If you love craft beer, you know design matters.
Craft breweries have upped the beer game and delivered better-tasting brews to discerning drinkers. But the craft beer scene has also ushered in a new realm — and a new canvas — for artists and designers.
Many breweries dedicate just as much time and effort into their beer, as the design of the can or bottle in which it’s held. We talked to Fargo-based designer Nathaniel Navratil about the artistic process behind designing a beer label, and raise a glass to a few of our favorites.
The artistic process (hint: it takes more than sipping beer)
Nathaniel Navratil, an award-winning designer who specializes in brand identity and illustration, said designing a beer can first takes research — and research beyond just beer-tasting.
“First doing your research on what the competition looks like—especially locally. The last thing you want to do is look exactly like a brewery across town,” he said in an interview with Artistic Fuel. “Having a good grasp on the personality of the brewery is really key to designing a can with the right aesthetic.”
It’s important to talk to the folks at the brewery to help decide whether the brewery name or the style of beer should take precedent in the design, Navratil said. It also helps to know if this be a one-off design or the start of a series.
Navratil recently designed a beer can concept for a series of brews called The WEEKENDER. The line up, dubbed the Session Series, includes a lager, pale ale, india pale ale, and a sour.
“This concept was to be a timeless, text based concept that focused on the simple and comical aspect of the name,” he said. “I knew right from the beginning this was going to be a series, so we used color and printing techniques as the main differentiator of the styles.”
Cheers to design
We could fill a hefty coffee table book with our favorite beer can and label designs. But, since it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, we’ll keep our list to five of the most unique designs we’ve seen lately.
1) New Hokkaido
Artist Emile Holmewood, of BloodBros illustrated this beauty for Tokyo-based New Hokkaido brewery. The design is based on the legendary Snow Lady known as Yukki Onna.
“She’s an ice-cold heartbreaker,” Holmewood wrote of the design on Instagram.
2) Drekker Brewing
We love almost everything that comes out of Drekker Brewing in Fargo, North Dakota. Yes, their double IPAs are worth a trip up north. But their can designs are just as special. Here’s one of our favorites: Agent of Anarchy.
The man behind the design, and behind most of Drekker’s art work, is designer and illustrator Matt Mastrud. Mastrud, also known as PunchGut, creates work for clients all over the world, and just happens to live in North Dakota.
3) Archetype Brewing Co.
This gem has received accolades far beyond the borders of its home in Asheville, North Carolina. Archetype Brewing‘s design for its American lager, called Cowboy Poet, was rated the best beer can design of 2020 by the readers of USA Today.
Every can of beer from Archetype Brewing features a haiku. The Cowboy Poet can reads, “Tumbleweeds and blood, spent my last coin on lager, my wives are angry.”
4) Flying Dog Brewery
Flying Dog Brewery, based in Frederick, Maryland, has always been known for its in-your-face beer flavors, names, and designs.
The artwork on Flying Dog’s labels are designed by artist Ralph Steadman, best known as the illustrator of the works of Hunter S. Thompson, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His Flying Dog artwork usually depicts twisted imaginations of dogs with wings, with bright and vibrant colors.
As the folks at Flying Brewery say, “We embrace the weirrrd and view craft beer as an art form unlike any other.”
5) Crooked Run Brewery
Crooked Run Brewery doesn’t mess around. With everything they do — from their flavor profiles to their designs — they go big and they go bold.
The brewery, with two locations in Northern Virginia, recently released what they called “the perfect summertime sour.” And with it, comes a beer can design just as refreshing.
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.