Beer is a beloved beverage enjoyed by millions of people all around the world. And while there are many different types of beer to choose from, one thing that can make a big difference in how you enjoy your brew is the type of bottle it comes in.
In recent years, swing top bottles have become a popular choice among beer lovers, and for good reason.
A Swing top glass bottle is a great choice for any homebrewer looking for a simple way of storing and serving their beers. They add to that artisanal feel of a home-produced beer and are more environmentally friendly as they can be reused many times.
Not only are they quicker to fill by hand, (see below) but they will normally be sturdier bottles, more aesthetically pleasing for sharing your homebrew with friends, and, of course, add to the sustainability (a big keyword nowadays) of your homebrew hobby.
Am I onto something here? Do Swing top bottles work for beer? And if so, why are more of the craft breweries of the US not using these cool bottles?
What Are Swing Top Bottles Called?
Swing top bottles are commonly known as Swing Top Grolsch-style bottles, named after the Dutch beer company best known for commercially using them. A bottle with a stopper is also sometimes called a flip top glass bottle, with other names including a lightening toggle or the Quillfeldt stopper bottle (after the inventor Charles de Quillfeldt.)
What Is a Swing Top Bottle? (A Brief History)
Prior to the creation of the flip top glass bottle or swing top bottle, carbonated beverages such as beer, kombucha, lemonade or other sodas would use containers made from blown glass and then sealed with a cork. They could be difficult to open by hand and often unreliable in maintaining the carbonation of drinks such as beer.
A precursor to the flip top was a “bail” or “kiln” closure, where a lid with a gasket would be held on top of the bottle by a wire harness which was then secured with a separate set of wires similar to 750 ml Champagne-style bottles.
Unfortunately, this system could be quite time consuming with the lid and gasket needing to be rewired every time a stash of bottles were sent back to be filled.
It wasn’t until 1874 that the first flip-top closure was created by Charles de Quillfeldt here in the US.
Flip-top glass bottles had a unique mechanism for sealing the beer inside. A metal clamp would secure a porcelain cork or stopper or to the lip of the bottle, creating an airtight seal.
The metal clamp is hinged at one end and can be flipped up to release the pressure and open the bottle. When the clamp is closed, it creates a tight seal that helps to keep the beer fresh and carbonated.
Its the same system used today by swing top glass bottles although swing top glass bottle caps are more likely to be made of plastic or rubber. Halfway up the stopper or cork would be a replaceable rubber gasket to help keep in the fizziness of the drink.
Because of the pressure from the wire latch and their simple design these types of bottles are perfect for being reused.
As new technologies emerged and crown caps became the standard due to their easier production and lower production costs, swing top glass bottles fell by the wayside.
Which Beer Is Famous for Its Brace, a Swing-top Bottle Stopper?
While most commercial brewers would move over to the crown cap, one Dutch brewer stood his ground and refused to give up the swing-top bottles their beer had been using. In 1922, Theo de Groen, who had taken over the Grolsch brewery, was famously quoted to have said “It’s I who decides what I put my beer in”, while refusing to accept the new crown caps.
Despite the higher production costs, the swing-tops remained and are now most associated with the iconic and distinctive appearance of Grolsch today.
The famous swing top stoppered beer bottles used by Grolsch are known as “de beugel” (literally translating as “the brace”) and Grolsch would simply not be Grolsch without them.
In the 1980s a teeny pop band from the UK, Bros, even made it fashionable for their young fans, Brosettes, to wear the stoppers complete with the metal brace on their trainers (I remember working at a Butlins holiday camp for the summer where my younger sister would insist I saved any Grolsch tops – not the bottle, just the tops!).
Originally Grolsch came in brown bottles to prevent spoilage of the beer from the sun and had a capacity of 450 ml, while the export bottle would be green and slightly larger at 467 ml (read our guide to beer in green bottles here and why the color of a glass beer bottle matters so much.).
If you search for empty swing top bottles on the internet for your homebrew you will often see them labelled as Grolsch swing top bottles or Grolsch-style, with even the replaceable gaskets and swing top stoppers being called Grolsch stoppers.
The Benefits of Swing-Top Bottles
As a homebrewer who finds bottling day one of the most laborious days of the whole homebrewing experience, I just love swing top bottles. No matter how good my crown capping device may seem, every fifth or sixth bottle I will miscrimp a bottle replacement cap and will have to start again.
Recently I have started using swing top bottles, and this slightly cuts down the time that it takes to fill a bottle and then find somewhere to keep the bottling wand sterile while you grab the crown cap and capper to successfully (or sometimes not!) cap the bottle.
With the swing top bottles I can literally close the reusable bottles with one hand without having to put the bottling wand down. It maybe saves me 10-30 seconds on each bottle, which, although it doesn’t sound much, can add up when filling a larger bunch of bottles such as the 40+ bottles of most recipes.
Ease of Use
With no need for a crown capper or other sealing device like a corking machine, swing tops make an ideal way of sharing your latest brew. Many of the craft brewery tap rooms across America use larger size swing top growler style bottles if a customer wants to take a pint of their favorite tap beer home. Some even encourage customers to bring their own reusable swing tops.
If you’re heading out for a picnic, what could be easier than grabbing a few liter bottles with swing tops and filling them with your latest beer straight from the keg? It takes minutes and will be more sturdy than your traditional plastic pet bottles.
Also, you will get a much better seal with a swing top due to the design which means the seal is perfect first time at least 99.9% of the time.
Swing-Top Bottles are Reusable
One of the biggest benefits of using swing top bottles for beer is that they are reusable. Unlike traditional beer bottles, which are usually designed for single use and then recycled, swing top bottles can be used over and over again. This makes them a more environmentally friendly option, as they create less waste and use fewer resources.
Plus, because they are made of thick, durable glass, they are less likely to break than other types of beer bottles. And because swing top bottles are made of glass, they’re easy to recycle when they do eventually wear out.
Even the rubber gasket the stopper uses is replaceable, which makes the bottle last even longer and can be reused many times. Your typical Grolsch bottle should last for years, although some of the less expensive swing tops you may find in lifestyle stores like Ikea may be less durable.
Swing Top Bottles Can Be Resealed
In addition to being eco-friendly, swing top bottles allow you to reseal the bottle and save the remaining beer for later. This is particularly useful if you are drinking a high-alcohol beer or a beer that is meant to be sipped slowly, such as a Belgian ale or a barrel-aged stout.
With a swing top bottle, you can enjoy your beer at your own pace and not worry about it going flat or losing its flavor.
Swing top bottles are also great for outdoor activities such as picnics, camping trips, and beach days. They are easy to transport and can be resealed to keep the beer fresh and carbonated, even if you don’t finish the bottle in one sitting.
This is a big advantage over traditional beer bottles, which usually require a bottle opener and can’t be resealed once they are opened.
They Look Great and Make Pleasing Gifts
Another advantage of swing top bottles is that they have a unique look and feel that can add to the enjoyment of drinking beer. The metal clamp and glass bottle give the beer a vintage, old-world feel that can make drinking a beer feel like a special occasion.
This is particularly true for craft beers, which often come in swing top bottles to give them a unique and distinctive look.
They make great gifts, and when the beer is drunk they can be repurposed for almost any use. I’ve seen homemade lemonade stands reusing Grolsch bottles as lemonade bottles and even seen some used for home decoration when filled with flowers or other botanicals.
Some fancy bottle shops even sell swing tops in vivid colors like blue or red which can make your beer stand out more when lined up in a competition. As with green or brown bottles, the darker the color of the bottle the more it can protect your beer from the effects of sunlight.
Can a Swing Top Bottle Be Used for Bottle Conditioning?
Bottle conditioning is a popular method of introducing more carbonation into your beer. With secondary fermentation taking place inside the actual bottle it is important you choose the right bottle made from a durable material to avoid any mishaps such as an exploding bottle.
Typically made from more durable glass, a swing top is ideal for bottle conditioning at home. They can withstand more pressure and are easier to cap and uncap.
Often the extra pressure in the bottle when bottle conditioning is taking place can slowly force the crimp of a crown cap to loosen, which may result in a loss of carbonation, contamination of the beer or in the worst case scenario a fountain of beer shooting from the bottles.
With the wire cage holding the bottle stopper on to a swing top they can generally stand much more pressure, and if you do notice a build up of too much pressure it’s simple to swing back the cap gently and release some of that built up pressure.
Some homebrewers really like this aspect, especially when brewing beer styles with higher levels of carbonation required, and swing tops are their preferred bottles for bottle conditioning.
Where To Find Swing Top Bottles for Homebrewing
Depending on where you live in the States it may be easier to source swing top bottles at cheaper prices than the local homebrew store. Often swing top bottles can be more expensive than a 4-pack of Grolsch per bottle, with the Grolsch bottle having the advantage of beer inside to drink as well.
Recyling Swing Top Bottles for Homebrew
There’s two options if you don’t really want to be ordering empty swing top bottles – either drink them yourself and save the empties, or ask your local bar, friends or neighbours for contributions.
Below, I have listed some swing tops you may find at your local beer distributor or behind the bar of you favorite brew pub.
Although I prefer the drinking the beer method, sometimes when making larger batches it makes more sense to ask for donations, like a special wedding brew I was commissioned to make of 4 – 5 batches of beer.
At roughly 60 bottles per batch even I couldn’t face drinking 300+ bottles in the 4 week brew period I was given. Most times if you find a bar serving imported swing tops they will be quite happy for somebody to take them off their hands.
If it’s an occasion when you need those swing tops straight away there are plenty of local homebrew shops or online retailers who stock swing top Grolsch-style bottles. Although you may find limited supplies in your local brew supply shop, using an online retailer such as Amazon will ensure they are in stock and arrive when you need them.
One of the best options I recently found was a set of 12 swing top 16 oz brown glass bottles for under $40. Click here to check them out for yourself:
- HEAVY DUTY GLASS - Our 16 oz beer bottles are made with durable, thick amber glass. Perfect for homebrewing, Kombucha, whiskey bottling, soda, cider, kefir, vinegar, oil, vanilla extract, and more.
- KEEPS CONTENT FRESH - The Flip Cap is easy to use and creates a tight seal, ensuring the content inside stays as fresh and delicious as the day you bottled it.
- AMBER COLOR is ideal for filtering light and protecting your home brew.
At about 4 USD per bottle, they may not be the cheapest option, but if looked after they can last you many years. Just make sure you ask your buddies to bring their bottles back when dishing out your beer.
You can even buy replacement swing tops if you should lose one or it weakens over time, as well as those all important rubber gaskets which will need replacing over time if you want to keep in the ultimate fizz.
- ONE DOZEN REPLACEMENT CAPS: You will receive 12 flip top bottle replacement caps with rubber gaskets to replace your worn down and used caps, all made in the USA
- KEEP USING YOUR BOTTLES: While your flip top caps will wear down and loosen over time and usage, your bottles don’t – save money from purchasing brand new bottles and swap out your old caps with these replacements
- HOMEBREW LIKE A PRO: These replacement caps will fit perfectly onto your EZ-cap flip top bottles and growlers, and the rubber gasket creates an airtight seal for your homebrews while the metal construction withstands high amounts of pressure, ensuring maximum carbonation and flavor retention for your brews
- WIDELY APPLIED: The seals is widely used on all kinds of swing top bottles, like GROLSCH, EZ-CAP and other flip top beverage (Kombucha, Kefir, Beer) bottle.
- MATERIAL: The Gaskets are made from food grade silicone rubber, food safe and will not deformed by regular use.
- WELL-DESIGNED: The Washers are with upgraded sharp design, air tight seal around the nub of the swing-top bottle.
Which Beers Come With Swing Top Bottles?
Below I have listed either breweries or individual beers which use swing top bottles, as they can be a great source of recyclable bottles with the bonus that you get to drink the beer inside them too.
Although most of the beers using swing tops tend to be European imports which can be difficult to track down sometimes, US brewers such as Rogue Ales will often use a swing top for special occasion or imperial ales they produce.
Even Trader Joe’s now has a beer brewed for them which uses a swing top bottle, and this can be a great source of cheap bottles. Unfortunately, most people who have tasted Nero’s Apecchio Amber Ale have also found it to be a very cheap beer too.
- Brasserie BFM
- Brasserie Lefebvre
- Brasserie Des Legendes (Ellezelloise)
- Rogue Beers XS Series
- Schwaben Brau
- Sterkens Brewery
- Tettanger Kronenbrauerei
- Weisselburger Bier
Should Your Beer Be in a Swing Top Bottle? – Final Thoughts
In conclusion, beer with swing top bottles is a winning combination for several reasons. The resealable lid keeps the beer fresh and carbonated, swing top bottles are more environmentally friendly than traditional beer bottles, and they have a charming, old-world feel that can make drinking a beer feel like a special occasion.
So next time you’re looking for a new beer to try, consider reaching for one in a swing top bottle – you won’t be disappointed!