99 Bottles of Beer

"99 Bottles of Beer" is an anonymous folk song dating to the mid-20th century. It is a traditional reverse counting song in both the United States and Canada. It is popular to sing on road trips, as it has a very repetitive format which is easy to memorize and can take a long time when families sing. In particular, the song is often sung by children on long school bus trips, such as class field trips, or on Scout and/or Girl Guide outings.


The song's lyrics are as follows:[1][2]

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer.
Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall...

Alternate line:[3]

If one of those bottles should happen to fall, 98 bottles of beer on the wall...

The same verse is repeated, each time with one bottle fewer, until there is none left. Variations on the last verse following the last bottle going down include lines such as:

No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer.
Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall...


No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer.
We've taken them down and passed them around; now we're drunk and passed out!

Another alternate line reads:

If that one bottle should happen to fall, what a waste of alcohol!


No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer.
There's nothing else to fall, because there's no more bottles of beer on the wall.

Andy Kaufman routine

The boring and time-consuming nature of the "99 Bottles of Beer" song means that probably only a minority of renditions are done to the final verse. The American comedian Andy Kaufman exploited this fact in the routine early in his career when he would actually sing all 100 verses.[4]


Atticus, a band from Knoxville, Tennessee recorded a thirteen and a half minute live version of the song in its entirety at a club in Glasgow, Scotland called The Cathouse. It was included in the 2001 album Figment. Rich Stewart aka Barroom Rambler listed it the number one drinking song out of 86 in an article for Modern Drunkard Magazine the following year.[5]

Mathematically inspired variants

Donald Byrd has collected dozens of variants inspired by mathematical concepts and written by himself and others.[6] (A subset of his collection has been published.[7]) Byrd argues that the collection has pedagogic as well as amusement value. Among his variants are:

  • "Infinity bottles of beer on the wall". If one bottle is taken down, there are still infinite bottles of beer on the wall (thus creating an unending sequence much like "The Song That Never Ends").
    • "Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall". Aleph-null is the size of the set of all natural numbers, and is the smallest infinity and the only countable one; therefore, even if an infinite aleph-null of bottles fall, the same amount remains.
    • "Aleph-one/two/three/etc. bottles of beer on the wall". Aleph-one, two, three, etc. are uncountable infinite sets, which are larger than countable ones; therefore, if only a countable infinity of bottles fall, an uncountable number remains.

Other versions in Byrd's collection involve concepts including geometric progressions, differentials, Euler's identity, complex numbers, summation notation, the Cantor set, the Fibonacci sequence, and the continuum hypothesis, among others.

References in computer science

The computer scientist Donald Knuth proved that the song has a complexity of in his in-joke-article "The Complexity of Songs".

Numerous computer programs exist to output the lyrics to the song. This is analogous to "Hello, World!" programs, with the addition of a loop. As with "Hello World!", this can be a practice exercise for those studying computer programming, and a demonstration of different programming paradigms dealing with looping constructs and syntactic differences between programming languages within a paradigm.

The program has been written in over 1500 different programming languages.[8]

A simple example using classical BASIC syntax:

FOR Bottle = 100 TO 1 STEP -1
 PRINT STR(Bottle) +" bottles of beer on the wall, "+ STR(Bottle) +" bottles of beer"
 PRINT "Take one down and pass it around, "+ STR(Bottle-1) +" bottles of beer on the wall"
NEXT Bottle

Another example using C#:

for (int bottleNumber = 100; 1 <= bottleNumber; bottleNumber--)
	Console.WriteLine("{0} bottles of beer on the wall, {0} bottles of beer", bottleNumber);
	Console.WriteLine($"Take one down and pass it around, {bottleNumber - 1} bottles of beer on the wall");		   

See also


  1. Nyberg, Tim (2006). 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall: The Complete Lyrics. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-7407-6074-7.
  2. Baird, Kevin C. (2007). Ruby by example: concepts and code. No Starch Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-59327-148-0.
  3. Cohen, Norm (2005). Folk Music: A Regional Exploration. Greenwood Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-313-32872-2.
  4. Patton, Charlie (December 23, 1999). "Ever-annoying Andy Kaufman gets last laugh | Jacksonville.com". Archived from the original on 2018-12-24. Retrieved 15 Sep 2012.
  5. Stewart, Rich. "Rhythm and Booze: The Top 86 Drinking Songs". Modern Drunkard Magazine. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  6. Byrd, Donald (2013-10-08). "Infinite Bottles of Beer: Mathematical Concepts with Epsilon Pain, Or: A Cantorial Approach to Cantorian Arithmetic and Other Mathematical Melodies" (PDF). Indiana University, School of Informatics. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 April 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
  7. Donald Byrd (2010). "Infinite Bottles of Beer: A cantorial approach to Cantorian arithmetic and other mathematical melodies". Math Horizons: 16–17.
  8. Team, 99 Bottles of Beer. "99 Bottles of Beer - Start". www.99-bottles-of-beer.net.
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