Beer packaging: choosing the right bottle for your beer - Part I

February 07, 2019

After crafting your finest brew, it’s time to think about the packaging that will deliver your creation to consumers. Beer packaging is the three-dimensional representation of your brand ethos. To your end-user, your beer and its package are inseparable. The package is the beer, and the beer is the package.

Packaging is at the intersection of numerous design choices that you must make. These decisions will impact the physical manifestation of your brand and will affect the total cost of goods.

As you work to move from a draft consumption experience to a packaged beer experience, a strong beer packaging strategy is a must. Before you roll out a new packaging design, take a minute to consider how bottle shape, capacity, size, color and closure will work together to ensure that your beer has a strong shelf presence.

What’s the size saying?

Apart from the most popular, standard sizes (330ml / 250 ml in Europe and 12oz in the US), there are a couple of other options you may want to consider depending on a trend you are trying to tap into:

To share: 22 oz / 750 ml

The 22-ounce bottle (650ml), or the bomber, is an innovative and strategic package size. This share size bottle is a favorite among master brewers for distributing special or limited run products. The 22 ounce is a contemporary alternative for that bottle of wine you plan on bringing to the next dinner party.

The 750ml bottle offers many of the same conveniences as the 22-ounce bomber, but in a volume more similar to spirits bottles. This format is a true sharing size, promoting friendship and comradery. Beyond these popular share sizes are emerging trends that are driving new capacity options.

Smaller size trend: 7oz / 250ml

Who likes to drink their beer warm? The smaller format bottle challenges the rising temperatures of hot summer days. This petite bottle size keeps beer cold and beach goers happy. It provides a perfect size for trial use or a variety configuration that offers a flight of beer prepackaged! Alternatively, it can be used for high ABV beers, reducing alcohol levels.

What about the 16oz / 500ml size?

While it is a rather popular, standard size in Europe, the 16oz is more of an emerging capacity trend in the US. This is more of a masculine format which offers larger physical dimensions within the consumer’s hand for a semi-customized grip. A true draft sized pint.

The size of your beer bottle communicates more than you may realize. These sharing and emergent bottle sizes are disrupting the standards of beer packaging and changing the way we pour, drink and socialize.

While clearly size does matter, shape is another important aspect to consider when packaging your best brew.

Shape - Your beer's handshake

How will you define the physical space your bottle will take up on the shelf and in the hands of your consumers? The shape of your bottle is the handshake of your beer and the essence of your brand identity.

Think of your beer and your brewery as if it were a person. Now describe that person. Is it friendly, formal or flirtatious? Is it the quirky uncle, the girl next door or the grilling buddy? Your shape helps to define the character of your brew.

Longneck 

Think of the stereotypical beer bottle silhouette. The first shape that comes to mind is the longneck beer bottle. This bottle design has key dimensions adopted by large and small brewers. In addition to its iconic long neck, this bottle has familiar round shoulders and a steep indent label panel. This protects the label from scuffing and allows for flexibility in label and embossing options.

The longneck format conveys a strong modern design vernacular, which complements a wide variety of brands. This is a friendly and familiar beer bottle shape. Although the longneck shape is an unmistakable option, other shapes may increase your brand equity and recognition.

Belgium 

The historical and masculine Belgium beer bottle shape, with traditional heritage and old world reference points, disrupts the visual expectations of the beer aisle. The double bumped shoulder helps prevent yeast solids from transferring into a glass when poured and making the beer cloudy in appearance. This makes it a popular option for wheat or Belgian-style beers. Stouts, porters and other dark beers pair nicely with this bottle as well.

A more modern take on this blast-from-the-past bottle features a stepped indent at the heel and just below the shoulder. These reference points provide label protection against scuffing during the production and packaging of your one-of-a-kind brew. With a stout, bright and friendly old world tradesman persona, the Belgium beer bottle would carry a Hobbit’s go-to drink, for example.

Champenoise

Just like the name might suggest, this shape is inspired by champagne bottles. Originally, this bottle shape was used for packaging the higher CO2 levels that early bottle-conditioned beers often needed. The champenoise bottle is marked by its signature elegant long S-curve neck. The impact of this design is a sweeping compounded surface geometry that reduces the amount of available labeling on both the main and neck label panes yet still provides multiple label branding options.

To maintain the gracefulness of its profile, the champenoise bottle typically has a more subtle label indent than either the Longneck or Belgium beer bottle shape. A contemporary accented shoulder provides special order glass embossing decoration options. The champagne profile personifies the beauty and poise of the feminine figure. This elegant and voluptuous bottle shines during life’s achievements, celebrations and victories.

Stubby and Steinie 

A short, compact bottle is often referred to as a stubby or originally a steinie. Introduced during the age of prohibition, the steinie derived its name from the similar shape of a beer stein. This short and compact design provides for a larger diameter. While there is a larger main label panel, the lack of a neck generally reduces the cost of additional labeling.

These bottles are disruptive at the shelf and have several operational advantages, including easy handling due to a lower center of gravity. Its stout stature also takes up less space for the bottle manufacturer, the brewery, the retailer and the end-user. The bottle is trending because of its nostalgic look and sturdy feel in the consumer’s hand. It speaks to the familiar in a contemporary voice.

The stubby and steinie profile personifies a strong and trustworthy friend who has a sense of adventure and charm. A gregarious young man who is capable in the outdoors, yet refined at a Sunday dinner with friends or family.

COLOR ME BEAUTIFUL

Color communicates product and brand positioning, while playing a role in the protection of your brew. The color of a glass bottle is literally molded into the container, giving it a depth as a natural characteristic of the material as a substrate. Color can be heightened by shape, embossing and the varying thickness of the glass. Most importantly, glass bottles pair color with translucence, which helps to showcase and enhance the natural visual properties of beer. There are three basic colors of glass available to you.

Amber                                                                                       

The oldest and most widely used color for beer bottles is amber. Most stock bottles are available in this color. Amber is perhaps the most identifiable color for beer bottles. It announces to the consumer that the bottle is filled with (or should be filled with) beer.

Amber glass provides excellent protection from ultraviolet radiation, blocking all wavelengths shorter than 450 nm. This protection safeguards the quality of your brand by ensuring the taste of your brew remains untouched, undisturbed and unaltered.

While amber is the most distinctive and historical beer bottle color, standing out on the shelf is becoming more vital in the sea of craft beers. Those seeking a more visually disruptive color should consider using flint or green glass bottles.

Flint 

Flint is another commonly used color for beer bottles. The transparency of this color showcases the actual color of your beer. It highlights the visual aesthetic of your brew in all its glory. Due to its lucidity, beers bottled in flint glass should not require strict ultraviolet light protection. UV stable ciders and flavored malt beverages are often bottled in flint glass.

Green 

 To become even more visually disruptive, consider using green glass. It conveys a slightly nostalgic, historic character and complements older styled brews and brands. Green glass provides slightly more ultraviolet protection than flint glass but not as much as amber.

Other Color Considerations 

Color is a fabulous substrate for ACL (Applied Ceramic Labels), PSL (Pressure Sensitive Labels) and special shaped or windowed die cut labels looking to use the bottle’s natural color as a background. As important as color is to your brand, do not sacrifice protection if the selected glass color does not provide the UV protection your brew needs. After shape, color is the next characteristic to which the eye is drawn. The color of the bottle and the beer, and how they work together, will have an impact on how consumers see and experience your brand.

Don’t miss part II on closures, decoration and custom features.

*Adapted from a piece by Raul Paredes, Design Services Director Americas originally published in Craftbrewingbusiness.com