While shopping for new styles of beer you may have encountered a number of different sizes and shapes of bottles and cans. The diversity you might find raises the question, how and why are these different containers chosen for different types of beer?
The size and shape of beer containers are usually determined more by history than function. Still, understanding the background of the various cans and bottles used by brewers will help you to better understand the history and culture of beer around the world.
Read on to learn about the different shapes and sizes you might find while shopping for your next favorite beer!
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The size (in ounces) of every kind of beer bottle or can
|Beer Size||Bottle or Can||Size|
|Nip/Pony/Grenade||Bottle||7 oz||207 mL||Smallest bottle|
|Nip (can)||Can||8.4 oz||248.4 mL||Smallest can|
|Pijpje||Bottle||10.1 oz||300 mL||Standard Dutch bottle size|
|Stubby/Stienie||Bottle||12 oz||330 mL||Vintage Bottles|
|Longneck||Bottle||12 oz||330 mL||Standard North American bottle size|
|12 oz. Can||Can||12 oz||355 mL||Standard can size in North America, China, and |
|Belgian||Bottle||12.7 oz||375 mL||Lambic and Gueze-style beers|
|Tallboy||Can||16 oz||473.2 mL||Popular with craft brewers|
|British||Bottle||16.9 oz||500 mL||Standard British bottle size|
|Stovepipe||Can||19.2 oz||567.8 mL||New, increasingly popular can size|
|Bomber||Bottle||22 oz||650 mL||Limited-release and barrel-aged beers|
|Large Format||Bottle||25.4 oz||750 mL||Limited-release and barrel-aged beers|
|Caguama/Ballena||Bottle||32 oz||940 mL||Mexican beer|
|Howler||Bottle||32 oz||940 mL||Takeaway containers for freshly brewed beer|
|Crowler||Can||32 oz||940 mL||Takeaway containers for freshly brewed beer|
|Forty||Bottle||40 oz||1182.9 mL||Malt liquor or cheap lager|
|Magnum||Bottle||50.7 oz||1499.3 mL||Display bottles or special releases|
|Growler||Bottle||64 oz||1892.7 ml||Takeaway containers for freshly brewed beer|
Beer bottle sizes and types
If you’ve only purchased your beer at the grocery store, you may not realize what a wide range of bottle sizes are available.
The most common beer bottle sizes are:
- Bomber and Large Format Bottles
- Caguama / Ballena
- Howler / Growler
A common sight in the 90s, nips have since fallen out of fashion in the world of beer bottles. These half-serving beers were pioneered by Anchor Old Foghorn as a way to cater to customers who wanted to try heavier beers like barleywine without the commitment of drinking a whole bottle.
While small bottles have been largely abandoned by the industry for the purpose of heavy beer, the legacy of nip bottles has given rise to nip cans and a number of small bottles embraced by the world of light beer.
Rolling Rock and Miller Lite both bottle so-called Ponies, while Corona sells a line of half-sized Coronitas.
An industry-standard in the US, Canada, and Australia up until the 80s, Stubbies have since largely disappeared from shelves.
Sometimes called “Steinies” in honor of German beer steins, these short 12 oz. bottles were popular because of their strength and reusability. When compared to modern longneck bottles, stubbies could be washed and reused an average of 4 more times, for a total of 20 brews per bottle.
While longneck bottles have a secure place as the standard beer bottle, the iconic stubby is often used for limited runs when breweries want to evoke the nostalgia of beers past.
The 12 oz. longneck bottle is the industry standard throughout North America and is a common choice throughout the world.
After the repeal of prohibition in the United States, manufacturers gravitated towards 12 oz. bottles as a standard serving size, favoring long necks to provide ease of bottling and a pleasant drinking experience.
While longneck bottles in the US are almost always 12 oz. containers, a number of alternatives have been used throughout the world. For example, Belgian bottles, British Bottles, and the Pijpje used in the Netherlands are all long-necked bottles of various volumes.
Bombers and large format bottles
Also known as a twenty-two in honor of its 22 oz. capacity, Bombers helped launch a number of small brewpubs to success.
These bottles were originally used to sell cheap beer in higher volumes, not unlike modern forties.
While the popularity bombers once enjoyed has waned with the growth of canning practices, Bombers are still occasionally used for limited release or barrel-aged beers.
Slightly larger large-format lager bottles are also commonly filled with barrel-aged beers and topped with a champagne cage.
Following Mexico’s war of independence, German immigrants brought a strong beer culture to the local market.
While there is a rich variety in the styles and sizes of beer produced by Mexican breweries, 32 oz. bottles became a popular choice for selling large quantities of beer all at once.
In Mexican slang, these bottles are sometimes referred to as caguamas (sea turtles) or ballenas (whales), depending on the region.
Forties have always been the most popular choice for breweries selling large quantities of cheap beer.
By the 90s, forties of malt liquor were becoming increasingly more popular at gas stations and convenience stores leading this bottle size to feature in the work of Notorious B.I.G., 8-Ball, and other influential artists.
Growlers & howlers
The tradition of bringing home beer from the local pub has a long history, with patrons commonly carrying tin pails, pitchers, and jars to fill with beer.
While the exact origin of the name “growler” is unknown, some stories claim that the growling in question came from beer sloshing around inside an enameled pail. Others claim the growling was an inevitable occurrence as the bartender and patron squabbled over the size of the pour.
Nowadays, the amount patrons hope to bring home from a brewpub can still vary greatly, which is why many breweries offer howlers, or half-growlers, of beer as an alternative to the full 64 ounces of a traditional growler.
Beer can sizes and types
Like beer bottles, there is a wide variety of can sizes available.
The most common beer can sizes are:
- 12 oz. can
The modern answer to the old nip-sized bottles of the 90s, these half-sized bottles have seen a recent growth in popularity. Flat12 Bierworks and 21st Amendment have experimented with heavy, high-percentage beer served in small 8.4 oz. cans.
Just like their glass predecessors, nips excel in their approachability and offer an attractive option for those interested in trying heavier beers without the commitment of drinking a whole twelve ounces (or more!).
The repeal of prohibition in the United States saw a boom in the domestic beer industry.
While European beers were often canned by the pint, American beermakers adopted the 12 oz. can to match the volume of the popular American longneck.
In 1980, the USDA formalized the serving size of beer to match the 12 oz. standard which further reinforced the form factor until the rise of 16 oz. cans with the modern American craft beer movement.
The standard European volume for canned beer, this 16 oz. can was shunned by American brewers until its surge in popularity led by craft breweries.
While tallboys are often the can of choice for indie beermakers, the unique size requires that producers own a bottling line, increasing the barrier to entry and giving another advantage to well-established brewers and craft breweries owned and supported by larger commercial brands.
These towering cans have been increasing in popularity for reasons almost identical to the rise of 16 oz. tallboys in the craft brewing industry.
The single-serving form factor is seen by consumers as less of a commitment, while the larger volume ensures they will be satisfied. Well-liked for their impactful visual appearance, stovepipe cans are a popular choice at venues like baseball games and music festivals.
Despite their burgeoning popularity, stovepipe cans run into the same restrictions as tallboys, requiring custom canning lines that may not be available to smaller, more up-and-coming breweries.
Crowlers are the beer can’s answer to more traditional glass howlers. They have been adopted by a number of craft breweries with custom canning lines as a large-format take-home package for visitors.
While they are not reusable, crowlers provide better shelf life and portability for those visiting breweries from out of state.
Howlers vs crowlers
Howlers and crowlers hold the exact same amount of beer. However, since one is a bottle and the other is a can, they each offer respective advantages and disadvantages you should consider.
Crowlers, or can growlers, are an innovative choice that offers the benefits of canning beer. Namely, the cans provide improved shelf life and durability when compared to howlers. On the other hand, they cannot be resealed.
You might consider a crowler if:
- You expect to travel a long way with your beer.
- You may experience rough travels that could break a traditional howler.
- You expect to store your beer for an extended period of time.
- You don’t expect to return to the brewery for a refill.
If none of these apply to you and you value the experience of refilling your howler, you may prefer the traditional glass option.