There have been quite a few stories in the beer press lately that have really got me thinking about beer artwork. There’s the new look of Red Hook (check out this post on Washington Beer blog), a new label design for one of my favorite beers of all time – Stone Imperial Russian Stout (see this post at beernews.org), the North Coast Brewing logo upgrade (the old logo has always been a favorite of mine) and most notably the new Upright Brewing Four Play label that has been subject to much controversy (please check out this article on Beervana).
When I first started thinking about it I was leaning toward the fact that there really aren’t that many labels/logos out there that are especially noteworthy. There’s a few that really jumped out at me right way, but for the most part…far too many exist that fail to catch my attention. But, the more I thought about it, the more I discussed it with friends, the more epiphanies I had and the more I realized just how wrong I was.
There’s actually a lot of breweries out there that are putting serious attention toward their image. Clearly, this isn’t surprising. Anyone possessing even the slightest bit of entrepreneurial savvy knows how important branding can be to creating a successful business. Here, in my Visual Art of Craft Beer Series, I plan to discuss some of my favorites. Hopefully, in doing so, I will open up the floor for debate. I’m sure there are a bunch out there that I either don’t know about or have simply overlooked. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to present them all in this initial article, so the debate just may have to wait. Start thinking about your choices now and see if I end up agreeing with you.
The following is my top 5. This is not limited to logo alone. I feel that if it were, the scope of this exercise would be drastically diminished. This includes not only the straight forward logo of a brewery but the labels of all, most, or some of their bottles/cans/mini-kegs/what-have-you.
5) Three Floyds Brewing – FFF does not mess around. They make some of the most unique beers in the country and their labels follow suit. In may ways, they remind me of Garbage Pail Kids. All have a comic book/cartoon like quality. Some are lighthearted and humorous, others are dark and disturbing, all are well designed and fun to look at. I’m not sure whether I like the Clockwork Orange themed Moloko Stout, Zombie Dust, or the Dark Lord (above) the best. No matter how you look at it, they are all undeniably bad ass.
4) Southern Tier Brewing – The logo above isn’t very glamorous, and it by no means is the sole reason why I have put STB in the number 4 position, but I must say that I’m a very big fan of it. I find it to be very slick, clean and simple, yet highly effective. The tools of the trade encircled by the ingredients of the trade. Classic. I’ve often thought of having a variation of that logo tattooed on myself. Good logo aside, the continuity and simplicity of all of STB’s label designs is so well done that I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to find them being celebrated in HOW Magazine (or something similar).
3) New Belgium Brewing Lips of Faith Series – Take a minute to gaze upon the above image. Tell me you wouldn’t want a full size print of that framed and mounted in your living room. It’s beautiful…and it’s just a beer label. I could have posted a picture of almost any LoF label and it would be equally stunning. Whomever is behind this is really doing fabulous work. Give them a raise.
2) Stone Brewing Co. – This logo is absolutely unmistakable. It may not be number one on my list but it’s very possibly the number one most recognizable beer logo in craft brewing. It’s bold, like Stone beers and the attitude of the owners/brewers. If you’ve ever taken the time to read the lengthy, screen printed text on any of Stone’s 22oz bottles, you know just what I mean. Stone is hard fucking core and their dark, devious mascot exemplifies that to the t.
1) Flying Dog Brewery – Can someone please explain to me how FDB got Ralph Steadman to illustrate all of their imagery?!?! Whether you like his style or not, this has to be the most lauded, continual collaborative effort between a brewery and a world-famous artist of all time.
Yeah, I guess I do sort of get how FDB pulled this off. Supposedly the owners of the brewery were friends with Hunter S. Thompson. It’s quite clear that his influence is felt throughout much of FDB’s advertising and marketing campaign. Since Ralph Steadman is most famous for his work with Hunter S. Thompson, in lies the connection. God knows how much money they must dish out for his work, but I for one thing it’s worth every penny.