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

February 07, 2019

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. O-I's experts will walk us through all of the various glass bottle options you have and why you might make certain decisions. If you missed part I on size and shape, you’ll want to double back and check it out.

Now we move on to consider how bottle shape and capacity work together with color and closure to ensure that your beer has the strongest shelf presence.

The finish and closure

The words “finish” and “closure” are industry terminology from the early days of glass production. The finish refers to the opening of a bottle. It is essentially the part of the bottle that meets your consumer’s lips.

TRIVIA - The term originated from the days of hand blown glass manufacturing. It was the last part of the bottle made, so glass blowers called it finish. Ironically, in modern glass manufacturing, the finish is not the last part of the bottle made but the first. Perhaps we should rename it the “start.”

The closure refers to the cap or lid of a bottle. It enhances the persona of your brand character. While there are a few closure options for customizable bottles, most craft beer producers will use one of two different types of closure.

Crown aka Pry-off closures 

The 26-millimeter pry is perhaps the most popular and preferred closure in the craft beer industry. It reduces oxygen egress, requires a bottle opener and is familiar among consumers.

Similar to the 26-millimeter pry, the pry/twist (or simply the twist) closure, is made specifically to be opened without the use of a bottle opener. It is vital to specify which bottle closure you need. While these closure types are very similar, they are not interchangeable.

Cork and cage closures 

The cork and cage closure often conveys that the bottle features a more limited or unique product offering. It speaks to exclusivity and premium style and is often used on share bottle sizes. Although some bottle finishes are cork and cage only, other bottle finishes are more flexible.

Cork and cage closures are fun to open — the anticipation of pulling a cork, the sound of the “pop” and the gurgle of beer coming from the bottle. Traditionally used for champagne bottles, they are very celebratory in nature, creating an experience of excitement and joy.

Closures ensure product safety and freshness and have a big impact on how the consumer will access and drink your beer, but the final touch and perhaps the greatest impact on the tenets of your brand is how you decorate and label the bottle.

Labels and decorations

The artwork on your bottle is the narrator of your brand’s great story. It frames your brand/brewery’s name and informs the consumer as to what kind of beer they are drinking. It also meets the legal obligation for government information, including alcohol warning and capacity.


The bottle comes to the aid in this labeling process. It provides a specific location for label placement. The bottle also protects the label during the application process, handling, shipping and consumption of the product. There are two main label placement areas on a bottle: the main body and the neck.

Traditional paper labels are the most commonly used. They are easy to apply and available at economical pricing. Paper labels offer plenty of space for branding and additional information. These labels do fully cover the space they are placed on, not allowing the consumer to see the brew through the label. Label shapes can vary, providing additional opportunity to uniquely brand the bottle.

For additional flexibility, look at pressure-sensitive label (PSL) printing. PSL printing requires less setup time and less initial expense than traditional paper printing, allowing you to start at a much lower minimum order quantity. It also offers a variety of options in size and shape as well laminates and varnishes. PSL printing allows you to use clear film to create see-through labels or unique shapes that seem to float on the bottle. PSLs also hold up well in wet environments like an ice bucket.

Screen Printing

Applied ceramic label (ACL) – or screen printing - is a more premium option. Each color is applied to the bottle individually through a robust screen printing process. There does not need to be a background color if it is not a desired part of the design, as every element is essentially a cut out.

Direct-to-glass digital printing

For extreme flexibility and unique brand-building opportunities, direct-to-glass digital printing offers interesting opportunities: multiple designs, flexible volumes, full Pantone color spectrum, photo quality printing – with a faster time to market. Check out our new O-I : EXPRESSIONS offering for more details.


Beer bottles are sold in one of three categories: stock, semi-custom or custom. Each category has advantages, and they are often strategically used together as a packaging solution that evolves with needs of the brewery.


Stock (also known as “standard”) bottles are the most convenient to specify and use. These fast-from-stock options can often be ordered in volume sizes of a pallet at a time. Stock bottles can be ordered directly from various manufacturers or distributors, who break volumes down to even smaller sizes. Stock bottles are available in a wide variety of styles and capacity sizes. However, your ability to differentiate the bottle through glass characteristics themselves will be limited with stock bottles.


Semi-custom bottles were developed specifically to overcome this limitation. This category begins as a stock option and then adds brand iconography to the bottle profile with in-molded glass decoration. Typically applied on the bottle’s shoulder, virtually any signature element can be embossed on the bottle; type, logos or texture or slogans are added by leveraging the advantages of glass packaging mold production.

Many breweries who begin with a stock bottle can easily move over to a semi-custom bottle because the critical bottle dimensions remain the same. Semi-custom bottles are a fast way for brands to create unique elements in their bottle profile.

The recently launched O-I : EXPRESSIONS RELIEF has just made the access to semi-custom bottles easier and faster, while broadening the possibilities of customization that can be achieved through digitally printed, transparent or colored texture and embossing.


Some of the most exciting bottles on the retail shelf are those that break with the conventions of a stock or semi-custom bottle profile. Full custom bottles have the advantage of creating an optimized bottle shape that is immediately recognizable. These custom shapes can further be made identifiable with in-molded brand names, iconography and textures.

Many brewers choose to work with a design agency or directly with the glass manufacturers design team to create a bottle that is entirely custom to their brand. These one-of-a-kind bottles can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and capacities and open the door to endless options for decoration, embossment and label panels. The tradeoffs to custom bottles are private mold costs, longer speed to market and bottle production scheduling and availability. Yet, custom bottles provide the greatest opportunity to create an iconic package with high brand equity.

Picking the correct bottle for your beer requires careful consideration of several packaging design elements. You must successfully choose how you will bring together various packaging components from size and shape to color and decoration to create a successful and compelling brand presence. You need the right product and packaging with the right positioning and the right market timing to be successful, and glass packaging offers a number of advantages to help you achieve success.

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