Old beer bottles

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pdhirsch

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Sometime in the 1980's, my brother (a scuba diver) found an old crown cap bottle from the Erie Brewing Company, on the bottom of Lake Erie's Presque Isle Bay. Asking around locally, he was told that the bottle probably dated back to the 1920's. At the time that wasn't so old, but now it may be approaching it's 100th birthday.

I started homebrewing in the 90's, and he gave me the bottle. I use it as often as I can, so it's probably been re-used 50 times or more by me, and who knows how many times in the past, before someone threw it into the bay. I cringe every time I cap it, thinking that this might be the time that it finally fails, but it seems to be much sturdier than today's returnable bottles... so far, so good.

Does anyone else use old bottles like this one? And special bonus question: my brother also found an old non-crown-cap bottle -- I think those are called "blob top" and they don't accept crown caps -- instead they're meant to be corked. That one is probably older, but it's just sitting on a shelf as a decoration. Is there any way I could re-use it? Maybe with a wine corker?
 

An Ankoù

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Has it got a top like this? These are Belgian beer bottles and are very common here in France; I have a couple of hundred of them. They come with a cork and a cage (or staple) and I reuse the corks over and over again without any problems. The corks are a composite with parallel sides and quite different to wine corks. Even here, they're quite expensive to buy new and champagne cages seem to be getting more and more difficult to find at home brewing suppliers'. Cider making is a cottage industry here and bags of collars and swing tops can be bought quite reasonably in most bigger supermarkets thus converting a 75 cl bottle into a swing-top bottle.

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pdhirsch

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No, it has smooth, straight sides at the top -- no "rings" or anything that could hold a cage or a crown cap. It looks like the only possible way to seal it would be to drive a cork down into it.
 

Albany brew guy

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My oldest bottles in use are mid-1980's Labatt's 750ml bottles. Each time I use them, I remind them how far they have come.... (they once held Labatt's)
 

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That's pretty cool. You will need to fact check me but I believe Erie Brewing closed in 1920 (prohibition). After prohibition, the Erie brewing family opened Koehler Brewinging which was a mainstay in Erie through the 1970s when it finally closed.
 

Beermeister32

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Does anyone else use old bottles like this one? And special bonus question: my brother also found an old non-crown-cap bottle -- I think those are called "blob top" and they don't accept crown caps -- instead they're meant to be corked. That one is probably older, but it's just sitting on a shelf as a decoration. Is there any way I could re-use it? Maybe with a wine corker?
I was once looking at doing this, but it really is a bad idea. A lot of the old blob top bottles have internal bubbles that have opened up over the years of freeze thaw and rough rotary cleaning methods. These bubbles hold crud. Also a lot of these bottles come out of the ground or from old ouhouse holes. Sellers and collectors dig these out of the ground compounding the internal crud risks in the popped glass air pockets. You can take a 12” length of wire and feel them inside the bottle. It is called Privy digging. You don’t know the history of bottles. Re-think this….
 

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DuncB

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@pdhirsch
I think we'd all like to see a picture of this bottle, just for our info. But as @Beermeister32 says old bottles can have unknown provenance, they were much thicker due to poorer quality control of materials and manufacture ( the bubbles and microbubbles mentioned above).
Don't cringe just preserve it as the piece of history it is to you and recycle the newer glass bottles that are littering the world. We've got old milk bottles and a really old Tizer bottle on our kitchen shelf that we've found in various above ground places. We'd never dream of reusing them though, you'll never see an astronaut go into space on a Saturn V rocket again even though one is lying in the space centre!
 
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pdhirsch

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@pdhirsch
I think we'd all like to see a picture of this bottle, just for our info. But as @Beermeister32 says old bottles can have unknown provenance, they were much thicker due to poorer quality control of materials and manufacture ( the bubbles and microbubbles mentioned above).
Don't cringe just preserve it as the piece of history it is to you and recycle the newer glass bottles that are littering the world. We've got old milk bottles and a really old Tizer bottle on our kitchen shelf that we've found in various above ground places. We'd never dream of reusing them though, you'll never see an astronaut go into space on a Saturn V rocket again even though one is lying in the space centre!
Here they are... the one on the left is the one I've been using over and over again for decades. On the right is the (presumably older) smooth-wall bottle that would seem to require a cork.

Both have visible bubbles in the glass. They're also definitely thicker than modern bottles. I weighed the one on the left on a food scale, and it's just over 1 pound, whereas my modern returnable bottles (many from Straub Brewery here in PA -- they still sell beer in returnable bottles) weigh 10 to 11 ounces.

ErieBrewing.jpg
 

Beermeister32

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I restored a bunch of them once thinking i was going to use them for beer. There’s just too many with broken bubbles, they hold crud. Won’t work. Been there, done that…
 

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pdhirsch

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I suppose it depends on the age and condition of the bottles. Besides the old Methuselah bottle, I have a case of Kohler Beer bottles, with their original labels still on, which I got about 10 years ago. I don't know exactly how old those bottles are, but the brewery closed in 1978. I use the Kohler bottles only about once a year, because it's time-consuming to sanitize them without immersing them.
 

Beermeister32

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Most of the ones mid 1930’s forward were fairly good quality, as long as they weren’t dug out of the ground some of them could be re-used with huge inspection and probing with a wire. Not all of them though. Back in the day the breweries would re-use them.

I wouldn’t use the early ones, blob, etc. they are too crude and have too many issues at this point.
 
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