August 31, 2010

Four Labels That Are Just Too Weird

So I've mostly highlighted label art and beer design that I like, and that's successful. That's because I want to stay positive, and there's a lot of good stuff out there, and I don't want to put up a label and say "this stinks," which is unhelpful. Still, I thought it might be worth looking at a few examples of label art that tries to do something interesting and ambitious, but in so doing fails to make much sense or really produce a strong piece.

The very macho Pyramid has their even-more-macho-than-normal Juggernaut out for fall:
The juggernaut in this instance is a train. Or maybe the guy running next to the train. Who cares? There are sharp angles and warm colors! Can't you feel the excitement? It makes me want to find a train, run alongside it, and go get acquired by a private equity beverage conglomerate with operations in Western New York. Seriously, what's going on here? This beer tastes like a train? This does not help me understand the product.

Then there's Buckeye, which produced this very strange label for their Zatek:
Uh, so the beer is "dark and rich" like an alien? Or is it "dark and rich" like Ohio and a strange creature with roots? The beer is an imperial stout, I can see after a few minutes of searching text and random shapes, but I am still waiting for the mothership. Look, I love how strange Buckeye's b-movie influenced artwork is, I love the attempt to go black and white, and I love sci-fi, but this is too creepy even for me. Seriously, Cleveland, I like the effort to do something different, but I think this label scared LeBron away.

Speaking of weird, simplistic art, let's look at the Mikkeller-Brewdog collab, I Hardcore You:
The beer is a fusion of two IPAs, and the image is a surprisingly sweet look for two notoriously stark and intense breweries, and then you realize the people are naked. Is this Adam and Eve? A post-coital drink under a tree? Nudists with a goblet? And the whole blue-on-sea green color scheme gives it an even stranger look. This might actually be a success, given the strange design tastes of the collaborators, but this label makes me feel pervy, not hot.

Oh, you want weird collaborative art? Okay, for that we turn to this work by the Collaborative Evil group (founded by FiftyFifty, Lucky Bucket, and Oaskhire Brewing Companies):
As you can see, this yearly brewer's version of the session is a Baltic Imperial Porter. Apparently, the beer is strong, dark, Communist, and involves something that looks like a grim reaper with a rake being shot by Red Army soldier. Also note planes of two different eras dropping bombs, and a third Lenin face in the lower right in the space around the big L. Yes, that quasi-Cyrillic unreadable text says "collaborative evil." Lots going on, lots of red, not a lot of making sense.

I guess Communism is evil? Or collaborative? Or Baltic? Maybe Imperial? I assume a lot of beer went into this design. More specifically, a lot of beer went into the people who designed it, right before they went to work.

August 27, 2010

The Clown Shoes Label Art Rundown

Let's take a look at all of the current labels by the Massachusetts brewery Clown Shoes.
The Hoppy Feet Black IPA artwork is mostly defined by how weird it is. The shoes are huge (obviously), the background is like a bad linoleum, the bright red and yellow fade brings out the harshest colors in the pint-hoisting, slick-haired character (is it just me, or is he the devil?), and the lettering has to be outlined in white to avoid causing seizures. And I fully believe all of it is intentional, aiming to create the disconcerting effect one might expect from a brewery called "Clown Shoes." It's well-designed; just not exactly comfortable to look at for extended periods of time.

The Eagle Claw Fist shares basically no design elements at all with the Hoppy Feet, aside from the ridiculous shoes from whence the brewery derives its name. If the figure looks like he might be better schooled in Karate Kid than Issinryu. As the label says, this is "kung fu, junior high playground style"
The Brown Angel uses color contrast brilliantly, to make the angel still seem radiant and angelic despite a darker color than the backdrop and lingerie. The clown shoes are a nice touch, but the light reflection in the small of the back and the rightward radiating beams are what pull the label together.

Sadly, I couldn't find a great quality image for the Clementine, but the major elements are still clear. The use of color again shoes an intelligence in design. Any time you can make one shade of blue stand out from another, you're managing your color palette well. The blue and green make the orange pop to the point where it looks like there's a lot more clementine color than there actually is in the piece. The slanted lines in the Earth and the counter-prevailing ribbons keep the image interesting with a sense of movement.

So, in the Clown Shoes oeuvre (art crit term for "body of work") we see cohesion, but not in subject matter (aside from the shoes) or composition. Rather, the work is defined by a consistently subtle use of color and movement in the pieces, and, of course, a hallmark sense of humor and irony.

August 25, 2010

Three Label Designs By Terrapin and Sam Adams

Terrapin and Sam Adams have both provided me with some fodder recently. I thought, given how different the breweries and businesses are, it might make a decent contrast for the post.

Terrapin, as you may remember, is the Atlanta college suburb of Athens, and uses tons of bright color, bold flavors, collaborations and different artists for their work. The challenge there, of course, is consistent branding in the midst of variety.
First, I love any beer that references Outkast in its name. Second, you have to give them credit for sticking to their guns. That's the greenest label I may ever have seen. Nice use of limited red and blue to make the green that much more intense. Like a lot of Terrapin's art, I'm not sure it's something I want to look at for a long time, but it's effective.

You may remember their efforts to raise some money of the rebuilding of the Georgia Theatre. Here is their third in the four-beer series, Sound Czech:
Similar to the others, with a theatre theme, bottom and top bars of images, and strong compositional elements to highlight the framed character. The speakers work well as an outside-the-frame piece, and the olive color makes the red and yellow stand out.

Here's a piece by Richard Biffle, who does some of Terrapin's work.
It's an adorable farmer turtle with pumpkins. Nice use of the fall and sepia tones to create an appropriate mood.

Okay, so as small, Southern, varied and loud as Terrapin is, Boston Beer Company (d/b/a Sam Adams) is (by craft beer standards) enormous, corporate, Northeast, and conservative.

The Sam Adams look has not changed much at all in it's 25-year history. So you can imagine my interest when they unveiled a new look for their Imperial Series. For these, it's best to look at them all at once:
As you can see, the labels are carefully constructed and designed to appear as one. They use a historic look (no Outkast references here) appropriate for a beer named after a 18th Century patriot. The most obvious choice is the composition they all have in common, an off-center black field with old-style lettering on the left, and a pencil outline image in a circle, surrounded by a darker shade of the background color on the right.

The back label looks like this:
In art, as in beer, there's a temptation to say that bigger is better. Certainly, I've mentioned this in the past, and a quick look at the top beer list for BeerAdvocate or Ratebeer will conclude that more hops, more flavor, more outlandish ingredients, and more ABV equal better in many drinkers' minds.

But just as in beer, that reasoning is lazy, wrongheaded, and - if we stop and think about it for a minute - the very definition of unsophisticated. Are none of the 50 best beers in the world lagers? Most serious beer people would say "of course not." And similarly, while there is value in diverse style and bright character that jumps off the shelf, there is also value in controlled, subdued design (remember Samurai Artist's work yesterday).

The key is picking virtues appropriate for the medium and subject. A massive, hoppy explosion can be good for a double IPA but would make a crappy kolsch. Likewise, Outkast references would not add life to Sam Adams' beers, they would dilute a hard-built brand and potentially confuse consumers. Meanwhile, if Terrapin were to buckle down, use one artist and keep everything in the same tightly controlled composition and brand standards, it would not solidify the brand, it would remove the vibrancy that is so crucial to the company's character.

So we have two totally different label arrays by two totally different breweries, and we therefore see two totally different - and equally effective - strategies for branching out from existing brands.

August 22, 2010

Five by Foothills Brewing

We've seen a decent amount of poster and propaganda influence in beer label art. Some of it, like that by Hopworks, seems to be fairly self-aware of its origins. Other times, the influences can be more subtle and simply inform a style that the brewery uses as part of its brand. The hallmarks of that style are large, bold color fields, heroic figures (heroic meaning there is one single, central element), and a background designed to focus attention on the main image (usually through radiating lines, or a low crowded element beneath a big, elevating sky).

The Winston-Salem, NC brewery Foothills Brewing is one of those breweries that has embraced some of the elements (mostly) without using them as a send-up in the design. (All images via beernews.org)
So this is the Baltic Porter, and we get a label that both fits the Nordic idea of a Baltic porter, and the heroic character of the worker propaganda art style. What's nice here (and in other Foothills work) is color. We see a lovely shade of ice blue that's dark enough to make the secondary silver work. Then they use the pink of the heroine's outfit to really pop against the cool color scheme. Incidentally, it also makes the yellow logo jump out. The only issue is that the lettering, which works really well on the bottom, kind of gets lost amidst the snow/staff/crowned head at the top.

Let's look at Foothills' take on that most overused image of craft beer, the hop.
The Hoppyum IPA label actually manages to make an old subject seem different. The stylizing manages to somehow glorify the hop without glorifying hoppiness (not that the beer is short on that, I'm sure). But the hops look more like noble plants than the objects of sticky, spicy grotesquerie that we see so often. Again, we see the color scheme working well for Foothills. The sage green, brown and oranges all work well and keep with the polished, stylized look.

Remember I said they mostly do not use the style as a sendup?
Okay, so this one shows that they're obviously aware of the style. This guy may as well have come off a Solidarity poster. He even looks a little like a young Lech Walesa, actually, hoisting his beer in freedom and brotherhood and a feeling of something decidedly lefty. Still though, fun as it is, they stay true to the style and composition they've established: Heroic figure, limited color palette, contrasting colors that go together, and a backdrop of distinct color fields
All right, I am going to assume that the badass viking's name is Torch, due in part to the fiery color of his beard. Anyway, this is great use of a warm color palette, making the label bright, interesting and making the hero fearsome-looking. It's simple but still dynamic, though, as Torch's profile image draws our gaze off the canvas (onto the beer next to it?) and the color gradations suggest movement in his hair.

And finally, we see the same elements in the most '70s of the labels (definitely more on the poster than the propaganda side), the Sexual Chocolate:
I like the logo as the woman's necklace. In fact, they should explore doing that more often, as the yellow circle can only fit in so many places. They even manage to make the lettering stand out when it's red-on-red.

All in all, good solid stuff from Foothills, which produces a consistent style of varied but distinctive design work.

August 19, 2010

Samurai Artist's Upright Late Harvest Art

It's pretty rare that I'll devote an entire post to one label, but I will for Ezra Johnson-Greenough, aka Samurai Artist, who does work for Upright Brewing among others. You may remember his Four Play label, one of my first posts, that had the topless woman and butterflies on it. His blog recently posted the process work for the Late Harvest seasonal.

The piece emerges as one of the strongest I've seen in the medium, particularly because it achieves a tone and emotion that most beer label art shies away from. Far from a bright juicy hop or an aggressive skull or a colorful attempt to grab attention, the Late Harvest image holds our interest because it engenders real feelings and sentiment that go with the theme of the beer.

We start with the form, which in this case is a black-and-white drawing. For those of you unfamiliar with art, hands are tough, so a close-up of a hand in the process of opening or closing around grains is not an easy piece. Here, Samurai Artist handles it well. We get three-dimensionality, movement, and realism before we even add color.
Adding some color enhances the realism and depth, and makes those floating grains make a little more sense. It also shows us how he's envisioning this piece in regard to the idea of a "Late Harvest". The straight browns and tans color palette is making this a very fall image already.
So we add more brown, and now this is as autumnal an image as we can imagine. The radiating colors make the hand (now the lightest thing on the canvas) stand out, and the light hand makes the darker grains stand out against it. We see just hints of texture in the corners of the background, but the central backdrop remains a deep, untextured brown that makes the creases in the grasping hand stand out.
In its final incarnation, the yellow lettering frames the hand and (with the exception of the "har" against the wrist) stands out against the brown. We lose a little of the escaping grain, but the hand-drawn lettering heightens the emotional tone of the piece. The realistic reaching hand, the escaping grains, the autumnal color tones, and the hand-carved lettering all work to conjure feelings of nostalgia and even, maybe, some wistful loss (that's me; maybe you see a hand releasing grains in a sort of happy freeing motion).

Either way, the point is that this does what a lot of label design is afraid to do, which is trust a subdued and beautiful piece to stand out against a wall of bright attention-grabbers. Tough to do, but the Samurai Artist pulled it off, and Upright Brewing ran with it (which is just as important; lots of great label art gets scrapped before you ever see it). Cheers to both parties, because work like this is what inspired me to start this blog.

Cigar City Label Art Roundup

One of the undoubted success stories in recent craft beer invasions has been Tampa's Cigar City Brewing. Florida as a state generally made pretty mediocre craft beer for a long time, but there's no question that Cigar City is now one of the leaders in a state whose craft beer scene is on the rise.

Right, right, but what's their art like?

Their specialty beer series is called the humidor series, in keeping with the name and theme. They age their beers in cedar (the wood used for keeping cigars). The label for these beers:
As you can see, the first thing that jumps out at you is the color scheme - all reds, yellows and browns. The sepia-toned images give you the sense of a brewery steeped in history. The ornate H continues the old-timey thematics, and we see plenty of elements pointing to an antiquarian image, from the curving frame to the ribbons around the logo.

Let's look at one of their beers (incidentally, one I got to try last night):
Maduro is the name for a dark tobacco leaf used to wrap certain cigars (yes, I was into cigars for a while) that give it a darker, roastier flavor. In the label art for the Maduro Brown Ale, we see some similar elements: a consistent earthtone color palette (this time brown, black and gold), a penchant for historical imagery (crown, wheat stalks, Gothic text), and a reference to cigars (the background and tobacco leaves that form the circle frame. Well controlled, and conveys the dark roasty flavor of the (delicious) beer.

But what about a departure? Well, there's the white-oak aged Jai Alai IPA:
Less old-timey than the others, to be sure. Here we see some blurred action photography of a jail alai player, offset with a neon hop and some 1970s-style lettering. The "White Oak aged" is stamped on oak leaves in military stencil lettering. Again we see a warm color palette, though this veers toward bright rather than earthy. I think this is less successful, in part because there's too much going on. I get that it's not easy to tie together the hop of an IPA, jai alai, white oak aging, and the established brand of Cigar City, but maybe they didn't need to. Really, how many people are going to want this beer without knowing those elements? So keep the branding, and focus on just one other element, while trusting your consumer to read the rest in appropriate font. At the very least, they should have moved the "White Oak Aged" thing off to the side; in its current location, it blocks the movement lines suggesting that the jai alai player flung the giant hop as he would a ball. Notably, this is the one label we'll look at that does not use symmetry or framing around a central element.

Back to good stuff, with the Guava Grove:
Now isn't this more fun to look at? Back to a very Floridian color palette with earthy greens, brown and khaki. Just a nice image that might be off a country club logo, some nice classy lace elements for framing, and a small, tasteful reproduction of the logo, all on some faint guava background. Nice, deep, clear and interesting.

Of course, some people also like Russians:
See? It wasn't a non-sequitur. Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout label is fun, because it has the Kremlin and vaguely Cyrillic typeface. But even when they're having fun, we see the limited warm color palette, the framing around a central figure, and the affinity for history.

All in all, I'm liking what I see from Cigar City almost as much as I'm liking their beer. They seem well-grounded in the basics of strong design, but willing to play with elements as the mood strikes them.

August 18, 2010

Some Pretty Links For Your Beer Art Fix

I'll get back to some new beer art this week, but first some stuff to look at and read. I'll start with the ongoing massive discussion at Damn That's Good Beer, which asked why we blog. I weighed in, and so did tons of other people. If care about the beer blogosphere, go read. Cheers to Ilya and the people at DTGB for spurring that type of conversation.

  • Remember the KAWS branding for Dos Equis? They have a cool 2-minute video to go with it:

August 16, 2010

Legal Pitfalls in Craft Beer Label Design

So, if I were writing about beer art full-time, I'd be doing a lot of research and writing about the intellectual property angle of it, which is significant.

The way intellectual property (IP) works in this country is that, if you have a brand you think is worth something, you have to defend it, or you basically fortfeit any rights to it down the road. This leads to over-protectionism among brands, and beer is no different. I know of at least a dozen breweries that have received Cease and Desist orders, and it ranges from annoying to truly costly.

One dispute that's been fairly public is Bear Republic's feud with Vancouver's Central City Brewing, over the Red Rocket-Racer 5 brands that Bear Republic feels were stolen by CCBC's Red Racer.

When you look at it, the idea doesn't seem insane. Similar throwback fonts, similar color schemes (the Bear Republic are red and black and yellow), very similar naming.

Bear Republic was denied an injunction, and there's no word yet on whether they'll proceed (my guess is no, as they're doing fine and this would be expensive to pursue). But I see what they were thinking, and those marks are reasonably distinctive.

As legend has it, Erie used to have a beer called Red Ryder. Then it got two cease and desist orders. Then some of the guys from the brewery came and did a tasting at the Pittsburgh Beer Society, where a nice young woman named Courtney suggested they rename it in honor of those legal missives. So now we have:
Still a good beer, by the way.

Then there's the Georgetown Brewing-Magic Hat kerfuffle. Georgetown had a beer called the 9# (nine-pound) Porter.

Magic Hat's flagship beer is called the #9.
This one was all name, and pitted a small local brewery against a larger craft brewery that was owned by holding company (it's now owned by a larger holding company). As you might imagine, the sympathies of the and indie-leaning craft beer crowd backed Georgetown, but the money backed Magic Hat, so now that beer is called the Georgetown Porter. By all accounts there was a good-faith effort on the part of Magic Hat to negotiate, but they wanted ownership of the name 9LB, which the owners of GTown did not feel was theirs to sign over.

It's tempting to jump on the side of the underdog, but see it from Magic Hat's standpoint for a moment; the brand #9 represents many millions of dollars in annual revenue. It's one of the country's best-selling craft beers. Letting someone come out with a craft beer (even a totally different beer) called 9# allows them to use that brand equity without paying, and that's generally considered bad business. And again, if you let one company do it, it's roughly legally equivalent to giving up your IP rights.

So, if you're a craft brewery and you do dodge all of the other craft breweries, Uncle Sam might take umbrage with your design, as he did with the Ale Industries' Orange Kush White Ale:


Cool label, right? Nice blue-brown color scheme, nice swirls, playful yet tasteful. Or so you might think.
COMPLIANCE MATTERS: 94-2
“USE OF TERMS ASSOCIATED WITH DRUGS OR THE DRUG TRADE ATF, AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, CANNOT CONDONE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE LABELS THAT CONTAIN ANY NAMES OF DRUGS, DRUG TERMS OR SLANG ASSOCIATED WITH DRUGS OR ANY DEPICTION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA. WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT RESPONSIBLE INDUSTRY MEMBERS SHOULD WANT OR WOULD WANT TO PORTRAY THEIR PRODUCTS IN ANY SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE MANNER.” (the TTB was formerly the ATF)...
Ale Industries quickly responded to the TTB, letting them know that the term Kush was taken from the Egyptian region where the chamomile was sourced. The TTB responded back with a discouraging statement, that the average person would not know about the ancient regions of Egypt, and that everyone would just assume that it was a drug, or contained drugs. [Ed. Note: "Kush" also means 'A high grade strand of marijuana.']
As that excerpt from the brewery press release (via beernews.org) makes clear, use of a term associated with drugs is a no-no, even if the term means other things. 

You may remember Ninkasi's Iron Maiden Tribute beer, "Maiden the Shade." Apparently, the goddess figure got a little extra clothed in her evolution:

Thanks to Jeff at Beervana for that, plus his explanation of why the label is so chill, when Iron Maiden is so not (something that confused my greatly in my critique).

This was supposed to be a longer and more cohesive piece. I actually pitched the idea of a longer story on IP pitfalls to the Alstrom brothers at BeerAdvocate, but got no response. So instead, I'm just opening up what will be an ongoing theme in this blog, where we discuss branding as much as we do color choices.

August 13, 2010

Some Assorted Label Art for Friday: Green Flash, Grand Teton, Odell, Midnight Sun and Breaker Brewing

Plains, PA is up by Scranton, which is safely in Coal Country, and is home to the small Breaker Brewing Company, who released the Quiet Canary Saison this summer:
Admittedly, this is close to my heart (both literally and geographically, in relative terms), but I love the use of the sepia tone to suggest history, and the black coal elevator logo at the bottom. The name, of course, refers to the canary that early coal miners would use to judge the buildup of potentially harmful gases (if the canary died, it was time to run the hell out of the mine). I like the distorted image of the miner; it kind of reminds me of outsider artist Jack Savitsky's paintings of miners. I've referenced him before, but, courtesy of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery in Reading, here he is again:
Anyway, I have to get up and try this beer, and see what other art they've got in the works. Honoring the coal mining tradition (and current harsh reality) is something we've started to see more of lately, and I frankly love the idea of a craft brewery that embraces that identity.

Odell released a double pilsner as part of its single batch series:
This is notable mostly for its commitment to a medieval Germanic style. I like the way they integrate the Odell logo in the top right.

Less Medieval and German is the Midnight Sun Hop Dog:
I wish I could try this, because I like the idea of a Double Wheat IPA, but that's neither here nor there. The question for me is about this label: Is there too much going on? And I'm tempted to say yes. I actually like the main design, but I think the problem is in the flanking text fields, including the brewery field at the top. There's too many color fields and elements, and it just takes away from the vibrance of the image by making it seem cluttered. I'd try moving the black field on the right over to the left, killing the different color backgrounds for the URL and size, and finding a way to put the Midnight Sun info on a background that fits with the main image. I generally like Midnight Sun's art, and this is no exception, but the difference between design and art is that design is form following function, and here the functional fields around the art are getting in the way of a good piece.

Green Flash released a label for their Summer Saison:
I really like the painterly new work from Green Flash, like this and the Le Freak:
The biggest problem with the Summer Saison label, like the Midnight Sun above, is in design. It's tough to read some of that white text over the light summery colors of the sunrise/set in the art. Nitpicky? Maybe, but this stuff is why people actually do design for a living, and it can be the difference between our snap judgment of a label as "attractive" or not. In the Le Freak label, for example, there is no such issue, because they put the text on a dark area of the art.

Grand Teton Brewing Company holds one of the innumerable events called "The Art of Beer." I will save this rant for another time, but theirs is one of a very few that actually should have that name, because it's an art contest to design a beer label. From the press release:

Local artist Abby Paffrath’s amazing Batik of a leaping cutthroat trout was chosen to represent the contest’s theme of “Life in the Tetons” for the autumn and winter seasons on the Trout Hop Black IPA label.

First the winning entry (all winners can be see on the Teton Arts Council Web site):
Abby has always been inspired by the outdoors in her lifelong quest through the arts. She has a Fine Arts education from University of Montana, but her real love of the dyed batik began when she enrolled in a cultural arts program in Bali, Indonesia. Batik is a wax resist dye technique used to create images and patterns on fabric; it is traditionally used in ceremonies and rituals by the Balinese peoples. Abby now resides in Jackson Hole Wyoming where she is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Teton Mountain Range.


There's the label adaption, and you can see why the piece was a winner. My guess is that printing concerns limited the color scheme and took out those deep reds from the original, but I think the piece transitions well to limited color palette. The trout emerges from the landscape, and the white text circle sets it off nicely. Well done.

Glad I was finally home enough to get back on the blogging horse this week, and was even able to throw out a challenge to my peeps in the 'gosphere. Hopefully more to come, as we try and get the last of the art from the show back to its home in one piece, and I look forward to the end of summer and seeing where the show goes next year.

August 12, 2010

Recent Branding Efforts in the Beer World

One of the things I like to look at here is the creation and maintenance - or not - of brands. So let's take a look at some of the branding in the beer industry:

Northern Massachusetts' Element Brewing Company has a series of labels that right now all look essentially like this:
 
On their site, the first words you see are
 "Element Brewing Company believes firmly in the fusion of art, science, and beer. Our hand-crafted, bottle conditioned ales don’t fit neatly into any box; our innovative brewing techniques create a hybrid of styles that test the flavors, dimensions, and boundaries of beer.

So the atom diagram fits well with the philosophy of the brewery, as does the name. Basic things, you might say, but still good moves. The color scheme is a nice earthy red-and-brown look. I like how the image overflows the boundaries of the brown text field, carrying visually the idea that their beer will be outside the box, so to speak. It's not exciting, but it does the job and, importantly, is a versatile logo that can be adapted with life later on.

Ass Kisser is a new brand brewed at the Rahr and Sons Brewery in Fort Worth:
It's Texan, in case you couldn't figure that out. The dome-cut label works with the Western text and ruddy red to evoke everything they want, including a crassness and aggressiveness. My one question here is why they use brown twice. It makes sense once (on the main panel, adding some variety), it would make sense zero times, and it would make sense three or more times (say, for balance on the other side or at the top), but it seems weird to have it in two places, next to each other, on the bottom of the label. The donkey with the lips will probably sell some merchandise, but the best thing about this branding is that it communicates who their market is not. If you're a highfalutin beer snob with aspirations of class and sophistication, you will not be ordering this or buying an Ass Kisser t-shirt.

Interestingly, the roof collapse that preserved the batch of Ass Kisser has led to a rebranding by Rahr and Sons, which shows a very different look.
Unlike the other brand brewed there, the new Rahr & Sons is nostalgia-infused, and does the Texan thing more conservatively, with the little Longhorn logo on the left. I like the Blonde label better because of the way the woman's hand curls around the text. Though the color field on the Stormcloud works well as water.

And then there's the British Columbia brewery Okanagan Spring, which just underwent a rebranding for its 25th anniversary. The firm Subplot Design went for a modern, sleek look:
As I wrote earlier about Notch Session, the risk they run here is being undistinctive. I like the huge images of the beer, clearly putting focus on the purity of the product, and the text and color scheme are solid. But look, for example, at quasi-Anheuser product Redhook:

It's a look that we see, with the dominant white sans serif text on monochrome fields projecting clean and crisp branding. Again (as with Notch) part of the problem with branding is that you can spend time and energy coming up with good stuff, and then you have to hope no competitor (especially a better-funded one) comes up with the same idea and steals your mindspace (ed. note: one must have an MBA to use the word "mindspace")


Lastly, my favorite branding initiative, the new Dos Equis effort by New York designer KAWS:

Has there ever been a more natural fit for a designer and brand (KAWS' trademark is those Xs he uses as eyes for creatures)? You have to admire all of the new marketing by Dos Equis, whose "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign has become a sensation, and who now hires a famous, awesome designer. The aim of all of that is to change their brand (though, puzzlingly, these bottles will be Mexico-only). They're making Corona seem outdated while they make a play to be the darling Mexican beer of hip young professionals. We'll see if it works, but so far they've been impressive.