News Physics and Green Beer Bottles

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by sandiego67, Mar 6, 2013.

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  1. sandiego67

    sandiego67 Initiate (0) Feb 25, 2008 California

  2. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Cool article. Should be noted that visible light skunks beer too, not just UV light.

    Since about the 1960′s it’s been well established that the blue part of the visible light spectrum (~350-500nm) is the most efficient at generating lightstruck flavor, although ultraviolet light (below about 380nm) is capable of initiating this process as well. Brown glass bottles block light that is below about 500nm, while green glass bottles begin to block light below about 400nm and clear glass blocks no visible light. So visible light between 400 and 500nm poses a problem for beer in green bottles, and brown bottles are roughly 4 times as protected at these wavelengths.
  3. fishtremble

    fishtremble Initiate (183) Jan 18, 2010 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    Fun to read so thanks OP. Pretty much validates everything I have learned on this site about why beer skunks.
  4. AstronautMikeDexter

    AstronautMikeDexter Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2013 Indiana

    Pretty much everyone that has even a rudimentary knowledge of beers knows this, so why do some brewers continue to use clear and green bottles?
  5. sirtomtom

    sirtomtom Initiate (197) Dec 10, 2010 California

  6. jtmartino

    jtmartino Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Branding. Tetra-hop extract is used by breweries that want to add bittering hops to their beer but don't require hop aroma, and they can't be "skunked."
    Chaz likes this.
  7. WillWillows

    WillWillows Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Ohio

    Makes me wonder why Yeungling green bottles Lord Chesterfield. The difference between the draft and the bottle is remarkable, draft being far superior if you like Pale Ale.
    Slatetank likes this.
  8. nanobrew

    nanobrew Initiate (0) Dec 31, 2008 California

    as jtmartino said, branding. I remember reading where Heineken use to come in brown glass pre-WWI (or WWII?), but changed over to green due to limited resources. After the war they switched back to brown. This caused issues in brand recognition so they switch back to green.

    I cannot remember the exact source, but I am sure Jesskidden can find it in 2 seconds
  9. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,188) Mar 18, 2010 California

    But Heineken dark is in brown bottles. :grimacing:
  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,266) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, that's the urban legend but I'm a skeptic - I've never seen any proof or contemporary/reliable source for it. Heineken's museum in Holland has numerous examples of green bottles that long pre-date WWII (easily found on Google Images, like these below):


    ... and I've discussed the story with a Van Munching family member and they never heard it either.

    There probably was a bottle shortage in Europe after WWII - along with shortages of most everything else - and brewers there were also anxious to resume exports to the US for some cash. The industry then, in Europe and the US, relied on re-using bottles numerous times and so exporting to the US meant the bottles, for the most part, were going to be "one-way" (altho' I've read of Heineken actually shipping empties back to Holland from the US) - an added expense so they probably went with the cheapest they could find - but I don't know that green was necessarily cheaper than brown, either.

    It is true, too, that domestically in the Netherlands Heineken used the standard brown returnable bottle which, I assume, as in most countries were used by, and interchangeable with most other local brewers' bottles. (Not sure when that ended).

    There are numerous examples of foreign brewers switching TO green glass for US exports and seeing a bump in sales, but that was probably based on the fact that Heineken, and Lowenbrau and other German imports, were already in green bottles, establishing the image of green bottles ="expensive/high quality". Both Molson and Labatt are example of that. But the "brown>green>brown>back to green" story I've never read of an example.

    And, in the US, pre-WWII, green bottles were the conventional bottle for most ales and many brewers' "faux Euro'" and other superpremium beers, which in most cases sold for more than the same brewers' regular lagers, further giving green an upscale image.

    Post-Repeal in the US, European beers were very expensive compared to domestics (a case of domestic beer was typically in the $2.50 range in the '30's - whereas, a single bottle of Heineken or Bass might sell retail off-premise for 30-40¢. Post WWII, imports accounted for well under 1% of the beer sold in the US - I don't think it broke 1% until the late 1960's.

    There's a myth that brewers didn't know of the cause of light struck beer until relatively recently, but that's not case - Wahl & Heinus discussed it at the turn of the last century, citing studies in Germany that dated back to the 1870-80's. But, as to "why" brewers used green and clear bottles in that post-Repeal era, it has to be remembered that beer in the US was sold at retail much differently then. There were no "sixpacks" originally, fiberboard cases had closed tops or wooden ones had temporary cardboard covers, stores weren't "self-serve" with beer displayed behind brightly lit glass-doored coolers, fluorescent lighting wasn't common, etc. I always say in response to the question "Why do brewers use green/clear bottles?"
    ---"Why do retailers expose those beers to sun/fluorescent light?"

    image from a Schlitz ad, 1910's
  11. mctizzz

    mctizzz Devotee (483) Dec 23, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Anyone notice his UV-Vis spectrometer only goes down to 330nm? UV wavelengths range from 10nm-390nm, the rest of the plot is in the visible range. All this experiment told us is what anyone with a decent pair of eyes already knows, brown glass allows less visible light to pass through than green and clear glass. If the spectrometer he used was capable of producing and measuring the full spectrum of UV radiation we would have seen that under 300nm 100% of UV radiation is absorbed by glass of all colors.
  12. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,288) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Visible light and near UV are what causes the skunking. No arguement that the glass will absorb the UV at lower wavelengths.
  13. TheNoodleIncident

    TheNoodleIncident Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2012 New York

    When I was in The Nertherlands (Amsterdam, right near the brewery), regular Heineken was sold in brown bottles. I assume it still is.
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