Collecting and Removing Beer Labels

If you have neither the space nor the time to maintain a full beer bottle or can collection, remove the labels from the beers you’ve enjoyed and keep them in an album. Some of these mementos may remind you of fantastic taste experiences and great moments with friends or family.

In the United States, where beer is served cold, beer lovers know that the labels come off easily when the bottles have been soaking in a tub of ice water for hours. But serious beer label collectors are always looking for a good method to remove the labels so that they’re intact for sticking on a wall or in a book. Several methods, mostly borrowed from wine label collectors, are recommended.

The Hot Soak
Some collectors recommend softening the glue before attempting to remove the label. To do this fill the bottles with very hot water and immerse them in warm water that has some dishwashing powder dissolved in it. Steaming beer labels may also help to soften the glue for peeling.

The Cold Soak
Cold water soaks also work, particularly if you let bottles soak for several days. You might begin with hot or warm water, but as the water cools it continues to penetrate the beer label and allows you to slide it right off.

Other Methods
If you’re very careful, difficult-to-remove labels may be coaxed off with a razor blade. This takes an enormous amount of patience and is by no means a fast method.

Some commercial products are designed for easy label removal. One is a clear adhesive overlay that is placed over the label. When you peel it off, the top layer of the label sticks to the adhesive. A few people have mentioned that they have trouble with wrinkles when they try to flatten the label after removing it with this method.

For most types of glue, a commercial product, such as Oxi-Clean™, designed to dissolve organic substances, appears to be the handiest solution. Simply spray beer labels with the liquid and peel them off almost immediately. The advantage of this system is that the labels are smooth and flat after drying.

Drying Beer Labels
As soon as you’ve removed the label, place it on one end of a dry towel without a pattern. Cover the label with the other side of the towel and press straight down. This will help remove some of the water from the label, a process known as damp drying. Place a piece of wax paper on a sheet of blotting paper, place the label, glue-side down, on the wax paper, and cover with a second sheet of blotting paper.

To prevent curling use a stack of books or other heavy flat object to keep the label flat whilst drying. Leave undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours, if the weather is damp, consider letting the label sit another day.

To prevent dry beer labels from curling, store flat in an acid-free album or in glassine envelopes.

The Labologists’ Society
Some people are serious about collecting beer labels. The International Society for Label Collectors and Brewery Research (Labologists’ Society), established in 1958, is one of the world’s oldest organizations dedicated to the hobby of label collecting. The primary goal of the society is to promote the hobby and provide information on label collecting, breweries, and related subjects.