If you’ve been any sort of of reader of this blog for the last year you will by now know that I am pretty passionate about design in the beer world. It is design, after-all, that can hook a consumer and create a life long fan to one’s brand. In my early years of coming into the craft beer ether it was attractive labels that caught me when perusing the beer aisle at my local store.
It should also go without saying that I absolute hate the increasing trend of breweries ripping intellectual property from other companies, modifying them and passing them off as their own in some “funny” and “hip” sort of way. I’ve written 2 different posts about this so I won’t bother you with all those details. Go read the other pieces.
I figured after all of that I should make a more positive article to where I give credit to breweries that show their creative side when it comes to their branding and packaging. It is these breweries that resist the temptation to be cheap and easy to create beautiful branding that is eye catching and uniquely theirs.
This list is absolutely from my own personal standpoint and in no way represents the best brandings out there. The best does not necessarily mean that I like them. And vise versa, my favorites do not mean they are necessarily the best. I should also point out that with now over 7000 active breweries in the country that I’m likely missing some ones that I have either never seen or just flat out forgot. Please feel free to let me know some of your favorite brewery brands out there from a design standpoint.
I’m starting off my list with a brewery that is absolute one of my favorites. Austin Beerworks first came across my radar in 2014 when they released a much talked about 99 pack of cans of their Peacemaker Anytime Ale. The gimmick grabbed the Texas brewery wide attention but after looking past the massive package of beers I became enamored by their branding.
Crisp, clean and traditional but with brighter than normal colors that somehow grab your attention and not push it away. Every different branded can was unique but retained the core structure that made it fit in with the rest of it’s family. This, to me, is very important in branding. It bugs me when a brewery has their beers right next to one another and they don’t even look like they came from the same brewery. I’m not saying this is wrong but it’s just not something I like. It’s very attractive when a bunch of brands from the same brewery are next to one another and create that billboard like effect.
The look is very Texas but also very Austin, who despite being in Texas tends to dance to the beat of their own drum most of the times. It is something that I could visualize anyone in the Lone Star State lifting a can to their lips. Just take a look at this sign below.
It looks like a tin tacker that you could find in any truck stop BBQ joint in the middle of nowhere Texas. It fits.
There is never a doubt in your mind when looking across ABW’s core lineup, seasonal offerings and merchandise which brewery you are looking at.
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co.
I might as well get my homer pick out of the way right now. Neshaminy Creek Brewing is not only in my local area but their brewery is mere minutes from the house I grew up in.
The interesting thing about Neshaminy Creek’s branding is that their current branding and packaging is not what they started out with. Their original logo was more simplistic with a person rowing a canoe in a coonskin hat. Fine and dandy for a suburban Philly brewery with a connection to the beautiful outdoors of Bucks County but nothing setting the world on fire.
When Neshaminy Creek hooked up with JP Flexner, an independent artist out of Philadelphia, the Croydon brewery never looked back. Together NCBC and Flexner created a brand that represents the brewery much more than their previous attempt.
While uniform in layout each different brand has it’s own personal designs with different characters, landscapes and color schemes. The cans appear more fun and approachable for a brewery with roots in punk and hardcore music.
While their core lineup certainly stands out it is their more limited special releases and seasonal to where Flexner gets to “flex” his creative muscle for NCBC.
Once again you have the uniformity of the logo, brand name and details but then with each label you have an extremely detail heavy illustration that draws you in before you even know what the style is. If I see a label with donut pigs flying that looks that good I am going to want to buy it without having a clue what style it is.
The team of Neshaminy Creek and JP Flexner is one to be reckoned with in the beer industry.
Fieldwork Brewing Co.
This Berkeley brewery has become so well known for their IPAs that it has allowed them to open 5 additional taproom locations across Northern California. But along with having liquid that people go crazy for Fieldwork Brewing possesses some absolutely beautiful branding and can label design.
To me their label art is so good that it is something that I imagine hanging on walls. I would frame this.
Whether they be vast landscapes, Victorian influenced paintings or artsy, eye catching scenery Fieldwork’s package will catch you looking at the can for far longer than you would a normal beer.
Each can seems to retain some sort of uniformity to them–something you can probably tell by now that I like–with the logo, brand name and details all seeming to be in the same location. It is, however, the backgrounds that change from brand to brand in increasingly breathtaking fashion.
Even the off brand that does not follow this exact structure, like Jelly Packet and Sea Farmer, still look like they are a part of the overall family and have their own structure.
Fieldwork’s cans are a rare case in the beer industry to where it’s can art could be on display at a gallery show somewhere in the world and probably net a pretty nice take on sales.
By the way, Fieldwork, if you ever do create a gallery show of you can art I expect an invite. Thanks.
Holy Mountain Brewing
Okay, let me first start off by saying, “I love Holy Mountain.” There I got that off my chest.
Holy Mountain Brewing is nearly everything I love in a brewery. They make fantastic beers including styles that are all too often forgot about. They have a beautiful and inviting taproom. And their branding and artwork is wonderful.
Holy Mountain appears to be the perfect example of creating dark, almost occult like designs without going full blown evil. From their simple triangle logo through their bottle labels and into their can labels they all have a somewhat eerie vibe but are still somewhat bright enough to not make you think you have agreed to join some ominous cult just by purchasing it.
At times I feel like their imagery is something straight out of Twin Peaks and then you realize that they have a beer named The White Lodge and have created glassware with a stylized owl and the phrase “The Owls Are Not What They Seem” emblazoned on it. Also being in Seattle, not far from where the fictitious town of Twin Peaks is set, is just the icing on the cake for fans of the series.
I should also note that Holy Mountain has been able to show homage to this iconic TV show without directly lifting any imagery from the show. Everything they do is their own, original artwork. Kudos on that.
I’m sure by now you have a pretty good idea as to what I like seeing in brewery branding and design. Uniformity between brands helps show that they belong to the same family. Each brand can then have their own unique colors, backgrounds and other illustrations or artwork but retaining the same general vibe I think is important. Plus they look hella great next to one another in a cooler or on a display.
But my main reason that I love designs like these is that they are created from scratch by some killer designers who have the desire to birth something unique for these breweries. They are creating an identity when it doesn’t look like anyone else out there. Swiping other people’s IP doesn’t make you unique or standout from the crowd. If anything you blend back in because it’s been done.
These breweries and many others deserve the recognition of the hard work put in by their designers, whether they be in house employees, a firm or an indie artist for hire. They have taken a step towards supporting artists and designers and they are rewarded with incredible pieces of art that no one else has. Talk about something to be proud about.
There are so many more breweries out there doing great work with design that I just simply can’t mention them all. One of the big influences to me for doing this piece is Oh Beautiful Beer. It is a website that catalogs the wonderful and creative side of brewery branding and design. If you’re like me and you love design I challenge you to not get lost on their site for an hour or 2. It’s insanely difficult.
Again I would like to open this up to the readers and fellow beer lovers. Who else is doing a killer job with their branding and design? Who is making unique and breathtaking art that just grabs your attention as you scan the cooler? Tell me about them in the comments or over on Twitter.