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The world of beer containers

Beer_July22_2013_AThink back to the last time you bought a beer. Where you at the bar? Grocery store? 7-11? Regardless of where you last bought it, the beverage was likely stored in a container of some kind. If you think about it for a minute, there are a number of different containers beer can be purchased in. Can you name them all?

When it comes to purchasing beer, you buy it in containers of different size. Have you ever wondered why? The biggest reason we can come up with is because it makes it easier to transport. Could you imagine a big tanker truck pulling up to a 7-11, full of Singha, and the already strained staff having to individually fill customer orders? Neither can we!

A short history of beer containers
As you know, beer is brewed at breweries. Most of these breweries produce beer en-masse, in tanks that can hold over 1,700 liters of beer. This large amount of beer is hardly ideal to transport all at once, especially in the days before modern transportation. Mind you, before modern transportation and climate control, the yield (number of liters per batch) was a lot less – you simply couldn’t drink that much before it went bad.

So, brewers had to devise a way to get the beer from the large storage tanks to customers. The answer to that was to create smaller, more portable containers. Traditionally, beer was put into a special barrel (now commonly called a keg) and loaded onto wagons usually pulled by draft horses. These horses were, and still are, magnificently large beasts of burden standing well over 6 feet, check out this Budweiser commercial about their famous Clydesdale horses. Imagine standing on the streets of Bangkok and seeing a team of 6 horses this big pulling barrels of beer up to the bars! Once the beer reached bars or stores, customers could bring in their own bottles and pay to fill them up out of the barrel.

Eventually modern transportation and demand for greater convenience prompted brewers to develop new containers. First came the bottle, and then later the aluminum can, resulting in some pretty darn convenient ways to buy and drink beer!

Overall, there are three main types of beer container currently in use in Thailand, including:

1. Aluminum cans
Beer cans are actually older than most people think. They first originated in the US in the early 1900’s but were soon abandoned due to prohibition. By the late 1930s cans had advanced enough to be able to withstand the bottling (or canning in this case) process and began appearing on store shelves nationwide.

In general, beer cans are lightweight, easy to store and transport. While some people will argue to the bitter end that canned beer tastes different from bottled beer, and that the glass version is far superior, cans do have value. For example, they are airtight, and will keep beer fresh a lot longer, and cans are also quicker to cool.

Cans are by far the most popular containers used by brewers of macro-beers (e.g., Budweiser) in the US and Canada, where you can buy cans of beer in 6, 12, 15, 24, 32 and even 48 packs. Here in Thailand however, cans seem to be less popular, though we aren’t too sure why.

Fun fact: In Canada and the US, the taller cans (640 ml) are known as Tall Boys.

2. Glass bottles
There are five different types of glass beer bottle you can find in Thailand:

  • Stubbies – These bottles are short and round with thick glass. They usually hold around 375 ml e.g., VB. Some Belgian beers like Vedett come in stubbies that are 330 ml.
  • European standard – These bottles are the standard size used by most European brewers. They are round with a tapering neck, and hold 330 ml.
  • 500ml British bottle – Most British Ales available here in Thailand come in 500ml bottles. These bottles are round with curved shoulders and a short neck.
  • Longneck (ISB) – Call it what you will, but the ISB, or Industry Standard Bottle are the most popular bottle style. With a capacity of 355 ml in America, and around 330 ml in most other countries, these bottles all have the same height, capacity, weight and diameter. Most Thai beers use this form of bottle as well, albeit with a slightly smaller neck than their American counterparts.
  • Bomber – A Bomber, or as it’s more commonly called: large bottle, is a taller version of the ISB. Most bombers can hold between 640 and 650 ml in the US (and Thailand) and 750 ml in Europe.

Fun fact: The ISB has a long neck for two reasons. Firstly the extra air helps absorb the pressure of carbonization, and secondly, it gives you a place to hold the bottle so your body temperature won’t warm the beer faster.

3. Keg
Ahh, the keg, a staple at any house party worth going to. Kegs are usually made of aluminum and meant for bars with draft systems and special taps (called Sankeys) to open and dispense the beer. They come in three main sizes in Thailand:

  • Mini Keg – These hold 5 liters of beer and usually have a dedicated pour spout at the bottom. In some countries, they are called a Bubba. Personally, Bubba is the perfect name for it. If you pick one of these up, be sure to let it sit for at least 24 hours, as they can get quite foamy during transportation.
  • Pony Keg – A Pony, or Quarter Barrel holds 30 liters of beer. This is the most common type of keg seen in Thailand.
  • Keg – These big boys hold usually hold 50 liters, but can hold up to 58.66 liters. If the keg holds 58.66 liters, it will commonly be referred to as a full keg, however these are exceedingly rare.

Fun fact: The reason a pony keg is also called a quarter keg is because it is a quarter of a barrel of beer, which is 120 liters. Barrels are important because they form the base measurement for beer production.

We’d like to know: What is your preferred beer container? Let us know in the comments below!

Wish of the week
Deschutes – Twilight Summer Ale
It’s full summer in the Northern Hemisphere, in Thailand this means rain, humidity and sultry evenings. This year I decided to escape this and head home to Canada for the summer, where it’s usually cooler. Well, this past week has been Thailand hot! I had a Twilight Summer Ale in the fridge and cracked it open as the sun set. This beer sure hit the spot, with just enough hops to make things interesting, while the background malt flavor is perfect for a hotter summer evening. Enjoy it tonight with a nice spicy curry, or Tom Yum and I’m sure you will agree!

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