The world of craft brewing is crowded. And growing. In Australia there are now well over 100 microbreweries, with more launched each month. Either in redesigned abandoned warehouse spaces or plying their trade ‘gypsy-brewing’ (renting equipment in established breweries), each addition to the brewing landscape makes it harder to stand out, harder to find a niche, and harder to compete for taps at pubs and shelf space at bottle shops.
However, the new breed of craft brewers are often seen as the ‘punks’ of the brewing world – out to transform our conceptions of what is possible in a beer. They’ve got attitude, and with attitude comes experimentation.
Such an approach has led many to change their bottles from simply mere containers for beer into works of art – recognizing that beer isn’t just an alcoholic beverage, it’s a culture formed around story-telling and a sense of place.
Taking cues from city and country history, pop art icons, the history of breweries themselves, breweries these days seek to recruit local artists to design beer labels. The new ‘hip’ craft-beer drinking crowd has interest at odds with the ‘traditional’ beer drinker and breweries are out to please their clientele.
BrewDog (http://www.brewdog.com/) in Scotland have been pushing the boundaries of beer for many years and produce outstanding artwork to match. One of their most famous offerings was the beer label for their Sunk Punk IPA (http://www.johannabasford.com/blog-article/302) – a hand-drawn pen-and-ink creation by Johanna Basford outlining the creation of the beer.
In Mexico, Cerveceria Sagrada invited designer Jose Guizar to create a series of labels celebrating the countries rich Lucha Libre history. Considered folk heroes in the 1950’s, the masks worn by famous wrestlers adorns the breweries beers. (http://www.joseguizar.com/cerveceria-sagrada.html)
One of the more innovative designs seen is Dolina – a craft beer from Spain inspired by archeological sites. Each bottle has a scratch-off matte-gold foil concealing an illustration of a skull; the design seeking to inspire drinkers to ‘make their own discovery’. (http://moruba.es/dolina-3/)
Australia isn’t immune to the trend either, with Moo Brew sporting artworks by Australian artist John Kelly that are striking, iconic and instantly recognizable. (http://moobrew.com.au/the-art/) Additionally, Malt Shovel Brewery themselves transformed their range in 2011 when they launched their rebranded James Squire beers – each label telling part of the story behind James Squire – one of the first brewers in Australia and a man whose life was indeed memorable.
Next time you walk through your local bottle-shop in search of a new drinking experience, stop and explore the labels more closely – not only will you gain an appreciation for artists and their creations, but your tasting of the beer will be all the more memorable for having gained an understanding into its story.
What’s your favourite beer label art? Let me know below!