Best/Worst Beer Label Removals!!!

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by GeckoPunk, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. GeckoPunk

    GeckoPunk Initiate (163) Jul 29, 2012 Connecticut

    As a homebrewer, I de-label beers that I previously drank so I can use them to bottle my homebrews.

    I think this is a very original post about what you think are the best and worst beers to de-label...

    Personally, I think the EASIEST beer labels to remove is:
    Berkshire Ale Traditional Pale Ale - Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.
    Practically anything from Berkshire Brewing Company... Soaked the label for less than 5 minutes and I had NO problems peeling the label off without any scrubbing or cleaning... AWESOME! :grinning:

    WORST beer label to remove:
    Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Samuel Smith Old Brewery
    It took me about 15 minutes to get this darned label off!!! I needed to get a utility knife to peel the darned thing off and had to scrub the livin' piss out of it to remove the gold foil and the paper label super-glued to the bottle...

    Next time I try to de-label a Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, I will just get my $0.05 deposit for it and call it a day...

    What beer labels do you find easiest and hardest to remove from a beer?

    Let me know if you like this post also, because I think this topic is rarely ever mentioned here... :sunglasses:
    33nickadams likes this.
  2. ElderPuma

    ElderPuma Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2012

    New Belgium labels have always been very easy for me to remove but the worst are by far Lake Louie, a brewery here in WI. They make some great beer but their labels are IMPOSSIBLE to get off clean.
  3. 33nickadams

    33nickadams Disciple (307) Apr 12, 2010 Michigan

    Bell's are easy. Short's not so much.
    sarcastro likes this.
  4. whendeathsleeps

    whendeathsleeps Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2011 Indiana

    Anyone have any tricks for getting labels off? I am using them for covering a coffee table.
    ChanChan likes this.
  5. ElderPuma

    ElderPuma Initiate (0) Jul 27, 2012

    I've always had the best success soaking them overnight in a tub of soapy water, they come right off super easy in one piece and generally still have enough glue then to stick right back on to something like a coffee table.
  6. Biffster

    Biffster Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2004 Michigan

    Oxyclean, baby! Oxyclean free ( no perfume) does EVERYTHING in a home brewery.
  7. tglind

    tglind Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2009 Illinois

    In terms of widely available stuff, New Belgium & Sam Adams have always worked well for me. But FFF is by far the best I've dealt with. After a short soak in water, maybe a couple of hours, the labels just slide off.

    The worst has been Great Lakes or Two Brothers. I think their labels are plastic vs. paper.
    DVoors likes this.
  8. JohnGalt1

    JohnGalt1 Poo-Bah (4,681) Aug 10, 2005 Idaho
    Beer Trader

    I have been using the same method for years.... 2 methods actually.

    Sticker type... they are typically the shiny ones.
    -Fill the bottle with boiling water from a tea kettle... let the bottle get warm/hot and peel them off and stick it to card-stock.... Talk the ever generous wife into cutting them out when she is bored at work during the summer months.

    Pretty much all others. (This method comes from one of Papazian's books)
    -Soak in hot/near boiling water with about a 1/4 cup of standard household ammonia/gallon of H2O and they typically come off with little coaxing. Rinse the label and dry it flat on kitchen towels.
    --Of course there are exceptions, Dogfish use some type of proprietary paper that gets really flimsy really fast... You have to stay on top of these and be very gentle. For DFH, I am at about 80% success rate.
    ---Also frequently with paper labels that have sorta foil/metallic printing, the foil/metal will flake off with the gentlest touch.. again be careful.

    I started collecting labels when I really got into homebrewing.... I now have literally thousands of different labels. I really need to stop. :grinning: It is a bit of an OCD thing for me. "Why would I stop now?!?! Do you KNOW how much TIME I have spent doing this over the last 10 years?!?!"

    Hope this helps... Toby.
    whendeathsleeps and GeckoPunk like this.
  9. FatSean

    FatSean Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2006 Connecticut

    I hear you on Berkshire, just think their bombers are over-priced for what they are.

    My go-to has been Sierra Nevada! A soak in hot, soapy water means you can peel the labels right off. Then a scrubber sponge takes the glue. Easy. Plus you (used to) get the nice 12-pack box with the cardboard spacers. Recently though they've switched to a Corona/Domestic tear-off front/top box with no spacers. Meh.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  10. jtmiller03

    jtmiller03 Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2008 Oklahoma

    Don't even try with Cigar City labels.
    Duff27, nulledge, robinsmv and 2 others like this.
  11. johnnnniee

    johnnnniee Poo-Bah (5,258) Feb 28, 2007 New Hampshire
    Beer Trader

  12. darklordlager

    darklordlager Initiate (0) Feb 12, 2008 Wisconsin

    From my personal experience:

    Most German Beers (Hot water soak...the labels fall off)

    Easy: (Hot water soak, light scrub)
    New Glarus and Bells

    Honorable Mention: (Hot water soak, medium scrub)
    Sierra Nevada

    Generally Not Worth the Effort: (Hot water soak, forceful scrub)

    Absolute Worst (Damned near impossible, do not attempt--just recycle):
  13. Thedaver4220

    Thedaver4220 Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2011 Illinois

    FFF bottles are pretty easy seeing as that they are half off when u buy the beer
  14. alexipa

    alexipa Devotee (439) Oct 7, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    As darklordlager said, most German beers' labels fall right off after hot water. I have about 30-40 long necked old oktoberfest bottles for this reason. Really like the shape of them too.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  15. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,431) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Beer Trader

    I remove the labels on most bottles not because I'm a homebrewer, but because I want to keep labels of most beers I've tried as "souvenirs." Bottles take up way too much room. As others have said, most German, Belgian and English labels come off really easily (very surprised by OP's complaint about Sam Smith, I've never had trouble with those labels). Founders, Great Divide, and Firestone Walker labels, among a few others, are some of the most stubborn. It must be different types of glue or something. Lost Abbey labels tend to just disintegrate if exposed to hot water.

    I really like the labels The Bruery, Logsdon, Upright, Fremont etc. have been using. They're not paper, more like a plastic sticker. All you have to do is peel them away and stick them on a sheet of paper (or throw them out if you're removing them only to reuse the bottles). No need to use hot water, soap, or anything else to get those off. They never tear or stretch either.

    And FWIW, since I do intend to start homebrewing again someday and strongly favor 500mL bottles (e.g., Pliny, or German hefeweizens etc.) a foolproof way to remove Pliny labels is to stick the bottles in the oven at about 225 for maybe 10 minutes. Melts the glue and the label comes off pretty clean.
  16. litheum94

    litheum94 Initiate (0) Dec 29, 2008 California

    Bruery labels are super easy to peel off. I have a ton of Bruery labels displayed on my bar.

    Every other label: too stupidly hard to save.
  17. lemongelo

    lemongelo Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2008 North Carolina

    After 12 years in restaurants, I have found the best thing is to fill a container with boiling water and place the bottle in it, making sure the label is facing down. That is how I do it to remove labels for guests. It takes about 10 minutes. They also make label removers, which is basically a last piece of clear tape larger than the label. That way you can remove the label and place it in a book or however you plan to use it. Although it sounds like you are not trying to keep the label. At home, I would boil water and then pour that water in a wide deep pan so you can do multiple bottles at the same time. I would also cover it to make the steam-method as functional as possible.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  18. srandycarter

    srandycarter Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2006 California

    I LOVE this post! I use Oxyclean for two days, and I can tell you, there are 3-4 different glue types out there. Some are great, some suck. Ballast Point used to be horrible, but now better. Russian River used to be good, but not good now. I wish I knew the TYPE of glue used on each bottle, then I would throw away the ones I knew wouldn't work out.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  19. brianthelion23

    brianthelion23 Initiate (0) May 21, 2012 California

    stone labels are the hardest for me for obvious reasons:wink:

    bells seem pretty easy
    kristougher likes this.
  20. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (9,701) May 5, 2010 Michigan
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I don't get rid of labels anymore because I am lazy; however, in recent memory:

    Oxiclean will make Lagunitas, Founders, Great Lakes, Great Divide labels float right off soaking in a plastic tub. (any not overly laminated label will let the oxiclean dissolve the adhesive easily)

    Dark Horse

    its like cement on a label

    It also appears that Shorts labels would be a bit of a pain as well, but I have never tried.
    MIBeerGeek and GeckoPunk like this.
  21. lsummers

    lsummers Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2010 California

    I always have a pretty easy time with dogfish heads bottles after a 20 minute soak in hot soapy water. And I just put a couple things on top of the label to keep it from curling and they turn out perfect as well.
  22. ilikebeer03

    ilikebeer03 Champion (825) Oct 17, 2012 Texas

  23. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (3,023) May 13, 2011 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Dude, I was wondering why the only bottles I've ever had were like that. Glad it's something common and not just obvious signs of age.
  24. BelgBeerGeek

    BelgBeerGeek Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2012 Belgium

    The sticker type labels are the best ! Brewdog, The Bruery, Port Brewing etc ...
    Also De Molen labels go off pretty easly.

    The worst to remove , actually they can't be removed are the Lost Abbey labels !
    U can't pull'm off without a soak because you tear them apart, and when u do put them in water they kinda dissolve/turn flakey ! horrible !
    Also Mikkeller labels are pretty difficult to get unfortunatly ...
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  25. Timmush

    Timmush Aspirant (292) Jan 5, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Pliny the Elder labels always give me a hard time.
    Sierra Nevada are easy like mentioned above, plus it is the beer that I most often buy in bulk.

    I basically keep a cooler filled with water and oxyclean (or even better cheap walmart oxycleanish type stuff) . Whenever I finish a bottle, I just put it in that cooler until I have a bunch, then I see what effort I have to put in.

    A problem that I have with some bottles is that the standard caps dont always fit. I wish there was a way to know what bottlecaps are not standard so I dont go through the effort of de-labelling them.
    MinorThreat and GeckoPunk like this.
  26. dumpstation

    dumpstation Initiate (0) Dec 24, 2011 Vermont

    Lawson's. come off in 2 seconds and easily reapply to anything.
    mountsnow1010 likes this.
  27. cartoonshop

    cartoonshop Initiate (0) Jun 6, 2011 Rhode Island

    southern tier labels require a pneumatic hammer,flamethrower, and voodoo priest to remove them from the bottle. most belgian bottles the label comes right off in hot water,instantly.
    psnydez86, Proclarush and GeckoPunk like this.
  28. mountsnow1010

    mountsnow1010 Initiate (0) Jan 23, 2009 Vermont

    Whaaat? I'm the exact opposite...I think they are some of the best value bombers around (they usually run 3.50-4.50 around here). I do wish they sold sixers though.
  29. MinorThreat

    MinorThreat Devotee (488) Apr 7, 2008 Nebraska
    Beer Trader

    Bucket of really hot water + 1cup Oxiclean + 20 minute soak = easy removal of almost all labels.
  30. 2beerdogs

    2beerdogs Poo-Bah (1,883) Jan 31, 2005 California
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Why in the hell would you use Samuel Smith's bottles? They're clear, unless you drink them real fast.
  31. CircusBoy

    CircusBoy Initiate (0) Mar 10, 2008 Ohio

    Duvel labels fall right off in a little bit of water.
  32. mctizzz

    mctizzz Devotee (483) Dec 23, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    I let a batch of bottles soak in hot soapy water Friday night, the results are as follows...

    Best (labels peel right off with minimal scrubbing required):
    Berkshire Brewing Company, Sam Adams, Samuel Smith, Green Flash

    Worst (not worth it):
    Great Divide, Southern Tier, Founders
  33. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,306) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Samuel Smith switched to brown bottles for their US exports 3-4 years ago or so.

  34. 2beerdogs

    2beerdogs Poo-Bah (1,883) Jan 31, 2005 California
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Wow, I for got about that. Bigger Wow, so I saw a really old bottle recently.
  35. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,306) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, I noticed that, too - took a long time for the clear bottles to disappear off some shelves. Same thing happened when Young's merged with Wells and when Czechvar has changed US importers several times - it's amazing how long the old stuff sits around and it's a lot more noticeable than a tiny date code on a rear label.

    Might be one answer to the frequent questions like "Why doesn't such 'n' such a brewery switch to brown bottles?"

    A: Because it would expose to all how old so much of their stock is on most US retail import shelves.
    Mothergoose03 and 2beerdogs like this.
  36. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (472) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    I keep 750 bottles for homebrewing. La Chouffe and Chimay labels pop right off after a simple soaking. But St. Bernardus labels use some type special glue . . . the labels are plastic and the glue resisted two days of soaking. Success was achieved, but mucho effort required.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  37. Proclarush

    Proclarush Initiate (0) Oct 23, 2012 Maryland

    Long Trail labels almost fall off on their own. After not even 30 seconds in boiling water they come right off no problem. Most of the over 100 bottles I have and use for brewing were originally Long Trail Double Bag.

    And yes, Southern Tier labels make you hate yourself.
    GeckoPunk likes this.
  38. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,035) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Supporter Subscriber

    Maybe you've noticed this too but didn't mention it, but the only times that I've experienced some bottles that don't seem to fit a standard crown cap for reuse in homebrewing have been imports. I don't recall which breweries to pinpoint it any more than that, and I never try to reuse imports anymore.
  39. jbeezification

    jbeezification Initiate (0) Jun 6, 2012 Texas

    Dogfish Head Labels fall off in the fridge.
  40. korguy123

    korguy123 Initiate (0) May 17, 2008 Ontario (Canada)

    I microwave Short's bottles for a minute and they peel right off.
    Great Lakes Cleveland is another story. I have yet to peel one off successfully (I save the labels not the bottle)
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