Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damned if You Do; Damned if You Don't

Yesterday, I received the following email from a customer in a neighboring state:


I was to lead by saying how much my wife and I enjoy your brews. The Winter Ale is one of our absolute favorite beers, and, as beer lovers, we try many different brews.
But I am also a homebrewer and often use the empty bottles from commercial beers we have drank (I won't use other people's bottles, so I can ensure they are clean), and I am writing to let you know that I think the glue your company uses to affix the labels is OVERKILL, and will probably limit the number of your beers that I buy in the future. While it takes about 5-10 minutes to soak and remove the labels off of other beers (Orlio, Dogfish Head, and Saranac for example) in only hot water, it took nearly 3 hours for me to simply loosen the labels from the MANY Winter Ale bottles I tried to reuse today. Even soaking them with Simple Green didn't assist me, and I had to scrub the bottles. Doing this also meant that some of the glue and label went down my drain and into my septic, and that just won't do.
I'd like to request that you consider other methods or other glues to keep your labels stuck. My wife LOVES your beers, but even she says if it means having to spend that amount of time removing labels that we may have to buy other beers in case we need bottles later (we give away our brews as gifts).
Thank you for taking the time to read this.

After labelling our bottles for fourteen years with an ancient World Tandem machine, and fielding ceaseless complaints from wholesalers, retailers and consumers about our flagging, crooked and missing labels, we invested in a nice roll-on labeler. The glue that worked with the World Tandem did not match the new machines, so we had to try numerous different types of glue until we found one that adhered to cold, wet bottles and set quickly with minimal sliding; flowed well in varying temperature and humidity; did not produce noxious vapors; and cleaned up easily. We finally found a glue that met all these requirements, and we've been pretty darn happy with the results.

Now we learn that we may lose a customer because our labels stick too well. Sheesh. We may be able to salvage his business, yet, as we will soon install an air knife in our bottling line. An air knife is essentially the thing that blow-dries your car as it leaves the car wash. In a bottling line, it blows moisture off bottles as they enter the labeler, so the labels are affixed to a semi-dry surface, instead of a wet one. Once the air-knife is installed and operational, we may find ourselves looking for a new glue, since the glue we use now, which is ideally suited for our current parameters, may not work as well with blow-dried bottles.




Anonymous said...

I am a homebrewer and love to use Smutty bottles. The labels come right off after a soak in PBW. Great beer to drink and easy bottles to clean and refill.

Sean said...

Well I'll be damned. I know all too well the joys of attempting to label a cold bottle on a production scale. Thankfully 90 percent of the products my company produces are hot-packed.

That air-knife is an interesting idea though!


Christopher said...

soak the bottles overnight in a mixture of warm water and baking soda (1 tablespoon/gallon). Labels will slide right off in the morning.