Even if you keg your beer, from time to time you’re going to want to bottle some of it. There are a few things you want to look for when selecting your bottles.
Use brown bottles — Light can damage your beer, so don’t use green or clear bottles. Stick with brown.
Don’t use twist-offs — Your caps won’t fit properly. Stick with pry-off tops.
Use returnables, if you can get them — I imagine this varies from state to state, but if you can get returnable bottles, use them. They’re thicker and stronger than regular bottles.
Stick with bottles of the same general size and shape — It helps when you’re stacking cases. Also, note the distance between the lip of the bottle and that little indentation about a half inch down. (I’ve marked in on the photo to the right.)
Stick with bottles that have about the same distance there. On some bottles that distance is really short and the caps don’t go on quite as well.
Use glass — Modern plastics are pretty good, so you shouldn’t get off flavors from good quality plastic bottles, but I know some pretty smart people who say you should avoid eating food out of plastic whenever possible.
The exception here is if you have trouble with your carbonation. If you think your beer might be overcarbonated, by all means use plastic. Bottle bombs with glass are not a joking matter.
Note how well labels come off — Different brands of beer use different methods of securing the label to the bottle. Some of them come off easily after soaking the bottle in water, while some you need a sand blaster to remove.
I don’t particularly care if my homebrew has some old label on it, but … it’s still nice to have a clear bottle.
Avoid bottles with labels around the neck — Some bottles have a label at the top. This gets in your way when you’re filling, because you can’t see how much beer you’ve put in the bottle.
If you’d like more tips about homebrewing, please see my Beginner’s Guide to Home Brewing.