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One of the great perks of homebrewing is the ability to reuse, rather than just recycle the bottles that come into your house. You just soak off the labels and re-use!

All bottles are not created equal, and neither are all labels. Some are easy to soak off, but leave residue. Painted bottles mean you forever have to brand your beer as someone else's.

What commercial beers do you like because the bottles are easy to re-use?

(There used to be an extra credit question, but most people like One Step for soaking off, and I totally concur. Star San will apparently eat the silk screened paint off the painted bottles.)

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Denny Conn Jul 5 at 15:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Can you split the question and answer up? –  hookedonwinter Mar 3 '10 at 17:16
    
Or I guess I can.. But you should :) –  hookedonwinter Mar 3 '10 at 17:17
    
Done. Much easier to read and digest this way, thx. ra –  Rich Armstrong Mar 3 '10 at 17:27
    
For the Southeastern U.S., you can add "Olde Towne" from Huntsville, AL. They're -very- local to this area, and have only been in business for a few years. But if you're lucky enough to be near here, GO FIND SOME. No neck label and the plastic main label peels straight off. They're the BEST for re-usable bottles! –  KO Jun 19 '10 at 14:31
    
Sweetwater bottles in the southeast work well too. And the beer is better than Olde Towne... :) –  Ell Jan 21 '11 at 20:44

24 Answers 24

up vote 29 down vote accepted

If you don't have enough reputation to edit this list, leave your addition as a comment, and someone will add it.

Easy to re-use


USA

West

(AK, HI, CA, OR, WA, ID, NV, AZ)

  • Anchor Brewing- They look good and the labels come off easily.
  • Alaskan Brewing Company Come of easily with water but do require a much longer than expected soak (possibly over night)
  • Deschutes labels fall right off.
  • Elysian The non-paper labels are not paper and peel cleanly off.
  • Redhook labels come off easily while drinking them, even easier once they touch OxyClean
  • Trader Joe's house beer labels come off easily, and the bottles are easy to clean. They're also a good standard size.
  • Old Redwood Brewing Co. labels are sticky, but the bottles are 22oz swing-tops.
  • Drake's Brewing labels usually come off very easily.

Rockies

(UT, MT, WY, CO, NM)

  • Fort Collins
  • Great Divide
  • Odell's Fall right off after a mild soak
  • New Belgium
  • Marble plastic over paper, takes a long soaking, but eventually paper can be rubbed off with no residue, currently local to NM

Central

(ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, MN, IA, MO, AR, LA, WI, IL, MS, MI, IN, KY, TN, AL, OH, WV)

  • Bell's
  • Founders
  • Furthermore
  • Great Lakes
  • Lucky Bucket (only available in NE)
  • New Glarus (only available in WI)
  • Schell's
  • Sierra Nevada Labels soak off. Glue yields to minimal scrubbing with a coarse sponge [Editor's note: I (JackSmith) found these labels to tear and shred after quite a soak.]
  • Summit: They changed their glue, and labels will peel right off with standard oxy/PBW soak.

East

(ME, NH, VT, CT, RI, MA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, DC, PA, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL)

  • Brewery Ommegang require a bit of a longer soak, but then the labels come off easily
  • Dogfish Head
  • The Duck Rabbit
  • Heavy Seas
  • Highland Brewing from Asheville, NC. Labels are like a vinyl sticker that come off in a single sheet every time.
  • Long Trail labels come off well and don't leave much residue
  • Sam Adams require a longer soak and labels peel a bit, but not too difficult overall
  • Saranac
  • Terrapin
  • Tröegs
  • Victory
  • Wyerbacher require a bit of a longer soak, but then the labels come off easily

Canada

  • Sleeman The tiny label comes off easily with a bit of soaking. And though the bottles are clear, the boxes they come in provide protection from skunking. They are twist-offs, and they cap very well.

UK


  • Fuller's - Labels come off easily with a hot water / OxyClean soak. The 16.9oz / 500mL bottles pour a perfect pint and appear to be made of thicker glass than most other bottles this size.
  • Samuel Smith labels generally come off well and the bottles look good. The foil around the neck takes a bit of work, but doesn't put up much of a fight.
  • Marston's labels come off after a 5-min soak and you get them in brown and clear. 586ml volume.
  • Wychwood - Nice Shape with a raised pattern of witch on broomstick, labels slide off with little soak, strong brown bottles.

Europe


  • Das Helles Swing Top Brown Strong Bottle
  • Belgium. I've been able to easily remove the labels from every Belgian bottle I've tried, with just a soak in water. This applies to all the Trappist beers, abbey ales including Leffe, and all the small breweries. Not sure about Stella and Hoegaarden.
  • Augustijn
  • Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. (Gulden Draak) - plastic shrink wrap, comes off easily
  • Duvel
  • Krusovice Pilsener - sometimes a little difficulty with the foil neck ring, but it's well worth the effort. Labels slip off in hot water with One-Step, little residue, and the bottles are 16 oz high-quality Euro bottles that retail for a buck fifty a piece!
  • Palm, a Belgian beer, labels and foil neck ring slipped off after a night in cold water. No residue. A mild concern that the glass seems a bit thin
  • Paulaner - similar to Krusovice
  • Spaten Munchen Dunkel is a dream. The labels slip off in hot water, leaving almost no residue. One downside is that they're green bottles

Australia / New Zealand


  • Coopers - Labels fall right off after a quick (30s) soak, although newer bottles have the Coopers logo embossed in the glass. Some residue left.
  • Rekorderlig cider bottles (500mL) come right off, no residue.
  • VB - Labels fall right off with a quick soak & some slight residue left.
  • Little Creatures - pale ale (330mL) - Labels fall right off after a quick soak. No residue & caps easily. Bottle has LC angel logo embossed on neck.

China


  • Tsing Tao - only 600mL, but perfect neck and top for recapping.

Japan


  • Kirin & Asahi

Other


Hard to re-use


USA

West

(AK, HI, CA, OR, WA, ID, NV, AZ)

  • Sierra Nevada labels come off just fine, but leave a non-water-soluble goo [Editor's note: Goo yields to minimal scrubbing with a coarse sponge.]
  • Stone Painted on labels.
  • Ninkasi even after long soaks, and much scrubbing and scrapping these persisted.

Rockies

(UT, MT, WY, CO, NM)

  • Avery

Central

(ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, MN, IA, MO, AR, LA, WI, IL, MS, MI, IN, KY, TN, AL, OH, WV)

  • Abita (LA): labels slide right off, but the crown seems to be just a tad wider than normal; capping is tough and resulted in 2-3 shattered necks (and probably additional fractures).
  • Atwater
  • Badger Hill (MN)
  • Celis labels have a plastic film that prohibits water from penetrating the paper. Once the film is removed, the paper tears and shreds. Once you get that off, the glue is an insoluble rubber cement.
  • Goose Island has twist-off caps! Did not expect that. Don't know about the labels, but twist-offs are a disqualifier for re-use.
  • Lift Bridge (MN)
  • Sweet Magnolia (AL): same as Celis.

East

(ME, NH, VT, CT, RI, MA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, DC, PA, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL)

  • Blue Point Toasted Lager immediate disqualification on account of twist-top
  • Erie no amount of heat will melt this glue, and no amount of scrubbing will remove the lables
  • Harpoon
  • Magic Hat labels shred but with a bit of patience and a scrubby, they come clean
  • Smuttynose
  • Schmaltz Brewing / HE BREW
  • Southampton Publick House the paper shreds, the glue doesn't scrub off
  • Southern Tier labels shred but with a bit of patience and a scrubby, they come clean

Canada


UK

  • Thwaites Tavern Porter - the labels will not come off with heat and/or scrubbing.
  • Brothers Cider - Plastic labels never come off, thin glass.
  • Hooch - Green Bottle, weak glass.
  • Crabbies - The neck of the bottle is tapered and awkward for capping

Europe


  • Bass - the labels come off fine, but the lip is a non-standard shape with no ridge for the hand-capper to grab on to. The result is a semi-seated cap with no indentation on it. A proper seal is not achieved.
  • Corsendonk (8 oz Christmas) the foil around the neck is really glued on. The paper labels come off OK, but the glue residue won't come off even with a scotch brite.
  • Heineken - their new plastic labels are a non-starter
  • Smithwicks eventually soak off, but even then the labels tear while being removed, leaving pulp (and therefore a vehicle for contamination) in the soak water
  • Konig Pilsner - slightly odd-sized top.
  • Kopparberg - The neck of the bottle is tapered and awkward for capping

Australia / New Zealand


  • Tooheys - screw-top

Other


Unique/Interesting Bottle Styles


  • Belhaven similar to Samuel Smith
  • Boulevard short and stout (twist-offs)
  • Chimay short, stout, curved, tapered neck
  • Duvel short and bulbous
  • Founders short and stout
  • Green Flash 12 oz's have raised star/flash logo in the glass and labels come off easy
  • Grolsch large, thick green glass with a swing-top, just make sure the rubber seal is in good condition
  • New Belgium unique tapered 12 oz. bottle, with raised ring and brewery logo
  • Samuel Smith tall, slender, nearly no taper to neck
  • Summit short and stout, with raised brewery/hops logo
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haha sorry about that :) Moving fast and not thinking geography... Why the removal of the rep comment? –  hookedonwinter Mar 3 '10 at 21:15
    
If this list ever lives up to its potential it will be one hell of a list! –  brewchez Mar 4 '10 at 19:43
3  
Overruled. Secede or get off the pot. –  JackSmith Mar 10 '10 at 15:46
2  
Virtually all standard bottles in Canada (at least Ontario) are twist-off. Non-standard ones are usually branded with molded glass (Steamwhistle, Mill St., etc) I save bottles from cases of beer I buy in the States because of this. –  user1042 Feb 17 '11 at 17:51
2  
I'd like to vote for Summit in central as hard to clean. Even soaking with a hot pbw bath...those labels are hell!!!! –  dsidab81 Feb 8 '12 at 18:27

All the Sam Adams bottles clean very easily. Soak in hot water with some Oxyclean and they just float off. Duval bottles are thicker then most US bottles and handle a higher volume of CO2, but are about 11oz. vs 12 for most others.

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Schneider Weisse Aventinus - Labels are readily removed with warm tap water.

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As far as removing labels and the residue left behind by Sierra Nevada bottles, it helps to soak the bottles in very warm water with baking soda. Then scrub lightly with steel wool, it comes right off.

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Go to the local Dollar Store and pick up some of the Oxy-Clean knock-off which I believe is called L.A.'s Awesome Oxygen Cleanser or something. It's cheap enough....grab a few. And while you're there go to the house cleaning section and get a stiff handbrush.

Soak the bottles in hot water with the fake Oxy-Clean. Most of the labels will peel off after thirty minutes. After that grab the handbrush and use some water and scrubbing to get the remaining glue off.

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UK belhaven bottles are now clear rather than brown, so I've stopped using them. Duchars IPA bottles are good - labels come off easily and capping is also easy.
Breakspear - good bottles labels fairly easy to remove
Williams Bros bottles - my staple but more because I like the beer! Cap easily, however labels on some of them (Fraoch!) can be impossible to remove (I keep them on - makes life easier)

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Europe

Bombardier 50cl, so easy.

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For me, the best one is Grosch-style swing top caps:

Beer bottle

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Oh Bernard... I love that beer! I have like 20 Bernard's bottles that I reuse, and not a single issue with carbonation or anything. –  Simio Perez Dec 12 '12 at 16:47

Florida

Cigar City labels are pretty much impossible to get off with the heavy laminated labels. Kinda sucks cause the beer is pretty good. I've soaked them for like 2 weeks in OxyClean without anything permeating the label.

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MGD are a bloody chore to get the label off of. Soaking doesn't do it, you need to soak, then peel off what you can, then use a scouring pad to remove the excess. Not worth the effort!

p.s. this is coming from experience with cases purchased in Ontario (Canada)

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Rahr & Sons (TX only) is super easy. They recently switched to a pre-pasted label type sticker. They come off in one piece leaving behind little or no adhesive with just a little heat. I use a sink full of hot water for 5 or 10 minutes.

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In BC most people seem to use Howe Sound brewing one liter pop top bottles. They use water proof labels though.

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For the painted & silkscreened bottles, just soak them in a starsan solution and the "label" will come right off with a paper towel. After I started doing that, everything is easy. This also works for those laminated labels that don't come off in an oxyclean/onestep solution.

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I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Grolsch... if you're gonna drink a beer to re-use it's bottle, why not get a cap you can re-use too?

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I agree - it's all I use... Besides the reusable spring cap, the glass is also pretty thick, and the 16 oz size means less bottles to clean and fill per batch. You do need to replace the rubber gaskets occasionally thought. –  Germ Feb 21 '11 at 22:18
    
I currently live in Ireland and use mostly Grolsch bottles because they are the only swing-top bottles I could find here (besides clear 750ml French lemonade bottles unsuitable for beer). One downside, beside the green color, is that they only contain 450ml instead of the usual 500ml. In my home country Germany some breweries still use the classic brown 500ml swing-top bottles, which are ideal for home brewed beer. –  Martin Scharrer Apr 20 '11 at 16:14

For the Southeastern U.S., you can add "Olde Towne" from Huntsville, AL. They're -very- local to this area, and have only been in business for a few years. But if you're lucky enough to be near here, GO FIND SOME. No neck label and the plastic main label peels straight off. They're the BEST for re-usable bottles!

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Olde Towne is closing its doors. Sad for the beer business. –  Ell Feb 18 '11 at 13:32

I spray the bottles with some Purple Power industrial degreaser then just run them in the dishwasher. Gets the labels off every time, just remember to remove the labels from the drain of the dishwasher.

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Guinness draft labels are easiest to use. They are made of heat-shrink plastic that doesn't use glue. Good luck getting the widget out.

Guinness bottle

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I've edited the question to re-use rather than label-specific. Please feel free to add this to the "Hard to re-use" or "Interesting Bottles" category... :) –  Rich Armstrong Mar 8 '10 at 16:57
    
I love these bottles. Label rips right off as mentioned, and if you hold the bottle tight and flick it like you are trying to get all the liquid out, the widget will stick out of the top far enough you can get a hold of it and pull it out. –  Bullet86 Feb 9 '11 at 6:50

Europe

Easy: 50cl Paulaner Weissbier Kristall (and similar bottles from same brewery). Soak in water and just remove some "glue lines" with a dish brush. Very easy, actually came off while cooling in the ocean.

Hard: 33cl Heineken with transparent plastic label (might be Sweden only). The label and glue are a nightmare to remove.

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Adding to master –  Rich Armstrong Mar 8 '10 at 14:57
    
I guess you can cool your beer in the ocean in Sweden. Cool! –  Rich Armstrong Oct 23 '10 at 17:08

Great Lakes and Victory are the two I always keep for easy label removal.

Brooklyn, no way their laminated labels and glue is evil. Straight to the recycler they go.

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Added to the master list –  hookedonwinter Mar 4 '10 at 21:55

Easy- Highland Brewing from Asheville, NC. Labels are like a vinyl sticker that come off in a single sheet every time.

Hard- I 2nd the vote for magic hat. I can still tell by the residue which bottles came from them.

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Added to the master list –  hookedonwinter Mar 4 '10 at 21:55

The labels on the Trader Joe's house beers come off easily, and the bottles are easy to clean. They're also a good standard size.

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added to the big list. thanks paul –  hookedonwinter Mar 3 '10 at 21:16

Bottles


EDIT: Place your winners and duds (and notes if you like) in PJ's global breakdown.

Soaking


An investment of $6 on some heavy-duty rubber gloves, and $2 on some light cotton gloves, which I wear inside them, has made a huge difference. The ability to work with hotter water means less elbow grease.

I read a recommendation to use StarSan for soaking. It made no difference. I used One-Step and it seems to make a big difference, especially in the scrubbing step.

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I use one-step, too. I fill my sink with hot one-step solution, as hot as my tap will get. I then submerge the bottles, filling them, so the glue gets melted from the inside as the paper gets soggified from the outside. I wear gloves and use a scotch-brite to get them off. Quick work. –  JackSmith Mar 3 '10 at 18:14
    
Very similar to my technique. I use a metal scrubby, and I usually pump up the heat with a couple quarts of boiling water from a countertop kettle. Can't hurt. –  Rich Armstrong Mar 3 '10 at 18:21
6  
I fill a tub with OxyClean and left it sit overnight. Nearly all the labels come right off, with a few needing a gentle wipe to get the goo off. I do need to rinse, however. –  sgwill Mar 4 '10 at 17:00
    
+1 for Oxyclean, after ~15-30 minutes of a soak in a sinkful of hot water + 1 scoop the labels are easy to remove--some still require a second attempt, but once the paper has peeled then a quick scrub removes all remnants of paper + glue. –  STW Feb 5 '11 at 5:18

Anchor Brewing- They look good and the labels come off easily.

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2  
I find these bottles sort of difficult to recap with my two handled capper. –  brewchez Mar 3 '10 at 20:03
2  
+1 on hard to cap. IIRC, it was the stubby, tapered neck. My capper couldn't grab 'hold. –  JackSmith Mar 4 '10 at 17:33
    
The bulk of my bottles originally came with either Steam or Porter in them, and they're the only ones I have trouble with. I usually wind up snapping the neck on one of them every batch I bottle. –  TMN Dec 17 '12 at 17:33

Belhaven and Samuel Smith bottles look awesome, so they get re-used. I love the long, untapered neck. I also think it's funny to hand somebody a label-less beer in an old Duvel bottle; It looks like I'm handing them something I bought at a store with lots of neon in the windows located in the seedy section of town.

IIRC, Leffe labels come off very easily. But I think they're 11.2 ounce bottles, not that it really matters.

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1  
If you're filling Samuel Smith imperial stout bottles, make sure you're in a well-lit room. They're super-dark. I couldn't see where the liquid level was, even against a bright background! –  Rich Armstrong Mar 3 '10 at 18:23
    
Good tip. I usually fill from above with the bottles in a case on the open dishwasher door, so I look down into the neck for the fill line and listen to the changing pitch of the filling sound to know when I'm close. –  JackSmith Mar 3 '10 at 18:27
    
Yeah, that's exactly how I do it, but the one Samuel Smith imperial stout bottle I have (which will last forever) is still a bit of a crap shoot. –  Rich Armstrong Oct 23 '10 at 17:06

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