Plastic beer bottles -- why not?
October 24, 2010 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Why isn't beer ever sold in plastic bottles?

Everything else is, carbonated as well as alcoholic drinks (although the non-glass material of choice for wine seems to be those cartons).

Maybe I just don't get out of the US enough -- if it is possible, is there someplace where beer is now bottled in plastic?
posted by Rash to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
All over Eastern Europe, often in 1 or 1.5 liter bottles.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:25 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Baseball games in the US have beer in plastic bottles.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the U.S., they sell beer in plastic bottles at large sporting events.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2010

Actually it is, quite frequently, especially at sporting events and large festivals where organizers don't want broken glass around.

Now this is kind of crappy domestic stuff (Miller Light, Coors, Bud, etc.) but it's around, even at my neighborhood gas station.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2010

Yeah, crappy domestic beers do sometimes come in plastic. Last place I noticed was in northern Minnesota; convenience stores sell it specifically so you can bring your beer into the Boundary Waters canoe area, where glass isn't allowed. (I have also seen it at one spectacularly shitty bar in Minneapolis that I happen to know isn't long for this world.)
posted by clavicle at 12:32 PM on October 24, 2010

All beers at sporting events are plastic for obvious reasons. You can buy cheap macro beers in plastic pretty much everywhere. I'm guessing they're cutting costs there.

In general, you do not want to store beer in plastic containers because they leak and kills the beers taste. For macrobrews that have short shelf lives this isn't a problem.
posted by geoff. at 12:33 PM on October 24, 2010

Our grocery stores can't sell beer, but they sell 2L starter kits where you just put in the attached cap-full of yeast, seal and wait a week for beer. All in plastic natch.
posted by furtive at 12:35 PM on October 24, 2010

OK, so there are exceptions, but why isn't it generally sold in plastic bottles? And one site says the answer is this:
The principal obstacle to the introduction of a PET container for beer is that PET is a bit of a gas ‘sieve’ when it comes to the permeation of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The shelf life of a beer depends on how long it keeps its flavour, which is limited by exposure to oxygen, particularly for light beers with subtle flavour characteristics. These delicate flavours are also adversely affected as levels of carbonation decrease. The focus of recent materials developments has therefore been to improve the barrier properties of PET to these two gases, to achieve the longer shelf life needed to meet both consumer and retail requirements. [...]

Public opinion on using plastic for beer bottles has been investigated, and consumer studies show that acceptance is, not surprisingly, highest in the 18 to 25 age group and lowest in the 50+ age group. The generation that has grown up with soft drinks packed in PET doesn't think twice about beer in a plastic bottle, and so it is likely that it will not be long before beer packed in PET will become commonplace in supermarkets, pubs and clubs throughout the world.

However, no matter how much the technologies described here improve the barrier properties of the PET, there is still the issue of sealing the bottle. Gas permeation through the bottle closure can be significant for small bottle sizes and negate some of the barrier improvements. Available closure systems are metal crowns, plastic closures and aluminium twistoff closures. What is needed is a barrier bottle plus closure system that meets the product performance needs the development of barrier closures must proceed hand in hand with the bottle.
posted by pracowity at 12:36 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Class matters: glass better than metal; either better than plastic. Older the material the greater the class associated with it.
posted by Postroad at 12:38 PM on October 24, 2010

Amstel has tried to market beer in 0.33 L plastic bottles here. It's a soft, squeezable plastic bottle, similar to sport-type water bottles, closed with a thin metal cap with a ring-pull.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:51 PM on October 24, 2010

Aluminum cans have already taken a firm hold on the unbreakable/lightweight beer receptacle market. There's really not much of a reason to go plastic.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on October 24, 2010

PET bottles became quite popular in Germany after the introduction of a desposit on cans.
posted by jfricke at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2010

All over Eastern Europe, often in 1 or 1.5 liter bottles.

Yup. We get Russian beer from our local European import deli/grocery. $4 for a 2-liter bottle, and it's better than American macrobrews.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:05 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beer in plastic bottles at sporting events and the like isn't just restricted to the crappy domestic stuff: at an outdoor Wilco show a few years back, I was happy to see them selling Anchor Steam (in plastic bottles). Tasted great.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 1:29 PM on October 24, 2010

John Nese says PET bottles lose fizz pretty much from the second they are bottled. watch the video or fast forward to about 4 minutes in if you are impatient. now imagine a flat beer and how that would go over in ... well, in any market that doesn't consider strawberry-flavored beer still a beer.

PET bottles became quite popular in Germany after the introduction of a desposit on cans.
uhm. not really. you are right that because of the Dosenpfand there are nearly no cans left in germany if you ignore red bull and similar energy drinks but you will not see beer in PET bottles except for on rare occasions. it's usually soft drinks like coca cola that you can get in PET 0,33l, 0,5l, 0,75l, 1l, 1,5l and 2l bottles. I personally hate all of them. they really do go flat terribly fast. I'm with nese on that, which is why I prefer fritz cola.
posted by krautland at 1:58 PM on October 24, 2010

In the U.S., they sell beer in plastic bottles at large sporting events

Could this be regional? At this point I'm at a large sporting events or outdoor concerts maybe once every decade, but when it comes to the PET recycling I'm a bit of scrounger and I've NEVER come across a plastic beer bottle -- I'd think that occasionally, these containers would get away from the stadium. But I'm in California... maybe a law here restricting sales to the ubiquitous plastic cups?
posted by Rash at 2:00 PM on October 24, 2010

The only beer I've seen in plastic in Seattle is a Korean beer that came in 1.5 L bottles. I suspect some of the pressure for non-glass beer containers is being removed as more microbrews become available in cans.
posted by JiBB at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2010

I'm seeing plastic Carlsberg (I think) empties on the streets in Dublin.
posted by Logophiliac at 2:34 PM on October 24, 2010

No, I'm from California (only moved two months ago) and I've been to large sporting events and other events where they serve beer in plastic. Then again, I'm thinking it's not plastic bottles but plastic cups are what's sold at say, Major League Baseball games in California.
posted by librarylis at 3:04 PM on October 24, 2010

I've seen Anchor Steam Beer in plastic bottles at AT&T Park in San Francisco. They look just like the glass ones and have a pry-off lid. Here's a picture of a (dented) bottle at a show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
posted by zsazsa at 3:30 PM on October 24, 2010

Nationals Park here is DC sells beer in plastic bottles. The 'better' brands, served on the concourse, are in glass, but the vendors pour them into crappy plastic cups for your drinking enjoyment. The guys working the seating area are all plastic at this point.
posted by jindc at 7:07 PM on October 24, 2010

If you're having a party in South Korea, you definitely buy beer in plastic bottles. It's the biggest size you can get short of a keg.
posted by bardic at 9:21 PM on October 24, 2010

You also see aluminium bottles every now and again, particularly on Anheuser-Busch products.

A lot of clubs and music venues are hesitant to serve glass at crowded and/or more rowdy events, because patrons tend to put their drinks down on the floor when they are finished with them. Broken glass sucks for both the patrons and the staff who have to clean it up afterward.

To get around this, many venues only serve drinks in plastic containers. In some cases, this means pouring the bottle of beer into a glass at the bar, particularly for bars that only offer bottle service (either to keep costs down, to increase the selection, or to offer beers that aren't locally available in a keg). Because the beverage companies often use their packaging as a form of "free" advertising, it's to their advantage to provide plastic bottles to customers who request them. From what I remember, a lot of Corona is sold this way in Europe.

It's a damn effective marketing strategy too -- when you walk into a club, and see lots of people drinking bottles of Corona, alongside lots of other people drinking out of anonymous-looking plastic glasses, you forget that Corona tastes like shit, and walk up the bar to order one.
posted by schmod at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2010

Australia used to sell Carlton Cold (a horrible beer) in plastic bottles at rock and roll venues. I haven't seen them for a long time.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 10:51 PM on October 24, 2010

Homebrewers sometimes put beer in amber brown PET bottles, but they generally prefer glass because it looks nicer, doesn't let gas through, and is pretty much nonreactive. Plus, you can reuse beer bottles.

Interesting fact, in case you didn't know: Beer is actually a fairly reactive beverage. If it gets exposed to sunlight, the bitter flavors from the hops react with the UV light and start to taste skunky. That's why most beer comes in either opaque cans or brown bottles. Green glass also blocks UV light, but not nearly as well, so that's why people sometimes complain that Heinekin tastes skunky.

And craft beers don't usually come in cans, because for most of the history of canned beer, plastic liners would leach subtle flavors in that mess with the flavor of beers. Material engineers being clever, that's changed recently. So, you see a few craft beers in cans, but old perceptions die slowly.
posted by MuppetNavy at 10:43 AM on October 25, 2010

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