Friday, 3 June 2011

The Session #52: Beer Collectibles and Breweriana

About three years ago I started collecting bottle caps. Every unique cap from a bottle I’d drunk. There were red ones and yellow ones, black and silver and blue; most had brewery logos, some had other designs, each had something different. Caps became scalps, a leftover from the bottle I’d had. They were a collage of what I’d had to drink: a green and gold Mythos from Greece, a shining reminder of the shining sunshine; my first Westvleteren saved like a valuable old coin; a Fuller’s Vintage I’d kept for a couple of years complete with the headband of label; a Stone Ruination and the grizzly gargoyle. Whatever it was, I’d take the cap off the bottle and add it to the others.

It started as a small pile which grew to a big pile which then moved to a plastic pint glass which then overflowed into another small pile which became a balancing act of a big pile. To keep the unwieldy collection under control I would need to take regular audits, spreading the caps out, keeping the good ones and dropping any duplicates and boring ones – the collection became stronger, better. And so on until my little stash of bottle caps became an ever-evolving snapshot of my drinking. I always enjoyed adding a new cap to the pile, hearing that plastic-softened chink of metal on metal. I’m sure that I had big plans to do something with the caps. One day.

When I moved in with Lauren, to share a flat with her and her OCD tidiness, the cap collection didn’t make the journey, left behind like forgotten toys (they might still be in my parents’ loft...). I decided to start fresh on a new collection so it was a physical memory box in the form of ridged bottle tops. This new collection didn’t last long...

“What are you doing with that bottle cap?” Lauren would say.

“Just going to put it on the top shelf and keep it.” I reply, politely smiling.

“Why?” She asks.

“It’s a nice cap, look.” I show her it. It’s got a nice logo on it.

“No, it’s not. You aren’t keeping it.”

“Oh, just this one, it’s a really cool one.”

“No. What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know. Just look at it. I like keeping them. Maybe I could make a picture from all the bottle caps I save.”


Knowing better than to argue over a bottle cap, I threw it towards the bin, probably missing. Unable to break the simple habit of keeping the caps, I briefly attempted to keep a secret stash on the highest shelf where she couldn’t see. These were just the rarest ones I had, the ones I couldn’t possibly bare to throw away (“But it’s from Russian River!”).

I just checked my stash. Only two remain, hidden under the huge wedge that is Don Quixote (great book), missed by Lauren. Two caps does not a bottle cap collection make, as the very famous saying goes. I just threw them away.  

I guess I don’t keep bottle caps any more.

I have, however, started keeping some of my favourite bottles. “We can use them as vases!” I said, trying to distract from the fact that I’m just keeping old, empty bottles of beer. It’s working, for now... although I’ve only got three (I’m being very, very selective). I used to have a small bottle of BrewDog Zephyr but I guess that went away with the caps. There was also a Petite Orval but that’s gone too. Lauren's better at over-tidying then I am at hoarding crap. 

This month’s Session is hosted by All Over Beer.


  1. Yeah I've got a bottle of BrewDog Bashah that I just can't seem to recycle with all the rest of my weekly intake. The label is just so... intense. Weird, random, dark gibbering things all over it.

    Might start a collection of labels, at least you can frame those. A few good old pubs have framed collections from the 70's etc. I think as a collectable they age well.

  2. Blimey. There are many things in our house that I'm more attached to than my bottle-top collection, but the idea of having it chucked out in the name of tidiness gives me a physical pang. It must be love!

  3. Haha, i found a pretty nice vintage beer bottle in an antique store quite recently. My girlfriend read my mind and just said NO! Now i'm trying to convince her that a big poster with belgium beers is the most important thing for our appartment. But that threat is not that real, it's more like revenge for the beer bottle.

  4. I've got an old Ringwood Brewery bottle, years old stil with beer in it. Partner keeps putting it in the fridge, hoping that I drink it one day. Don't know if it would be drinkable anyway. But she doesn't get it, I'm not going to drink it... It's for keeps...

    At least my beer mat collection is safe as is my beer festival glass collection but again here we have issues. The glasses of festivals I have been to I want to keep. Therefore I don't want to use them in case they get broken... The other glasses I have I hope to sell one day... (anyone want York Festival glasses from yonks ago?) but again I don't want to use them in case they get broken.

  5. I had a phase of collecting beermats when I first started going to beer festivals and still sometimes pick them up when I go abroad. I also keep the corks out of whisky bottles as I just don't have enough space to keep the full bottles. In my first year of university I kept all my empty beer bottles at the end of my bed, intending to soak off the labels but I never got round to it and ended up taking about 100 to the bottle bank when we moved out of that house.

  6. I'm the same, we've now got ample pint glasses full of cpas. My girlfriend however has found a solution! We're turning them in to fridge magnets.
    Picked up about 200 small magnets and were now in the process of supper gluing them to the caps! Not only to the look great they make a great gift too!

  7. Me again! Just remembered I stumbled across this earlier this week too

  8. I’ve got beer mats, loads of different glasses (in the cellar with the bottles), some brewery branded ceramic mugs, several key rings, many branded bottle openers, framed Adnams posters (on the wall of my office), a filing cabinet full of press releases going back to the mid 90s, including some cracking ones from King & Barnes, calendars, two packs of playing cards (one a Polish brewery, the other from long defunct Borders Brewery), flyers, several scrapbooks of labels and two plastic bags of bottle tops…

  9. I'm glad I'm not alone!! I didn't even get started on glasses or beer mats in this one - I've got loads of them and the collects are growing all the time (somehow I manage to get away with bringing home beer mats from wherever I go and Lauren doesn't throw them out!)

    Chris - A label collection is something I thought about doing but it seemed like far too much effort. Now I just take the odd photo and that counts!

    Phil - It's been tough, I won't lie...

    Fredrik - LOL! I've seen vintage bottles before and no doubt received the same response! I daren't ask for a poster though... I al working on a big map of the world on a pin board so I can put pins in wherever I've had a pint!

    Peter - I've given up taking the glasses home from fests now as I have so many of them and never use them!

    Stephanos - Only 100?! You didn't drink enough in your first year ;)

    Tom - Fridge magnets! YES! Annoyingly I've got one of those fridges built inside a cupboard, dammit. I always liked the idea of framing them as a big image, perhaps a map of the world made up in bottle tops.

    Adrian - You win! Two plastic bags of bottle caps is dedication. Could you shape them into a map of the world putting the caps over where they came from geographically? That could be interesting!

  10. I did think about re-plastering the cellar wall and embedding them in it as a sort of decoration but that was firmly stamped on by my wife
    Oh and forgot the small but aesthetically pleasing collection of bottles, including an Abbot Ale from the 1970s (full), I gave all the US ones to the Bridge down the road where they circle the main bar. Oh and someone else has my magnum of La Chouffe

  11. I'm a complete horder too, ocd is something I relate to and therefore collect, collect, collect and collect. My room is the size of a smal log cabin and it's pretty unbelievable what I can fit into it. My massive music and film collection. Three Ikea towers completely used up. Another shelf accross for box sets and blu-rays completely used up. I have some nice bottles on my window screen propping up a rather cool malt bag I got from a Struise order.

    It's in our nature as hunters to hoard things, naturally. I still use I-Tunes to serve my music but have no real concept for serving my beer collection. Maybe a nice montage of pictures of your bottle caps or beer bottles could be kept on a small digital photo frame.

    Nice and tidy, out of the way and you could put it anywhere.

  12. Beer Glasses. 1000's of them. Getting a little out of hand now.

  13. I must have well over 300 differnet bottle caps by now. I'm going to display they in the recesses on the back of my kitchen door with a sheet of perspex over the top. They're gonna look awesome...

    Oh, and yes I am married but the missus likes beer almost as much as I do (I've trained her well) so it's OK.

  14. My husband and I have jars of bottlecaps we've saved for over 6 years (since we graduated from college, aka when were old enough to drink). I went to a restaurant once where they had pennies underneath the glass on the bar (which looked really cool)- so my bright idea is to save our caps for when we have a house with a bar (which will hopefully happen someday)and we'll use the caps in that. Until then, I'll just have to deal with having jars of bottlecaps in my top kitchen cabinet. :)

    The magnets are a great idea too!