The label tells us what we’re drinking, who made it, the ABV and all the other legal requirements, but when I’m scanning our fridges, shelves, or online shop to select my next brew it’s rare that I am focusing on words. Instead, as though wandering through a gallery, I am taking in the images.
Even when I am hunting for a specific brewery it’s the logo, an image, that I am trying to pick out from the crowd. And in a world of over 19,000 breweries, at Carwyn alone we have hundreds of breweries and nearly 1000 beers in our shop at any given time, its important to stand out in the crowd. And what stands out to one person may completely fall off the radar of another. The artwork of a label. complex, intelligent, highly creative, and extremely important decision every brewery must make. and sometimes make again.
When I found my passion for beer I fell in love with a brewery that, I thought, hit home runs with every beer they brewed and who had, in my opinion, the BEST labels. Now, my palate and my knowledge has expanded in the years since and I consider the brewery, like all of them, to have some hits and some misses. I now think that I was so enamored by their labelling, honestly still am, and because of that wanted the drink to be just as good. My judgement of the drink was clouded behind the art work. To this day I still get this deep feeling of hope (desperation?) that I’m going to love their beers. That brewery is To Øl.
Image: To Øl Beer
To Øl has worked with a singular artist, Kasper Ledet, since its inception and now presides over all things design as the company’s Art Director and Graphic Designer. Each can differs from the next and yet there is a cohesion in style across the whole line. When grazing the beer selection at a bottle-o I can spot the To Øl brews whether they are new releases or old ones I am not familiar with. My eyes lock on the can and I find my hand reaching into the fridge, as if by some invisible force, to see if its something I feel like drinking.
Image: Garage Project
Garage Project has a different approach to their label artwork and use a different designer for each beer. A decision they were told “was tantamount to brand suicide”. I must admit, however much I enjoyed their labels, when I was first introduced to GP it drove me nuts that I couldn’t easily identify them from the pack, but I now consider it a very clever move on their part. The artists they choose are very talented and each can catches your eye. Numerous times I found myself drawn to a bottle thinking ‘oooh I like the look of that, who’s this new brewery?’ only to find out they were not new at all. In this, I have probably picked up more Garage Project beers than any other brewery in our shop. I have also come to the point where when I see a label I don’t recognize my brain clicks in and goes ‘ah I bet that’s Garage Project’. Somehow in not unifying their labelling, they have created an identifiable brand. There’s no doubt about it, that is extremely clever!
Garage Project are aware of the importance of their art and artists and created a book that showcases their labels and the stories behind them called The Art of Beer.
When you can’t see, smell or taste the product it’s the artwork that gravitates you towards it. I have bought beers purely because I enjoy the look of them on the shelf, because it lends me some sense of nostalgia, some sense of who I am, or who I want to be. I have also done the opposite, and scorned breweries for looking, shall we say, unpleasant. Even if the product is tasty it puts me off wanting to purchase it. There’s a world of marketing and psychology here in which I am uneducated and ill-prepared to flesh out but I never fail to find fascinating.
Whether a brewery is committing to common thread within their designs or constantly switching it up, a brewery’s labels are, you might say, as important as the beer inside them.