July 16, 2010

More Label Art: Pretty Things, Breckenridge, Terrapin, New Belgium and Stillwater

While I've got some time, the clearout of (reasonably) old labels continues:

There's a new addition to the New Belgium Lips of Faith series, the Sahti:
As you may recall, many of the other Lips of Faith labels share the kind of silkscreen look that we see here, with clear small shapes comprising the image rather than fluid, continuous lines. I actually like this a lot. In addition to fitting the Asiatic style, I like how the asymmetry of the art moves the eye, and I especially like continuing the tree behind the text field. Little things like that make a label so much more interesting; just imagine it without that small continuation of the tree branch and you'll see it becomes far more prosaic in a hurry.

Let's look at the new Pretty Things label that launched last month, the American Darling:
The art here is a play on the idea of the "lawnmower beer," a low-alcohol, fizzy, refreshing beer to drink in hot weather (presumably while mowing the lawn). Such a description is a backhanded compliment from many beer geeks, though they'll be quick to tell you how it's not bad that a beer is like that while they reach for a 11% abv double IPA. (Ed. I'd go on a rant, but a Twitter conversation this week with the people at Notch Session Ale got it out of me. You're welcome.)

From the press release:
Made with German pilsner malt, the 7.0% abv beer is often described by the folks at Pretty Things as an ‘un-lawnmower beer’ i.e. not yellow fizz, but good on a hot day. It’s just a really nice hoppy lager for the summer time.
The childlike imagery often employed by Dann Paquette's "gypsy brewery" fits this idea very well. The lawnmower, the vines on the siding of the house in the background, even the floating seeds are nice and summery but one can't escape the feeling of a scene that is vaguely, well, creepy. The misshapen perspective of the mower, the exaggerated blades of grass and flower petals... This is a friendly lawnmower beer, maybe, but a strange one.

Their Field Mouse's Farewell is a little more straightforward:
This label is a study in effective use of contrast. The bright mouse on the dark background, the center-bottom focal point against the strong vertical lines of the grain stalks that point up to the lettering, the slight left skew of the mouse to the moon at top right, and even the adorableness of the rodent against the sad, lonely night of the rest of the image all make it a successful, ethos-rich piece.

A Beer for Hope is a nonprofit that works with craft breweries to release a beer yearly. This year's was a Belgian Scotch Ale by Terrapin:
There is another label, but I wanted to use Terrapin's. The strength and weakness of this design is color palette. It's bright. Really bright. That makes sense for a hopeful beer, and the imagery of the bird with the hops atop purple flowers (a nice play on the dove with the olive branch from the Noah story) is certainly upbeat. But it's tough when there's this much brightness with little to balance it. The green on the sides isn't dark enough to really mute it, and the blue sky is bright enough that this label could start to hurt your eyes after a while. I generally love Terrapin's art, but I wonder if this is too much eye-catching color. Of course, I can't get this beer, so those comments could all be useless thanks to computer rendering (if anyone wants to send me a picture of the actual label on a bottle, that'd be great. Or, you know, just send a bottle.)

Breckenridge Brewery released a label for a limited edition Regal Double Pilsner:
This is intricate enough to be reminscent of some of the new Left Hand labels, although the imagery is more distinct and less painterly. It's really just a bunch of gold lions on a red-brown backdrop. I find myself wishing for more easter eggs here, like we see at Left Hand. Instead, symmetrical the image gets less interesting the more you look at it; the lions are almost identical on each side. Would it have killed them to mix it up and put in some fun things that you had to look to see? Still, cool looking and definitely gets the point of the beer across.

One more? Okay, since you asked nicely.

The Stillwater Artisanal Ales Cellar Door, a reference to the supposedly most beautiful phrase in the English language (credit J.R.R. Tolkein and the movie Donnie Darko, among others, for that belief):
It's not an overly ambitious label on first blush, but it does a lot. It incorporates the name of the beer, the idea of the summer farmhouse beer, the ethos of the mythology around the name, and the brewery's brand all seamlessly and maintains an elegance.

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