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Labels as art in craft beer


There’s an interesting (and short) article in Metro about “The art of the six-pack.” And I quote:

?The craft beer industry is a very creative industry,? explains Matt Polacheck, Art Director at Brooklyn-based Shmaltz Brewing, whose Coney Island Craft Lagers line features colorful, sideshow poster-inspired labels. ?The artful labels tie in to the whole culture of craft beer ? it?s about creating new, interesting beers ? and so to go along with those beers, we?ve made the experience of the bottle as interesting as what?s inside.?

Craft beer labels do tend towards the artsy side of things. New Belgium has been using watercolors from the founders’ neighbor for its beers since the beginning. Flying Dog takes label art to a whole new level with their Ralph Steadman creations. One of my favorite recent examples of this is Deschutes The Dissident:


Now that is a good-looking label. Simple, retro, powerful. It reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Personally, I think the whole “label as art” phenomenon among craft breweries is a function of two things:

  1. Craft breweries are small and quirky. It’s the small, quirky companies that have the courage and opportunity to play around with things like labels. Budweiser is catering to too many people to get too creative, but Coney Island Craft Lagers has a very specific (and accepting) demographic. Plus, the people behind craft breweries, ourselves included, generally want to express themselves. We’re a bunch of white collar guys trying to enjoy life, so our labels reflect that.
  2. There are a ton of craft breweries and you have to stand out. Have you been to the package store lately? At last count there were over 1400 craft breweries in the U.S. Hop City carries over 1200 different beers. With so many choices, it makes sense to make your labels pop, and art is one of the best ways to do this.

Artsy labels are obviously no substitute for great beer, but the label may be the thing that sets a beer apart on the shelf and gets someone to try it. Once that someone has purchased a six-pack, it’s up to the beer to retain that consumer.

Image source: djeucalyptus

One thought on “Labels as art in craft beer

  1. I agree, plus in some cases, asthetically speaking, it can/should compete with wine on the dinner table. Cheers!

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