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How do you mark, label, or otherwise identify the contents of your bottles? I'm currently using masking tape and a marker, but I'm curious what most other people use.

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How is this an acceptable question? homebrew.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask –  MStodd Jun 22 '12 at 16:52
    
It would probably have been better phrased as "What's the best way to label bottles." That said, it's almost 2 years old- complaining that it's an invalid question at this point might not be terribly useful. –  Fishtoaster Jun 25 '12 at 22:48
    
commenter has a point, but it's useful info and somewhat old, so I'm converting to a CW –  baka Jun 27 '12 at 19:54

22 Answers 22

I started off just marking bottle caps with a sharpie. This worked well for my own purposes, but whenever I give it to someone they had no idea what it was. Last Christmas I gave beer as gifts, so I made a special label. I bought beer bottle label paper and was able to design any shape and print it out. Cutting out the labels was a pain, applying the labels was a pain, and after wards half of them came off.

Lately I have been using those mailing label sheets that are meant for your printer. They are adhesive so it is really easy to put them on. They are also really cheap. I usually just write the label by hand but you could print it. I think they give the bottles a "bootleg" feel, which I like.

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I use address labels too. MS Word has a facility for creating a page full of labels all spaced out to fit the sheet (I'm sure there's loads of other programs that can do it too). –  robaker Nov 9 '10 at 16:11
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+1 I do the same thing. –  CLJ Nov 9 '10 at 23:29
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Sharpie on the cap is my method of choice. Easy to do and when the caps are tossed no trace of the labeling is left. –  Chris Plaisier Feb 7 '12 at 18:52
    
+1 I do the same too - if you use Avery labels they have templates for Word, Photoshop etc. –  dazoakley Jun 25 '12 at 10:58
    
+1 on labeling the caps. For example, I've done maybe "P" for porter and "I" for IPA to make it a bit more obvious. –  mpurkeypile Feb 7 at 4:09

I don't label the bottle itself, because I hate removing the labels later.

Instead, I mark the cap with a sharpie. I have a number/naming convention I use, typically something like Year-Batch Abbreviation

For example, 10-04 HB is the fourth beer of 2010, and is my Hellcat Bitter.

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how does anyone else know what's in the bottle? Bottle labelling is important for safety reasons as well as for record keeping. –  fearoffours Nov 10 '10 at 9:07
    
I usually have a chart of what it means for my wife, but yes, when I give it away I write a little key for them. –  sgwill Nov 10 '10 at 11:34
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Safety? You'll have to explain... –  Tobias Patton Nov 4 '11 at 20:38

I like to use custom bottle caps. They are really cheap and you can design whatever you want and have it printed on them. They also make for good stocking stuffers for any home brewing friend/family members.

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Cool! I had no idea this existed. –  Jeff Roe Oct 14 '11 at 5:27
    
Great site! Now I just need to work on my Adobe Illustrator Skillz. –  Pietro Feb 6 '12 at 21:25

I started writing on the bottle caps with a marker, but it could be hard to write on the cap. Lately I've been using circle shaped garage sale stickers on the caps. It's easy to use and I don't have to remove anything from the bottle itself. If you can find the multi-colored labels, it makes it much easier to identify the beer at a glance.

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I do this. You can fit 3 short lines of text on those round labels, which I use for Date, Beer Name, and ABV. The 4-color packs are perfect, since I rarely have beers from more than 4 batches, so I just rotate the colors. –  Henry Jackson Jun 19 '12 at 2:32

I prepare my labels in inkscape/gimp and print them out onto card stock. I cut them a bit smaller than a business card, punch a hole in one side, and tie it around the bottle neck with a bit of twine. It gives a really classy effect without having to scrape stickers off the bottle.

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That's a nice idea! –  fearoffours Nov 10 '10 at 9:09
    
I do the same but use perforated business card sheets. Also, if you spray them with clear urethane after you print them, the ink won't run when they get wet in the cooler. –  Germ Nov 5 '11 at 21:01

I design my labels in Pixelmator. They are pretty small at 2.25" x 1.25" but this way I don't use too much paper. Speaking of paper I like to take grocery bags and cut them into 8.5" x 11" sheets, then feed them into my inkjet printer just like standard letter sized paper. Grocery bag paper has a nice texture, thickness and brown color that isn't as blindingly bright as normal printer paper.

Just like Timone mentioned, I use twine to attach around the neck of the bottle. Much nicer than scraping an adhesive label off. Although the twine loop can slide off when putting the bottle into a six-pack sleeve.

A quick coat of polyurethane will give the labels a nice shine and keep them from getting wet in a cooler of ice. You can get a spray bottle of it at the hardware store.

home brew twine label

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Nice idea. I wonder if you could hot-glue the twine to the bottle? –  baka Jun 27 '12 at 19:55
    
Not a bad idea. Dealing with the glue would be a bit of a pain when putting the labels on. But then they'd be secured nicely. –  chatche Jun 27 '12 at 21:52
    
I do the same for wine, using brown cardstock to make a stiff label. Makes for much nicer presentation than the masking tape/sharpie solutions others seem to be using. –  Doches Jul 20 '12 at 13:47

On the low-end of things -- similar to "sharpie on the cap" but more environmental friendly -- I use grease pencil. You can write right on the bottle, and it comes off easily with a "brillo" type scrubber.

The peelings from the grease pencil can go in the woodstove or compost, and there's no hunk of plastic to discard.

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I've done some printing of labels and also some stickers from StickerMule.com, but for quick labels, I use one of those "DYMO" labelmaker machines where you type on it and it spits out a text label. It's pretty handy for labeling fermenters, kegs, etc. with contents and date. We bought it to label crap in the garage, but it turned out useful for bottles and the rest too.

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How did the vinyl stickers workout? I'm planning on printing stickers featuring a design with a blank banner I can sharpie the beer type/name in and then (hopefully) remove the label with denatured alcohol when I bottle another batch. I asked a question related to that, here: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/381/… –  theraccoonbrew Nov 11 '10 at 0:18

Head to your local home improvement store and pick up some "Chalk Board Paint" (spray paint). You can tape off a section of your bottle, paint, and label with chalk. You will want to paint a portion that doesn't get touched so much... perhaps the neck of the bottle.

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If you don't need anything too custom, http://beerlabelizer.com/ is a great site for making easy labels. They claim to have good luck using milk as an adhesive, though I've yet to personally try it.

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Most of the time I get my labels from beerlabelcreator.com. They have some cool designs, and it takes just a couple of minutes to create a nice label and save it as a printable PDF with 2x3 or 3x4 labels per sheet, depending on bottle size. Use glue stick or milk to attach to bottles.

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I print on Avery 5408 labels, which fit on bottle caps nicely.

I do label design in Photoshop Elements 2.0 (which is the "lite" Photoshop from like 2002, but later versions probably work also).

To make circular text that goes around the perimeter of the label in Photoshop Elements:

  1. make a square blank canvas, about 1000x1000;
  2. put a line of text -- I do my name, brew name, bottling date -- about 10% of the way from the top, adjusting the font size so that it goes almost all the way across, with a dash or dot separator at the end;
  3. run Filter->Distort->Polar Coordinates. That makes the text into a circle, and it will be about a quarter of the canvas size.
  4. add a logo in the middle (I just use my initial in a "cool" font and in a different color for each brew so I can more quickly tell them apart in the fridge).

Copy image to the clipboard. Download the Avery 5408 template. Paste in logo repeatedly. Print, and stick on bottle caps.

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I use Avery mailing labels. I have a background in graphic design so I like to make a professional looking label. I do the design in photoshop and print them out 10 to a sheet. They come off easy after soaking in warm soapy water for 30 seconds.

I know lots of people use masking tape and such. To me nothing says "drink at your own risk" like a masking tape label. Much rather a new drinker goes into my beer with a good feeling.

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Checkout www.BeerClings.com. This is by far the easiest way to label, plus you can reuse the labels. They work great.

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+1 for a sharpie on the caps.

I sometimes print labels out and wet the back of the paper with a sponge that has been soaked in milk - then slap the labels on. When the milk dries, the labels are stuck on pretty good...and are super easy to remove with a short soak.

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I have no artistic skills. I use beerlabelizer.com to create a label. Print it on normal paper. Cut the labels out. Use regular glue sticks to apply glue to the back of the paper label and fix onto the bottle.

The disadvantage of this approach is that you can't put these in a cooler with ice as the label will come off. This is also an advantage because de-labeling is super easy. The labels seem to stay just fine in storage and in refrigerators.

I sharpie the cap for identification if I haven't applied labels yet.

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I have designed a label for myself in Inkscape and bought some Wheatpaste that I use to glue it on the bottle. Works quite nice, but is quite easy to remove again.

I discovered that sometimes the label comes partly off while drying, but if you just remove it then, resoak it in the past and apply it again, it normally sticks.

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I design my labels in Inkscape and print them with a laser printer onto labels from Minilabels which have an enormous number of labels available in different materials/adhesive and printing methods.

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When I'm going to be giving beer as a gift or will be cellaring my beer for a while I print my labels on mailing labels. Then I give them a light spray of lacquer to waterproof them (so the ink doesn't run from condensation).

If they're not for such a formal affair I mark the cap with a sharpie.

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I design my labels in OOo Writer and print them on this label paper. I can't remember the brand name off the top of my head (I threw away the packaging), but it's great stuff. A lot cheaper than Minilabels and more versatile since you have the whole 8.5x11 to work with (I usually do 9 labels per sheet).

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For wine bottles.. we use Wine Cellar Bottle Tags. It's nice to be able to read what you have shelved without pulling all your bottles out trying to find the one you are looking for. They sell cheap disposable paper ones & reusable dry-erase style ones.

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Printer Paper and milk. that's right milk!

I print the labels on my ink jet (laser is better as the ink won't run) and then dip it in milk and attach to the bottle. Run the bottle under hot water for a few seconds and the label comes right off.

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