Tuesday, July 01, 2003

A great Aussie invention

In Australia, beer bottles generally come in two sizes. The larger of these is known as a "long neck" and holds 750ml of beer. Typically, beer from such a bottle is poured into glasses, and may be shared by more than one person. Smaller bottles are known as "stubbies", and these used to be normally hold 250ml of beer, although 375ml is now more common. Typically, the top is removed from a stubby, and the beer is consumed directly from a bottle. (To achieve the full Australian male experience, this should be done while standing around a barbecue and occasionally prodding sausages with an oversized fork). Around 20 years ago, when I was a child, a change came over the design of the stubby. This was the invention of the "twist top". Rather than having a single round glass rim, the glass in the neck ot the bottle forms the shape of a thread. A standard metal top is fitted over the thread. This means that the bottle can be opened either using an opener, or by tightly wrapping your hand around the bottle top and twisting until the top comes off.

In Australia, this was an important innovation. It allowed men standing around barbecues to open their beer without needing to find an opener. And they could show their manliness by not flinching at the small amount of pain felt when opening a bottle this way. They could pretend that they in fact had hands toughened by manual labor in the somewhat mythical Australian outback. That kind of thing.

Before moving overseas, I just kind of assumed that this important innovation had affected beer bottle design elsewhere as well as in Australia. However, apparently not. I have not seen the twist top anywhere else. Beer bottles elsewhere seem to need openers. Foreigners have no need for the standing round the barbecue and opening beer bottles with their hands ritual. Curious.

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