Monday, May 29, 2017

Big Bottles of Wartime Beer

America entered World War II in 1941. With that came rationing. Restrictions were placed on everything from rubber to butter. Tin was in short supply. For brewers, capping all those beer bottles suddenly became a problem. Their solution: bigger bottles.

Big bottles of beer were nothing new in Oshkosh. Quart-sized bottles were used by some bottlers here from the late 1870s into the early 1900s.

For example, here's a quart bottle from the 1880s. It's from Frank Lutz, an independent beer bottler. His bottling plant was on Oregon St. just across from St. Vincent Church.

With the turn of the century came mechanized bottling and metal crown caps. Bottling beer became faster and easier. Especially when using smaller bottles. By 1910, brewers in Oshkosh had all but abandoned the quart bottle.

In 1938, the Oshkosh Brewing Company brought the bigger bottles back. Here's the label seen on OBC's quart bottles.

At first, the quart bottles were a novelty. They became a necessity when wartime rationing arrived in 1942. Bottle caps grew scarce. Quart bottles grew prevalent. Here’s one from Oshkosh’s Rahr Brewing Company.

The ultimate in big beers was the picnic bottle. At more than a foot tall, the picnic bottle held a half gallon of beer. Better yet, it was unpasteurized draft beer. At OBC, they went full-on retro. The brewery capped its picnic bottles with the old Lightning Style Stoppers first seen in the 1870s.

Here's a better look at that label.

Metal rationing ended in 1946. OBC ditched its picnic bottles. The half-gallon growler is our modern equivalent. Like the old picnics, they're filled with unpasteurized, draft beer. More importantly, we again have local breweries to fill them.


  1. That is a photo of my dad Charles Andrasko

  2. In the 1970s I remember one of my great-uncles lamenting the demise of the Oshkosh Picnic beer bottle. Apparently He used it as a work-around for his doctor's "one bottle of beer per day" rule.

    1. And to think, 70 years earlier doctors were recommending beer for their patients. At least that's what the old beer ads would have us believe.