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Beer Bottle Workshop

Last Thursday afternoon I attended a Glass Bottle Workshop put on by the California Small Brewers Association. It was held at and hosted by Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California. A few dozen brewers, suppliers and one journalist packed in the party balcony at Lagunitas to talk about beer bottles. First, some interesting facts about the beer bottle industry today.

In 1985, there were 110 glass plants in the United States. Today, that number has dropped to less than half, or 49 remaining glass plants. Of those, 42 of them (or about 84%) are owned by the three largest companies; Owens-Illinris oe O-I (19 plants), Saint-Gobain (14) and Anchor (8). Seven companies own the remaining eight, with Gujarat Glass International owning two and the rest operating a single plant each. Like most modern industries today, consolidation has whittled the landscape of glass manufacturers down to a few giants with a handful of small players hanging on for dear life. Typically, that’s good news if you’re a big consumer of glass but not so good if you’re a small player. Part of the reason for the shakeup in glass makers ocurred in 1992-94, when there was a huge decline in the market, caused primarily when most soft drink companies converted from glass to plastic bottles. Longnecks far outsell the shorter Heritage bottle and twist-offs currenty outsell non-twist off.

The breakdown of glass bottles is currently as follows:

  1. 85% Beer
  2. 17% Food
  3. 9% Beverages
  4. 5% Non-Food Jars
  5. 5% Wine
  6. 3% Spirits
  7. 3% FAB (Flavored Alcoholic Beverages)

Tony Magee (from Lagunitas) and Mark House (from Pyramid) led a round table panel discussion about issues facing small brewers regarding bottles.

Later Magee led a tour of Lagunitas’ new bottling line, installed last January, by the Italian company Sympak.

After some supplier presentations and an open discussion, the afternoon ended with a beer social. Here Dan Del Grande from Bison Brewing enjoys a pint from Lagunitas.

And here’s a story about an O-I plant in Colorado entitled the House of Glass from the Scripps Howard News Service.

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