De-Labeling Made Easy

Even if it's a fantastic brewer's bottle you've decided to make Captain Planet proud by reusing, it's a good idea to peel away the artwork to avoid confusion in the fridge. Should you leave an Oatmeal Stout label on your double IPA an unsuspecting bystander may be in for a rude (yet still delicious) awakening. Worse yet, you could leave a Cass label on there and even you will recoil before remembering the actual contents.

Aside from confusion, de-labeling bottles is an easy way to give them an extra sanitary soak before adding your hard earned barley pop. When you're in a situation like the one I've found myself in, you may have to barter and scrounge for usable bottles, so giving them an extra bath will be necessary.

In the typical Korean kitchen setup you won't have a lot of space to complete projects like this. Fret not. This is the first of many examples where that ₩5,000 tub you bought will be worth its weight in gold. First thing you'll want to do is cram as many bottles as possible into that tub and fill them with the hottest water your tap can manage. Be sure to fill them all the way or they'll float unruly in their new bath. Once the bottles are filled I usually boil some water in the kettle and add that to the mix. Not only will the hot water help dissolve the glue holding on the labels, it'll help kill any bacteria living in what you can now proudly claim as your bottles.

As a side note: even though there are some green bottles in the pictures, do not use these if it can be avoided. Dark brown bottles let in the least amount of light and therefore are the best, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

At this point in the cleaning process, the Beer Craft book offers one of their best tips: add OxiClean to your tub-o-bottles. Though I haven't attempted to get this here in Korea yet, it's readily available at damn near any store in the States and it works like gangbusters. Leave just about any bottle in OxiClean water for 10-15 minutes and the vast majority of the labels will fall right off.

Should you find yourself in an OxiClean-less world, or prefer to use nothing but good ol hot water, meet your new best friend: the straight razor. This whopping ₩200 blade makes de-labeling bottles a breeze, and will come in handy for quite a few other homebrew projects (more on this in the bottling bucket post). Using the straight razor is also a great way to eliminate the glue residue that often remains for labels that peel away or fall off.



A lot of people could really care less about these things, but having truly clean bottles matters here at Woodtooth Brewing. Maybe it's just the OCD... who knows. If you're not overly picky about how pristinely clean your bottles are, but would still like to have the original label off, may I present the best thing about Hite: ridiculously easy to remove labels.

 

Because Hite collects and reuses their bottles the same way any good homebrewer would, their labels don't have the stingiest of glue holding them in place. With the breifest of brief soakings both the neck and main labels peel away without any need for a razor. If time is of the essence, or you just don't care about shiny clean bottles, Hite is the bottle for you. Just steer clear of drinking it beforehand.

But what if you're living in a land that actually loves beer? Should you be lucky enough to live in ignorant bliss of the swamp water that is Hite or Cass, you most likely have a lovely collection of microbrews that need their labels removed. Here's what I found in my time cleaning back in the States:

The Good

  • Two Brothers - Labels are stickers that will peel off without having to soak em.
  • Abita - Fall off easily after a soak.
  • Dogfishhead - Fall off easily after a soak.
  • Magic Hat - Easy after soak, but a lot of glue leftover.


The Medium

  • Bridgeport - Easy with a blade after soak.
  • Sam Adams - Easy with a blade after soak.
  • Founders - Will require a little work with your blade skills, but nothing terrible.


The Recyclables


  • Harp - Label's stingy as all get out. If you have extra empties just throw these in the recycling.
  • Dark Horse - Drink this beer and love it. Then forget the bottle even exists. Flat out not worth the effort.

This is in no way the end-all be-all list of labels, so if you have any recommendations please feel free to leave some comments below.

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Brew Day is a brewers collective with a different obsession every month. Each month the homebrewers involved will tackle a different style of beer by brewing a batch and getting their malt-stained hands on as many pints of the same style as possible. Each brewer will bring their own warped concept to their batch helping to create as many variations as there are brewers involved.

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