Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Other topics - beer-related or not.

Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Oliver » Monday Mar 12, 2012 6:31 pm

Hi all,

The post below started as one exclusively about returnable bottles in Australia, but a little extra information has been added about returnable bottles from other countries.

What are these "returnable bottles"?

At one time, almost all breweries around the world had their own brand of returnable bottle or were members of bottle co-operatives that managed returnable bottles. Instead of being crushed to make new bottles, as happens in most cases today, these returnable bottles were returned to the brewery or bottle co-operative, washed, inspected for cracks and chips and returned to service.

These bottles, and those from the equivalent manufacturers in other states, are still sought-after by homebrewers because they are so sturdy.

Returnable bottles in Australia

I believe that West End and Southwark (South Australian Brewing, later owned by Lion Nathan/Lion) and XXXX (Castlemaine Perkins, also later now Lion Nathan) were the last beers to be bottled in the returnable bottles, some time in the mid-1990s.

Pickaxe bottles

Pickaxe bottles were made and managed by the Adelaide Bottle Company. All Pickaxe bottles have the Pickaxe logo somewhere on them. The logo below is from the last type produced and is on the neck of the bottle, where it is most often found on most 750ml Pickaxe bottles.

Image

In these bottles the writing around the bottom of the bottle reads "Property of the Adelaide Bottle Co. P/L", in smaller writing than older bottles.

Image

Older bottles have larger writing around the base than the newer versions and the writing reads "This bottle is the property of the Adelaide Bottle Co. Pty Ltd Thebarton". Note the wear on the bottle. I wonder how many times this bottle was filled, emptied, returned, washed and filled again.

Image

The logo is very similar to those on the newest bottles.

Image

A small number of my Pickaxe bottles are even older than this, and have a slightly different logo on them. Note the smaller hands holding the smaller pickaxe.

Image

As well as the logos on the two bottles above being very slightly different (note the size of the hands), the text around the bottom of them is similar but not the same. They both read "This beer bottle is the property of the Adelaide Bottle Co. Pty. Ltd. Thebarton" (note the word "beer", which was dropped on the later bottles), but the font is slightly different and the lines of text don't line up the same.

Image

I have at least one Pickaxe bottle that says "Southwark", instead of "Thebarton", which apparently puts it from some time in the late 1950s. I can't find this bottle at the moment but will post a picture when I come across it again.

An older but similar version of Pickaxe bottles was recently given to me by forum member pogierob. His father, also a homebrewer, collected dozens of the bottles over the years that had been discarded in the Australian outback.

These bottles look almost identical to the bottle in the picture above.

Image

There is large writing around the base reading “This bottle is the property of the Adelaide Bottle Company Limited, Southwark”

Image

The most easily identifiable difference is a large PX embossed into their bases.

Image

Looking closely at the logos in the neck of the bottle, they appear to be slightly different designs, with the most noticeable difference the larger hands in the image on the left. However, this may be simply a difference in the sharpness of the logo created from the mould.

Image

At Winchelsea, near Geelong in Victoria, I bought a bottle that I assume is even older than the other longnecks I have. It has the logo on the base, rather than on the neck. It is slightly taller than the later bottles.

Image

Here's a close-up of the logo.

Image

I have seen some people assert on other forums that Coopers never used Pickaxe bottles. However, many of my Pickaxe bottles still have their original labels, and about a third are Coopers. (I also have some Sparkling Ale and Best Extra Stout that still have the original beer in them, from the 1990s!) The bottle second from the left is an older label and reads "Cooper & Sons Ltd", whereas the newer labels say "Coopers Brewery Ltd". The label on this bottle says that there's a 4c refund "at marine dealers in SA".

Image

Coopers was the first SA brewery to stop using Pickaxe bottles, about 1996. The story goes that as Coopers began sending more beer interstate more of the bottles would never be returned, which was uneconomical.

The South Australian Brewing Company, which is now owned by the Japanese via Lion, used Pickaxe bottles until a few years after Coopers stopped, for its Southwark beers.

Image

And its West End label.

Image

Pickaxe bottles also came in other, smaller sizes. Here are a few that I have. On the far left is one of the 375ml "hand grenade" Coopers bottles. Next is a (full) bottle of West End "Eagle Blue", which was a light beer. The green bottle is from Southwark Premium Lager, which incidentally was a bloody good beer. On the right is a much older bottle than the other three.

Image

Many of these smaller, stubbies (or "echos", as they are sometimes called in South Australia) had ring-pull seals. Here's the Eagle Blue ring-pull, still intact.

Image

Here is some of the information about Pickaxe bottles, on a page from The Bottle Depot, which is a site specialising in South Australian bottles.
The Adelaide bottle cooperative society was formed in 1897 when a number of brewers, producers and aerated water manufactures grouped together for better buying power of new and secondhand bottles and therefore share the associated costs. When propriety branded bottles emerged in the early 1900’s the Adelaide bottle cooperative society considered production of their own branded bottles.

In 1908 the society registered the Pickaxe trademark and its earliest trademark bottles were secondhand ring seal champagne type bottles that had the pickaxe trademark sandblasted or etched onto them and were introduced around 1910. In 1912 the Society changed its name to the Adelaide Bottle Company Pty and to protect their interests had bottles made with both society and company embossing and were used during the transition period from 1912-13.

[The information above is from] the book ‘The Adelaide Bottle Co.Pty.LTD-The first 80 years 1897-1977 written by F.B.Reed. [The book] states there is no significance to the placement of the hands on the pickaxe, but would occur [due] to the use of new molds where no instructions were given to the engraver as to the placements of the hands.


There is more information on the The Bottle Depot page, including when certain types of bottles were produced.

Returnable bottles in other states

At the time of the demise of the returnable bottle, each state had its own bottle company but the bottles were the same size and shape, with only the logo and text around the base to differentiate them.

Carlton and United Breweries beers in Victoria were distributed in bottles with the CUB logo on the neck and text that read "This bottle always remains the property of the Manufactures Bottle Co. of Victoria Pty. Ltd.".

Image

In Queensland, XXXX was bottled in its own bottle.

Image

On the neck was the XXXX man, and the base reads "This bottle is the property of Brisbane Bottle Exchange Co Pty Ltd".

Image

There is a lot of information about different types of Pickaxe and other returnable bottles in this PDF from the Hidden Canberra website at http://canberracamps.webs.com.
The author, Ann Gugler, has kindly allowed me to reproduce the PDF on homebrewandbeer.com.

Returnable bottles outside Australia

New Zealand

During a recent beer-drinking trip to New Zealand I came across some returnable bottles.
The first was at the Stoke Brewery in Nelson. Both bottles were cider and dated from when the brewery was a cidery.

Image

The writing around the base or bottom of the neck said “This bottle is the property of the Associated Bottlers Co Ltd NZ”. The logos were just a simple ABC in a triangle.

Image

At Bays Brewing, also in Nelson, there were some other returnable bottles.

Image

The base read, “This bottle is the property of Harley & Sons Nelson”

Here’s a Harley & Sons bottle with the label, for Nelson Breweries Pale Ale, intact.

Image

Other countries

Some countries, including some in Eastern Europe, still have returnable bottles. This is a returnable Orval bottle, from Belgium.

Image

I hope that at least one person finds this post interesting!

Cheers,

Oliver

EDITED
2014/07/16 to add information on PX Pickaxe bottles and NZ returnable bottles, and link to PDF from Hidden Canberra, along with a bit of a rewrite.
Oliver
Administrator
 
Posts: 3422
Joined: Thursday Jul 22, 2004 1:22 am
Location: West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby rotten » Monday Mar 12, 2012 10:13 pm

Oliver wrote:Hi all,

I hope that at least one person finds this post interesting!

Cheers,

Oliver


I made it through to see that, so yes it was interesting :D
I haven't seen them before until then, I will keep an eye out at the local second hand places for one now.
Cheers
Beer numbs all zombies !!!
User avatar
rotten
 
Posts: 976
Joined: Monday Mar 29, 2010 11:37 pm
Location: Somewhere in OZ

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby barrelboy » Tuesday Mar 13, 2012 4:34 pm

Excellent and accurate report Oliver. I have around 300 pickaxe bottles, some with labels as you showed still attached and yes
Coopers did use pickaxe bottles. They are the best bottles for brewing and extensively used for homemade tomato sauce, particularly by the Italian community in SA. Coopers own bottles are up there with them. I have 2 dozen pickaxe stubbies, they are hard to get as they were not reused and were smashed for the glass instead.
Cheers BB
A barrel a day keeps the doctor away. Drink more piss.
barrelboy
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Sunday Feb 27, 2011 9:45 am
Location: adelaide

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby emnpaul » Tuesday Mar 13, 2012 4:43 pm

Great post Ollie.

I have one only of the XXXX bottles with the Happy Drunk on the neck. It's the pride of my collection and brings a smile to my face every time it comes around. :D

I cry when I think of how many Southwark and Coopers Stout bottles I chucked out before I knew about home brewing.

A bloke once told me about a limited run bottle brought out by Carlton when they took over NT Breweries. It was branded as Carlton United Northern Territory and around the bottom it said "Bottle remains the property of C.U.N.T." or some such thing. Is this a true story? :lol:
2000 light beers from home.
User avatar
emnpaul
 
Posts: 666
Joined: Friday Apr 02, 2010 8:25 pm
Location: The Craft Beer Wilderness

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Horse Head Brewing » Tuesday Mar 13, 2012 11:24 pm

Thanks for that Oliver was very interesting.
Got about 30 odd pickaxe bottles and most have Coopers and Westend labels on them....sorry did have till last week. :lol:
Horse Head Brewing
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Sunday Jan 15, 2012 7:48 am
Location: Ballarat, Vic

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby big dave » Wednesday Mar 14, 2012 10:34 am

Interesting Oliver!

I have just a few old CUB re-fillers. Will have to keep my eyes open now though. A whole other facet of home brewing; open a bottle of something with a mate and have a yarn about the bottle as well as the beer.
Currently drinking: BIAB DrS GA, BIAB Californian lager, doppelbock of sorts
In the Pipeline: landlord?
big dave
 
Posts: 240
Joined: Thursday Apr 01, 2010 6:09 pm
Location: Taradale, Central Vic

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Geoff » Wednesday Mar 14, 2012 2:19 pm

Nice work Ol. Just one question, though: what the Hell were you doing in Winchelsea?
Give a man a beer and he wastes an hour. Teach a man to brew and he wastes a lifetime.
User avatar
Geoff
 
Posts: 206
Joined: Thursday Jul 22, 2004 2:41 am
Location: Jan Juc, Australia

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby earle » Wednesday Mar 14, 2012 3:56 pm

Thanks Oliver. Being from the land of XXXX I had no real idea what pick axe bottles were but have heard them mentioned often.
User avatar
earle
 
Posts: 1190
Joined: Saturday Feb 18, 2006 3:36 pm
Location: Toowoomba

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Guru » Wednesday Mar 14, 2012 4:36 pm

Very in depth coverage there Oliver, I reckon your article almost needs its own ISBN :D
User avatar
Guru
 
Posts: 391
Joined: Wednesday Oct 19, 2011 7:24 pm
Location: Mildura, Victoria

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Oliver » Wednesday Jul 16, 2014 5:19 pm

Hi guys,

I've rewritten this post a bit and included information about pogierob's mysterious PX Pickaxe bottles and some NZ returnable bottles, along with a link to a PDF that includes lots of very old returnable bottles found in a Canberra park.

If anyone has other information or pictures let me know and I can include it in the main post.

Cheers,

Oliver
Oliver
Administrator
 
Posts: 3422
Joined: Thursday Jul 22, 2004 1:22 am
Location: West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby warra48 » Wednesday Jul 16, 2014 7:11 pm

Very interesting, thank you !
User avatar
warra48
 
Posts: 2077
Joined: Wednesday Apr 04, 2007 12:45 pm
Location: Corlette NSW

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Geoff » Wednesday Jul 16, 2014 9:29 pm

Nice work Oliver.
Give a man a beer and he wastes an hour. Teach a man to brew and he wastes a lifetime.
User avatar
Geoff
 
Posts: 206
Joined: Thursday Jul 22, 2004 2:41 am
Location: Jan Juc, Australia

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby emnpaul » Saturday Jul 19, 2014 2:09 pm

Geoff wrote:Nice work Oliver.


Seconded.
2000 light beers from home.
User avatar
emnpaul
 
Posts: 666
Joined: Friday Apr 02, 2010 8:25 pm
Location: The Craft Beer Wilderness

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Paley » Tuesday May 17, 2016 7:06 pm

Thanks for that post Oliver, great info. Was wondering if anyone has seen the green Pickaxe longnecks. I was given 3 dozen some time back, was told they were made especially for home brew, but don't know if that's correct. They are the same as other 750ml ones but green.
Paley
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Wednesday May 06, 2015 8:04 pm

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Paley » Tuesday May 17, 2016 8:02 pm

Also, anyone know why bottles and bottle merchants were referred to as marines/marine dealers?
Paley
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Wednesday May 06, 2015 8:04 pm

Re: Pickaxe and other returnable bottles

Postby Guru » Wednesday May 18, 2016 9:45 am

Little bit of info on marines on the homepage of the site Paley. Check this out http://www.homebrewandbeer.com/bits-and-pieces/the-dead-marine-project
User avatar
Guru
 
Posts: 391
Joined: Wednesday Oct 19, 2011 7:24 pm
Location: Mildura, Victoria


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to General discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests