Why 12 oz. Beers?

How did 12 oz. become the standard size for a beer (and soda, for that matter - but I don’t drink soda) in the U.S.? Its not really a logical division of a gallon. When I was a kid it seemed most adults drank beer in 16 oz. returnable bottles. Do they even make them any more?

Genesee and Genesee Cream Ale are the only beers I can remember that were sold in 12 and 16 ounce bottles. You can still get cases of Genny pounders at beverage stores and convenience stores in blue collar neighborhoods.

Just a guess, but an extremely common ploy in marketing is to make the package smaller so that the price can stay the same. That seems to upset consumers less than raising the price for the same amount.

That’s a game that can be played for only so long, but it happens on every aisle of the grocery store.

I always thought it was because of Pepsi advertising.

Yeah, but they’ve always been 12 oz. as far back as I can remember, so it’s not like they’ve downsized. It may just be a packaging and production thing, or something as simple as “follow the leader”, i.e., the first canned soft drink may have been arbitrarily issued as a 12 oz drink and all the others followed suit.

Seems to me they’ve always been 12 oz, back into the 1970s. Except for outliers like Rolling Rock in the 7 ounce pony bottles, 48 to the case.

There is such a thing as the “Industry Standard Bottle”, BTW, which is 12 oz.

This guy claims that it’s 12 oz because that’s the size Owens Bottle Company chose to make them in the early 20th century:


It does appear that Owens Bottle Company, now Owens-Illinois, captured a large part of the glass bottle market by coming up with a bottle manufacturing process and promoting a standardized product:


The Origin and Life of the Export Beer Bottle is a pretty amazing article in .pdf form that confirms that 12 ounces was the standard size.

However, there were and apparently are lots of 16 ounce bottles floating around, especially for the home brewer market. Find.com lists 201 stores with 635 products matching 16 ounce beer bottles. (You have to scroll down to see the products. Bad html.)

That was indeed a fascinating and amazing article.
Thanks for linking to that, Exapno!

But, but…they didn’t explain about the number “33.” That’s all that’s important. :stuck_out_tongue:

The only beer I recall coming standard in 16oz returnables was Weber.

I would prefer beer come in Imperial Pints (about 19.2 U.S. ounces ;):cool: )

Genny pounders! That brings back some college memories.

Budweiser makes 16 oz. cans that they call “tallboys.”

…and at the other end of the scale, 7oz Coors cans.

(and many others, I remember Oly, Lucky and Miller)

Found this from the American Breweriana Association website

Doesn’t say if that was 12 ounces, though.

I like the theory of one shot of liquor=one 5oz. glass of wine=1 12 oz. beer. Kind of makes sense. At least in the days of stronger beer. I also thought that, maybe, with coldness being more of a desirable trait in the U.S. vs the rest of the world, people didn’t want the beer to get warm before they finished it.



Miller High Life is also available in 16 oz. cans. Don’t know if there is a name used.

Tall boys are 24 oz cans, not 16.

Unfortunately, not any more. :frowning:

On the new Schlitz 16 ouncers they even have the words “Tall Boy” printed on the can.

Beer has always been available in various sizes. I’m thinking the OP meant that at one time the average serving of beer was a 16 ounce bottle. I don’t recall that myself. I’ve been around since 1960 and remember most average returnables being 12 ounces. Before that I couldn’t say.

That’s a pounder. :dubious: Forgive me for not giving credibility to Schlitz’s marketing department. Just because they put it on the can doesn’t make it so.