste. Glass bottles have long been a favorite for preserving flavor and preventing contamination. Exposure to sunlight and oxygen are enemies to your beer, and glass, particularly brown or amber glass, is great at blocking UV rays which can cause your beer to develop a skunky flavor.

Aluminum cans are the lightweight contenders in the beer packaging ring. They seal tightly, reducing oxygen exposure and maintaining the beer’s original taste. Plus, they have the added benefit of chilling quickly. However, some beer aficionados argue that cans can impart a metallic taste, although advances in canning technology have greatly minimized this issue.

Stainless steel kegs stand out in the preservation of beer quality, especially for draft systems used in bars and restaurants. They’re adept at keeping beer fresher for longer by providing an excellent barrier against light and oxygen. The choice of container can also influence your taste experience based on the beer style you prefer. Some styles, like hoppy IPAs, may fare better in cans that reduce light exposure, while robust stouts may thrive in glass bottles that potentially allow for aging and flavor development.

Remember, while the container might subtly influence taste and freshness, it’s ultimately the quality of the beer inside that counts the most. Enjoying your favorite beer in the container that best preserves its intended flavor is key to a great tasting experience.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Beer Packaging

When you’re sipping your favorite craft beer, have you considered the packaging’s footprint? Beer packaging plays a significant role in the environmental impact of your brew. Whether it’s an aluminum can or a glass bottle, there’s more to consider than just taste and convenience.

Aluminum cans are often touted for their high recycled content, averaging around 73%. They’re lightweight and require less energy to transport, reducing their carbon footprint significantly. Plus, they have a higher recycling value compared to other materials like plastic and glass.

On the other hand, glass bottles can be reused multiple times, making them a potentially sustainable choice. However, their heavier weight increases transportation emissions, and their lower recycle value can lead to less favorable recycling rates.

Craft breweries are at the forefront of sustainable initiatives, often prioritizing eco-friendly packaging options. Considerations include minimizing waste by choosing packaging with a lower environmental impact and seeking innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint associated with packing their artisanal beers.

Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Aluminum Cans: Higher recycle value, lighter, less shipping emissions.
  • Glass Bottles: Reusable, but heavier and typically less recycled.

Your choice of beer packaging doesn’t just affect your taste buds; it also impacts the environment. So the next time you’re at your local craft brewery, consider the container as much as the craft beer inside.

Container Choices for Different Types of Beer

When picking out the right container for your beer, consider how the materials and design can affect your beer’s freshness and flavor profile. Whether it’s glass or aluminum, each type has advantages for different beer styles.

Lagers and Pilsners

For your light and crisp lagers and pilsners, glass bottles are a classic choice. They prevent light penetration, which can be detrimental to the delicate flavors of these beers. But don’t overlook aluminum cans, as they’re great for keeping your beer fresh and are easily recyclable.

Ales and IPAs

Ales and IPAs often have robust flavors that pair well with glass bottles, especially bombers. These larger bottles make sharing easy. Aluminum cans seal tightly, preserving the hoppy notes in IPAs by preventing oxidation.

Stouts and Porters

With their dark, rich qualities, stouts and porters are well-suited to being stored in casks and kegs. By aging in these containers, these beers can develop more complex flavors over time. If bottled, dark glass is preferable to protect the deep malts from light exposure.

Sour Beers and Lambics

Specialty beers like sour beers and lambics often find their home in unique packaging like barrels or bottles sealed with corks. These methods can introduce additional characters and allow for fermentation nuances that enhance the beer’s tangy profile.

Seasonal and Craft Beer Specialties

When it comes to seasonal and craft beer specialties, craft breweries get creative. Growlers offer a direct-from-the-brewery freshness for limited releases, while custom-designed glass bottles can showcase a brewery’s brand and the unique character of these artisan beers.

Regulations and Standards for Beer Containers

When you’re dealing with beer containers, you’ve got a few rules to keep an eye on. The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) lays down the law in the U.S. They’re the ones calling the shots on what’s kosher for breweries when it comes to containers.

The containers you’re used to seeing, like cans and bottles, they’re just the beginning. The TTB permits these, plus kegs and barrels, for the removal and sale of beer. But if something new pops up that’s close to a bottle or can, the TTB might just give it the thumbs up too.

Container TypeTTB ApprovalNotes
KegsYesStandard for on-premises sales
CansYesPopular for retail
BottlesYesTraditional choice

In terms of ABV (alcohol by volume), the label game has its own set of rules. The specifics vary by state, but generally, the print size for ABV needs to be just right—not too big, not too tiny. It seems like a small thing, but it’s all about making sure you know exactly what you’re getting into with each sip.

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