When the weather warms up, the arctic length of the supermarket beer aisle starts to beckon. And every year, when we venture over, we are amazed by the amount of design talent on display. Moreover, it is clear that the trends in beer label design are always changing.

The growth of the craft beer (a.k.a. artisanal, a.k.a. micro-brewed, a.k.a. small batch, whatever) industry appears to be unstoppable. In fact, there are so many bottles to choose from now, almost all of them thoughtfully designed, that it has become rather difficult for any one to stand out. Is it still possible to do so on the basis of a particularly good beer label design alone?

We think so.

Here is our trend observation: the best examples of beer label design today do not take the middle road. They are either distinctly maximal (colorful, visually loud, eclectic and full of attitude) or minimal (confidently spare, geometric, typography-oriented, exuding elegance). Below we’ve rounded up our favorite recent examples of each type.

The maximalists

Half Acre Beer

Half Acre’s cans are illustrated to the hilt, bursting with color and attitude. There is not much of an underlying aesthetic other than that. Rather, the cans draw on an eclectic array of imagery suited to each beer and its individual name.

Half acre beer label design
Design for the Akari American Wheat Ale can (via Half Acre Beer)

Hitachino Nest Beer

This series by Kiuchi brewery is on the more reserved end of the maximalist spectrum, but qualifies nonetheless thanks to its eye-catching combinations of groovy, psychedelic typefaces and color combinations, all arrayed around one winsome owl.

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Hitachino Nest Beer bottles (via Hey There Hop Stuff)

Gypsy Inc.

This Danish brewer‘s simple logo belies a label aesthetic that is all about color. Simple, comic-like illustration and super saturated Pop Art hues make these labels visually leap off shelves.

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A mix of beers from Gypsy and Mikkeller breweries

Mikkeller

Also Danish, Mikkeller brewery is the master of maximalist eclecticism. Their labels run the gamut from found image appropriation to illustration, typically in a highly graphic style in vivid neon color. You can read an interview with the designer here.

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Beer labels for Mikkeller

Silver City Brewery

Silver City‘s Sieben Bräu takes a more polished, but nonetheless gripping, approach to illustration. Following in the footsteps of craft beer design leaders like 21st Amendment Brewery, the image here is extremely detailed and makes use of the whole space of the can.

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Silver City’s Sieben Bräu (via Brewbound)

The minimalists

Cargo Brewery

For Cargo, a Queenstown, New Zealand-based brewery “with Scottish soul,” the design agency makebardo created a supremely elegant packaging scheme rooted in the visual hallmarks of copper foil and crystalline geometry.

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Label designs for Cargo Brewery (via Oh Beautiful Beer)

Kagua

This line from Far Yeast Brewing Company comes in only two versions, Blanc and Rouge. Complementing this simplicity of choice is an equally simple wordmark logo, characterized by a circular ring and the rounded forms of a capitalized sans serif typeface.

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Kagua beer labels (via Pechakucha)

Mikkeller Pale Spring Ale

Yes, this is the same Mikkeller known for loud color and brash imagery. For this pale ale, however, they decided to take the minimalist approach in collaboration with the Spanish design agency Bedow. This beguilingly simple design is printed on heat sensitive paper: when cold it forms a snowflake; when warm, it fades into the shape of a sun.

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Mikkeller Pale Spring Ale (via Bedow)

Ippon Matsu

A charitable venture rather than a proper brewery, Ippon Matsu (which means “one pine tree”) donated the proceeds of its beer sales to tsunami relief efforts after the 2011 earthquake in northern Japan. The powerful simplicity of its design, which represents a tree as well as upward arrows signifying progress, offers a lesson in beer label minimalism for brewers and designers everywhere.

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Ippon Matsu bottles (via Ippon Matsu)

What do you think, should beer label design veer farther toward the extremes of maximal and minimal, or stick with a more balanced approach?