The Stubby Beer Bottle – Footnote

A footnote if there ever was one to my stubby bottle series: what happened to the old bottles when the new ones came online in 1962? News reports in the Francophone and presumably English press in Quebec told the story. I read the French accounts in the Quebec National Library and Archives.

A Montreal merchant named Rapoport was given the contract to buy the old bottles of Montreal breweries. Probably similar arrangements were followed elsewhere in the country.

Press in April 1962 stated he leased surplus land from the Montreal Transport Commission to stack them. One story pictured a 25-step ladder reaching about halfway, the stacks were immense, 6,000,000 bottles were mentioned.

 

 

Rapoport in interviews explained that three-quarters of the bottles were crushed and sold, fairly cheaply, to bottle-manufacturing companies. The rest were sold overseas, also cheaply, including in Belgium, the Caribbean, and South Africa, for refilling with their beer.

These accounts disclosed finally some human interest to the bottle replacement affair. A journalist noted no monument would be raised to the old bottle. One headline read (translation), “If They Could Speak, What Stories They Could Tell …”. A final reckoning, of a kind.

If nothing else was clear though, and despite my searches not being exhaustive as noted, little was viewed sentimentally in the early 1960s for bottle selection and replacement. The aesthetic of a bottle was never remarked on, that I saw. The same for 1930s America, when the stubby was first adopted.

This dimension of the matter only came later, in a quite altered consumer society. The “glamour” of the American long neck in Canada of the 1980s and ’90s simply did not occur to earlier generations – or for our own “export” and “Champagne” long necks before 1962.

In that more simple time, bottle selection assumed utilitarian and industry significance only.

An early sign of change was the adoption by Anheuser-Busch of a stylish, innovative bottle for Michelob in 1962. But for many years bottle shapes remained unexceptional for the broad population.

That was a time, when, ironically, a green bottle – Heineken was avatar – was considered a mark of sophistication in beer.*

Note: source of image above is linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*Green glass is overly pervious to light, with risk of light damage – skunking – to the beer.

 

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