The first step in bottling begins with loading the empty bottles on the conveyor that feed into the unscrambling table either from a pre-pack or bulk-pack bottles. Most breweries that bottle have an automated process that involves machinery and robots that unpack the bottles from the shipping packaging.
The most common size for a beer bottle in the United States is 355 mL (12oz). European bottles are often 330 mL (11.2oz). Large format bottles, called “bombers,” are also routine at 651 mL (22oz) in the United States or 500 mL (16.9oz) in Europe. The bottom of the bottle has an indentation called the punt that strengthens the bottle against the internal pressure. Some of the disadvantages of bottle beer packaging include the weight of the glass, its cost, and the increased difficulty in transporting the bottles, as they take more space to be stored than other containers.
Craft brewers often buy what is known as a “pre-pack,” which includes printed six-pack carriers inserted in a printed case along with the bottles. For craft brewers, this is the most convenient and cost-effective way to go, even though it is a relatively expensive way to buy bottles.
Another method, common with larger breweries and some craft breweries, automatically feeds bottles onto the conveyor from a palletized bulk pack (Figure 17.6). Bulk-pack bottles are full pallets of bottles with no cartons; rather, the bottles are separated by cardboard sheets and wrapped in plastic shrink.
The bottles are sealed with a crown cap that crimps around a raised bead called the finish at the top of the bottle. The inner surface that contacts the beer has a polymer liner. The cap is applied by bending down the rim to grip the bottle. The seals on bottle caps are slowly permeated by oxygen, which can cause the beer to go stale.
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