Breweriana: Treasure Hunter's Guide to Nostalgic Collectibles from the World of Beer

Breweriana has been come to be known as the collectable detritus of brewing’s past. The term breweriana first appeared in the U.S. as the 1972 founding of the National Association of Breweriana Advertising. Most beer fans consider old beer signs, neon signs, advertising bills, old rusty beer cans, pint glasses, t-shirts, patches, or anything with a brewery’s logo on it to be breweriana. The collectiblility potential of breweriana is easy to see – some people have been able to make a great deal of money through the sale of breweriana antiques.

Breweriana is a popular field of collectables for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as with most collectables, is nostalgia. To determine the nostalgic value of an item you must look at how trivial items play through history. The item must also be authentic to be worth much. Knock off nostalgia items tend to break the spell of nostalgia eventually. As with other fields, in the area of breweriana, it is important to look at discontinued items.

Another reason why it may be profitable to trade in breweriana is that many bars look for these ancient items when assembling their décor. If you run across a big sign or neon from an antique dealer or scrapyard hustler, you might be able to turn a profit by inquiring at local pubs and the hipper dive bars. The antique décor motif is one used in curiosity shops, bars, and even big chain stores like the cracker barrel.

When looking at breweriana, it is a good idea to find out about the location of the brewery that first created the breweriana. Regionally, breweriana from closed down and defunct breweries is more valuable than it is nationally. This is because more people recognize the name brand of their once-local brewery or brewpub. It is a good bet that an old beer sign can fetch a better price in the state that it was originally displayed.

There are many folks that collect beer cans and bottles from the past. These items must be handled with care, as the beer contained within (if any) has often undergone a hideous transformation. Most collectors drill a small hole in the bottom of the can and drain the sometimes-noxious contents before setting the collectable on the shelf. Bottle caps can be pried off carefully and re-applied to achieve the same effect.

Keep a look out for older cans. Cone tops, crowntainers, and flattops are among the most valuable. Cone tops and crowntainers both have a cone like top, which was usually capped with what we cap bottle caps these days. Flattops had no tab and required a bottle opener to get at the beer inside. “Instructionals” is the term for flattops that have instructions for opening listed on the side of the can.

Some of these cans, the earliest from the Krueger Company, required their own can openers. Flattops had no tab and required a bottle opener to get at the beer inside. The "flattops" needed a regular can opener, the sharp lever-pry type. Some of these collectibles (the openers) are usually formed from a piece of steel rod which loops around and is about 5-6 inches long. Usually the beer can openers have a stamp from the beer manufacturer. One of the more popular pieces of breweriana among private collectors is the crown, or bottle cap. Bottle caps were initially manufactured in the 1890’s. Those that survived through prohibition are the hardest to find, and most of those are from defunct breweries.

Beer signs, or even posters, are another hot item, mostly because they are sought after by bars and pubs to add to their décor. Some older signs look like posters but have been printed on sheet metal. We can see reproductions of these items out on the market as well, such as the old Guinness mascot, the beer-swilling Toucan. The original designs are worth a lot, not so much for the reproductions.

When looking for breweriana, make sure you know what you are looking at. There are many books out on the subject now, such as Beer Signs for the Collector and the Beer Advertising Memorabilia series. A visit to Amazon.com or your local library will give you some insight on this field of antiques.

See related:
Breweriana: Collectible Beer Signs
Breweriana: Collectible Pint Glasses
Breweriana: Specialty Beer Glasses
Breweriana: Collectible Beer Steins

Breweriana: Collectible Pint Glasses

Collecting takes many forms, and in the world of beer collectibles, or breweriana, one of the most popular collectibles are the vessel by which beer is imbibed. From the early days of earthenware steins to crystal goblets, beer has been enjoyed in a variety of vessels. In recent times, the glass that most accurately symbolizes good beer is the pint glass, and many brew pubs and breweries have released their own logo-ed pint glasses, which are treasured collectibles for fans of their brand.

Pint Glasses

The number and variety of collectable items related to beer is staggering.  From beer signs dating back to prohibition days, to antique steins from Europe, to painted bar mirrors, to modern day pint glasses, breweriana is seen from coast to coast.  Of the many forms breweriana has taken, it is the pint glass which has now come to the fore of the modern collector’s shelf.

A look at the collector’s market for antique beer collectables will show you just how much beer vessels can fetch.  Some go for as little as $5, but the older items can fetch hundreds or even a thousand dollars!  Of course, you may not be around by the time your pint glasses are worth that much, but collecting is best when it is about enjoying what you have, not selling it!

These days, most commercial beer makers have produced pint glasses with their logo emblazoned upon them.  These are sold to the public at many breweries, and also to commercial bars, restaurants, and suppliers in the food and beverage industry.  The most collectable of these is the limited edition pint glass.  Usually minted in order to celebrate a special seasonal beer, these are sold at the brewery and at beer garden festivals as well. 

Commemorative pint glasses like these are great reminders of good times and good beer.  But not all commemorative pint glasses are produced for beer.  Many events are now making their own commemorative pint glasses as part of a lucrative merchandising strategy.  Events like Phoenix’s World Invitational Joust, Sports clubs, and even bands are producing pint glasses to commemorate shows, parties, and seasons.  In this way, pint glasses are beginning to move past the realm of breweriana into larger scopes of collectables. 

It is nice to have some different pint glasses around for social events as well.  A glass like the Phoenix’s World Invitational Joust commemorative pint glass can be a great conversation starter!  Glasses from local brewpubs can also remind people of good times they had there.  “Remember when…”

Often, a set of pint glasses will have a matching beer tap handle.  For those breweriana fans that own their own home draft beer system, these tap handles can add a nice touch to your serving.  There are many places on-line that sell different beer tap handles, and on ebay you can even find sets of matching pint glasses that come with the beer tap handle.

Collecting pint glasses is a common practice among home brewers and home bar owners.  Keeping an eye out for unique and interesting pint glasses can enhance your home bar experience and that of you guests – so keep an eye out for ‘em!

Breweriana: Specialty Beer Glasses

Specialty Beer Glasses

Specialty glasses have existed throughout the ages, whether they are for wine, champagne, or different types of beers. From crystal goblets to stoneware steins, and, more recently, Belgian glass goblets, glass, ceramic, wood, and metal crafters have produced their visions of the perfect vessel for the perfect drink. The ratio of slope to surface area, breathing area, and volume contained within, are all tailored to the liquid viscosity and temperament of the beverage in question.

Having a unique specialty beer glass for each of your alcoholic beverages has always helped to make the moment special. Who ever heard of sitting around the local pub, drinking mugs of ale? That may be true for mid-evil re-creationists, but most beer fans prefer pint glasses. That way you can see what you’re drinking. In mid-evil times, you didn’t always WANT to see what you were drinking.

Having a nice rack of differing specialty beer glasses is good for when company comes over. It can encourage your friends to bring some fine ale if you have some Chimay glasses around. These glasses are called chalices, and feature a wide, flat bottom and straight sides to allow the many aromas of the monk-style Belgian ales to be smelled.

Having a set of German bier Steins up on the shelf may also lend clues to guests as to what you’d like at the next potluck (better Heineken than Budweiser, at least). The stein and the mug are best suited for ales of the inimitably quaffable kind. Beer that is guzzled easily. Beer that you want to drink a lot of because you want to become intoxicated.

European specialty beers often fall into the category of beers that should be served in specialty beer glasses. If you walk into a bar that serves a selection of Belgian ales, this is a good place to learn more about the difference between specialty beer glasses, but until then take my word for it: Weiss biers and hefeweisens have a glass which is curvy and top heavy. This gives a little lip at the bottom to catch any yeast sediment, which may result from drinking the bottle-conditioned variety of theses ales.

Pilsner glasses are the more straightforward, simple and elegant tall glasses with only the slightest of curves. The relatively narrow top channels the bitter aromas into the nose, facilitating an aromatic blast with each swig.

Lambics, being specialty ales from a nation of specialty ales, are best indulged in what is known as a flute glass. This resembles a champagne glass, but with more curves. This keeps the bubbles moving around, for like champagne, lambics are highly carbonated. The narrow top keeps the aromas from floating about too much.

Barley wine glasses usually hold less beer – barley wines being much stronger in alcohol and flavor than regular beers (around 7%-12% alcohol). In order to prevent patrons from stumbling over each other drunk or passing out in the bar, the volume of the glass is decreased. The glasses usually have a fairly open top to allow the rich and malty bouquet of the barley wine to waft above the specialty glass. Go to a good barley wine tasting and you will see what it is all about.

The Samuel Adams brewery of Boston, Mass., just this last year released a glass, which their brewers claim, serves beer as brewers intended. The Samuel Adams Boston Lager Pint Glass shares many traits with the flute, but it is bigger and has a much wider mouth.

"We wanted to create a glass that offers beer lovers a full sensory experience by fully showcasing Samuel Adams Boston Lager’s complex balance of malt and hop flavors.", said Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams.

And last, but not least, one good reason for having different specialty beer glasses, for different kinds of beers, is to help bar patrons to remember which glass is theirs. A night of drinking can sometimes muddle ones perceptions. In any case, is not a finely crafted beer worthy of its own glass?