You’ve probably been told “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The same might go for beer, but we’re pretty sure that people do it anyway. A small craft brewery might have the best beer in three states, but no one will take notice unless it has an eye-catching label.
A craft beer label design doesn’t need to be super-hipster or have a “gimmick,” but it does need to have at least one design element that will entice you to either visit the brewery or try the beer elsewhere. Let’s take a look at some good examples of small craft breweries that are doing it right.
1. River Horse
Location: Ewing Township, New Jersey
Chris and Glenn, the owners of River Horse, are matter-of-fact about how they became brewers: They were self-described “finance geeks” who wore suits and spent their days in office cubicles. Brewing a craft beer is much closer to their hearts, though, and the designs that they choose for their labels demonstrate the down-home, Earthy quality that embodies the personality of their brewery.
River Horse craft beer labels have an almost childlike quality, with hand-drawn, simple illustrations. The hippo logo dates back to the ancient Egyptians’ hieroglyphics, but River Horse takes a fresh approach by modifying the hippo based upon the flavor of the beer. As a design element, it grabs the customer’s attention, adds continuity across products and draws you in to take a better look and, hopefully, sample their beers!
2. Grimm Artisanal Ales
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Grimm is a “nomadic” brewery, which means that the brewers develop each recipe in their own kitchen, then travel to other breweries in order to craft their beer. They call the beer “concise” and “elegant,” and the labels they use are in keeping with that vision.
One of the first things a Grimm beer drinker will notice is the common theme among its labels. The typeface for the brand is a clean san-serif font. The designs have a Keith Haring-style quality to them; simple, like a cartoon, but with depth and texture. Graphic designer Gretta Johnson creates the illustrations in collaboration with the owners in order to have a unique look for each bottle matching each brew. The look that the labels display lets the consumer know that there might be more to this beer than meets the eye.
3. Left Hand Brewing Co.
Location: Longmont, Colorado
This brewery is the epitome of Colorado. Founders Dick Doore and Eric Wallace are fun, outdoorsy, always on-the-go people who have created beer that they call a “unique flavor experience.”
Left Hand’s labels perfectly reflect the personality of the brewery. As the name suggests, it’s a little bit outside the mainstream. Left Hand’s website gives the feel that these people are always on the move, looking for the next bit of excitement, and are happy with just a little chaos thrown in. However, the brewery focuses on one thing: balance, which is reflected in these designs.
It’s an interesting design choice because they do exactly what the brewery does – while there’s a lot going on, some of it seemingly in contrast with other things—there’s still a symmetrical quality to each, and that’s where the concept of balance is clear.
4. Evil Twin Brewing
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Evil Twin prides itself on creating rare, unique blends. The offerings have a distinctly international flair, which is reflected by both the themes of the designs and the unique tastes of its beer.
These Evil Twin labels have a retro look to them; the colors are sharp, the typeface bold and the shapes clean and striking. Martin Justensen’s designs convey the nationality or personality of the beer it labels, and while you’re always in for a unique taste experience, the labels can help influence your pairing choices.
5. Stone Brewing Stochasticity Project
Location: Escondido, California
“Offbeat” might be the best word to describe the beer coming from Stone Brewing Co. Visiting the website, you can see that these people are scientists as much as they are brewers, and it’s that passion for mixology that’s the basis for their beer.
These labels demonstrate the brewers’ affinity for science; they want to share their passion with constellations and semi-geometric patterns. Regardless of how you view it, there’s a sci-fi feel that is certain to attract a specific type of beer drinking audience.
6. Coney Island Brewing Co.
Location: Coney Island, New York
What do you imagine when you hear “Coney Island”? For some of us, it’s the heyday of Brooklyn, the exhilaration of a roller coaster ride, the sticky sweetness of cotton candy or the savory delight of a juicy hot dog. That’s what the Coney Island Brewing Co. is all about.
These labels tell you exactly what you need to know – that drinking this beer will be a nostalgic experience. The circus or carnival motif runs throughout, in everything from the typefaces they use to the images of animals, the fortuneteller or the amusement park, itself. All of their designs try to capture and celebrate the romance and fun that is synonymous with New York City’s landmark that is Coney Island.
7. Shmaltz Brewing Company
Location: Clifton Park, New York
Shmaltz Brewing opened its upstate New York operation in 2013 and now has a 50-barrel brewhouse with a 20,000-barrel annual capacity.
These labels are created by Matt Polacheck, who also designed Coney Island Brewery’s labels. They exude fun with a gimmick—typefaces that mimic Hebrew-style lettering, so it keeps with the tone of the brewery’s theme and personality.
8. Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Location: Somerville, Massachusetts
These brewers draw their own labels, and it definitely looks like a labor of love. Well, that and the fact that they sleep in their cars on summer nights in order to get up at 3am to start brewing!
What’s interesting about Pretty Things’ labels is that each is so different. The logo is consistent on each one, but the rest of the design is tailored to match what’s unique in each batch.
9. Westbrook Brewing Co.: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Location: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
This brewery gives off a decidedly down-home feel; the website has photos of brewers with big smiles and a relaxed vibe.
The style of Westbrook Brewing beer labels is much like the brewery, itself. Unadorned, simple, but likable. The circular design is unique, and we like that each has its own color with little else but a simple image and the name of the beer.
10. Elysian Brewing
Location: Seattle, Washington
Elysian Brewing = modern Seattle. Elysian is attractive to locals and tourists alike, due to its main location in a large entertainment complex that is owned by Universal Studios, Dreamworks and Sega. It also has an offshoot to its “empire” that is in between Seattle’s two major sports arenas. Elysian can offer over twenty beers between its multiple locations.
Elysian, as a brewery, is bold. That’s reflected in the designs that it chooses for its labels. What makes the brand easy to spot for its drinkers is that it uses the “Elysian” logo on every label, even if the actual designs are drastically different. That way, they can take advantage of some major design inspirations without losing brand identity.
11. Twisted X Brewing Company
Location: Dripping Springs, Texas
Hailing from the Lone Star state, Twisted X Brewery is proud to be the “birth of Tex Mex beer.” These brewers use local ingredients to create a unique beer with a distinctly Texan flavor.
These labels have a dark tone; they take “twisted” very seriously! With motifs that include skeletons and dark characters, they convey a very alternative vibe – this beer is not for the casual beer drinker. This beer is for the beer connoisseur who is looking for something off the beaten path.
12. Jester King Brewery
Location: Austin, Texas
Jester King is an “authentic farmhouse” that makes wild ales and spontaneously fermented beers. The brewery prides itself on using well water, locally grown grains and native wild yeast.
The labels on Jester King beer do impart a sense of “wild”. There’s a lot of intricate design, and they are attentive to natural themes. While each has a distinct color scheme, they all channel the feelings of the wild and natural themes present in the beer.
13. Half Acre Beer Co.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Half Acre Beer has a distinctly edgy vibe with humble beginnings. They pride themselves on a hardscrabble background that has evolved into a functioning, though still young brewery.
These labels don’t demonstrate a specific brand commonality, though they have a certain youthfulness to them. Each label has an urban personality that reflects the brewery’s current Chicago location, but stays true to its own design elements that are influenced by the specific type of beer.
14. Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Lakefront Brewery has seasonal and year-round beer, along with organic and gluten-free varieties and additional limited release offerings.
These designs are clean, with sharp lines, bold colors and soothing designs. They’re eye-catching, but clear. While the logo is not apparent on each label, they definitely have a similar theme throughout.
Of course, we can’t forget what our own 99designs community has come up with!
15. Himmel Hund
Himmel Hund was founded by a woman who was completing her university education and brewing beer simultaneously! The brewery works to grow all of its ingredients itself and sources local products when needed.
99designs designer derekfenech used the brewer’s family crest to create this label’s logo. She sees the logo as making her own history. Her catchphrase is: “Seasonally refreshing. Naturally.” The cool blue of the design draws on the “natural” theme to the beer, and also stunningly emphasizes the logo.
16. Dry Dock Brewing
Dry Dock is a “speakeasy that hasn’t stopped growing.” It was the first brewery in Aurora, Colorado in 2005 and the brewer has a love of nautical history. Owners Kevin DeLange and Michelle Reding opened as a 7 barrel brewing system in 900 square feet next to their first business, which was a home brew supply shop. The tongue-in-cheek “speakeasy” aspect to its personality is that Dry Dock was established by word of mouth, but it has grown to an award-winning brewery.
Each Dry Dock beer label has the gold ribbon that has become its logo. It embraces the brewery’s nautical theme, and gives the brand a recognizable, colorful design.
17. Bowigens Beer Company
Contest: Help local Craft Brewery with an Awesome Logo! BEER!
Bowigens’ focus is on quality, not quantity. It’s a brand new brewery opened by long-time buddies who met in an Orlando-area band. When they tired of the music scene, they decided to settle down and begin a new adventure.
The Bowigens’ label design is simple, but not ordinary. It stays true to its roots as a brewery borne to music lovers, with a guitar handle cleverly placed as the stem of the hops flower. The slogan, “Recrafting Perceptions,” catches the eye and draws you in so that you do just that – recraft your perception of what you thought you were going see.
18. Deep Brewing Company
The Deep Brewing philosophy is that its logo had to have an ultra-hip design, and that the branding is almost as important as the beer itself. 99designs’ Widakk created the deep sea-inspired logo for its ability to stand out and inspire a super-recognizable brand for a memorable beer experience (this was also our ULTIMATE Top 9 design of 2014!).
19. 10th District Brewing
10th District is a not-yet-open brewery that’s putting all the nuts and bolts in place for a big opening!
BIERMARK designed these labels with a simple, clean logo that is set to make a lasting impression. As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression—so BIERMARK set out to create a label that will make a splash right when this brewery opens; recognizable and memorable are key traits when establishing a brand-new brand.
Craft breweries are a burgeoning industry and the design and labeling can be as unique as the beer itself. If you’ve been caught by an especially engaging label or craft beer logo, we want to know about it! Share your favorites with us – we love to discover new designs!