Getting Bottles for Beer

If you’re new to brewing beer, you will most likely bottle your beer when fermentation has stopped. A typical 5 gallon batch of beer will require about 50 of the 12 oz size beer bottles, plus or minus a few. So you know you need them, but where the heck do you get 50 bottles for beer you brew? Buying them online can be expensive due to the heavy weight of glass bottles, which will mean high shipping costs. Do you just have to go door to door asking people for their used beer bottles?

Every beginning home brewer has wondered where to get bottles for beer. At first, 50 bottles may seem like a lot, especially since you really can’t use the twist-off type. Let us give you some pointers on how to get bottles for beer based on our experiences. We’ll just list a few brief bullet-points below.

  1. Drink beer then make beer. This method is as simple as it sounds, and is the most enjoyable way to get bottles for beer. If you are going to make your own beer, you most likely drink beer. By buying beer in bottles with pop-tops you can reuse your empty bottles. You’ll need to drink 8 to 9 six packs to get the bottles you need. If you’re brewing with malt extracts, you’ll have at least 2 weeks after pitching your yeast before you’d need all your bottles ready. If you have no bottles already, this method alone may not be in your best interest. Drinking 9 six packs over 2 weeks is expensive and really not a healthy move.
  2. Be a beer bum. You can usually ask for the empty bottles that would otherwise be thrown away or recycled by friends and family. Simply spread the word that you’ll take their used bottles and you may have more bottles for beer than you ever wanted in a short period of time. Just expect to do some cleaning.
  3. Leave a note. If you’re new to an area and haven’t made many friends yet, or you don’t know many people that drink beer from bottles, you might consider leaving a note at the local recycle center. It’s a good idea to check with the person who oversees the recycle center, and if they accept glass already you might get calls within an hour of posting a note. The note should be simple and clearly state that you brew beer and need empty pop-top bottles.
  4. Make deals to get bottles for beer. If you know one or two people who work with people who enjoy craft beer, you can easily get plenty of bottles by spreading the word that you’ll give some homebrew for empty bottles. You’ll have to figure out the exchange rate, but most people would consider a bottle of homebrew for each 6 pack of empty bottles to be a fair exchange.
  5. Network with like minded people. Do a quick search online for home brewing clubs in your area. You might also chat with the manager or owner of a nearby brew supply shop to get in touch with others who brew beer their own beer. Brewers tend to accumulate more bottles than they really need and may be happy to get rid of a some. Also, homebrewing tends to be a progressive hobby. Many home brewers will transition to other means of storing their beer, such as small kegs or larger bottles for beer they make. When a brewer progresses to kegging they will usually have a good number of bottles just taking up space.
  6. Who serves you beer? If you go to a restaurant or bar that serve some of their beer from bottles, why not ask for a few bottles. If you’re served a pop-top bottle and frosted glass, you can usually just take the empty bottle or bottles home. Such places might also be able to collect a few six packs of empty bottles you can use while you are just hanging out there. Let your server or bartender know that you’d be grateful for some bottles, and let them know this in a way that implies their tip will reflect your gratitude. An extra few bucks for 12 or more bottles is a good deal.
  7. It’s what’s inside that counts. Who’s going to see your bottles of beer? Do you care about the impression the bottle may make? Consider these questions for a few moments and you decide to really go cheap by using empty 2-liter cola or soda bottles. Maybe this is just to ghetto for you, but 2 liter bottles can easily withstand the pressure of your carbonating beer and they make the bottling process go very quickly. Don’t expect to reuse these bottles and caps more than once or twice, but this is a very economical way to get bottles for beer.
  8. Pay for convenience. The final option we’ll mention is to simply purchase the bottles you need. This is convenient in that you won’t have to clean tobacco, spit, or cigarette butts out of the bottles. The ultimate way to maximize convenience while buying bottles on a budget is to buy the plastic reusable bottles that come with plastic twist-on top, much like 2-liter sodas. These are light, so shipping will be cheap, and they don’t require the use of a capper or the expense of single use caps. These can be found in 1-liter sizes and can usually be reused a dozen times if they are cleaned and sanitized appropriately. If your budget allows, you can also buy 1 liter bottles with the grolsch type of cap mechanism. These are a little expensive at first, but you’ll love the convenience and style they provide.

That’s the list we’ve compiled. At least one of the options mentioned above will help you get the bottles you need. If you pursue a few of these options you should have no problem getting enough bottles for a couple batches of beer. Just be sure to let people know when you don’t need more bottles or you’ll find yourself with more bottles than you could ever fill.

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