August 19, 2011

Best and Worst Beer Art of the Week, and Your Alma Mater Brewing Co.

Just a quick update this week, as I am off on the Trail of Beers:
You are jealous, admit it
First up, a two bits of related news:

California brewery Sudwerk has launched a beer called Aggie Lager in conjunction with UC Davis. The brewer, Jay Prahl, is a grad of the Davis brewer's program, so it's totally appropriate in every way. It is noteworthy because, in the same week, LSU's new beer, the Bandit Blonde by Tin Roof Brewing, was submitted for label approval:
I assume that even though LSU's mascot is the Tiger, there is some significance to the Bandit. While I think this design is pretty dreadful, that's not why it's here. It's here because I believe it to be a harbinger of things to come.

A private label beer is,  frankly, a huge opportunity for Division I athletics at major schools and, for that matter, professional sports teams. Sports fans will buy anything with their team's name on it, and that fanaticism is even greater for school allegiances.

At the very least, there is no reason more schools will not find a local brewer to produce a branded easy-drinking beer. What's more, schools, being technically nonprofit, can devote some part of proceeds to scholarship funds and give everyone a reason to feel okay while they drink. If you don't follow such things, college football is big business, and school's are looking for every penny. This is a big, easy way to do it. As for the hypocrisy of selling alcohol branded by a higher education institution... hypocrisy has not stopped them from jacking ticket prices while not paying players, so I think they'll get over it. If you're a fan, would you rather drink a cold refreshing brew made nearby by a local supporter of the program, or by a massive Belgian-owned corporation somewhere else? Of course, naming rights to beer could also be sold to Miller or NAB or ABI, especially at a professional level (e.g. Pittsburgh Steelers Black and Golden Ale?). Bold prediction: This will happen everywhere within 10 years.

Okay, art. 

For the good, we have two new pieces by Long Island's Blind Bat Brewery:

Okay, the first one I obviously love because I am a huge fan of Rene Magritte, and I am fairly certain this is  a reference. Even if I am wrong, though, it's a nice piece because it's simple, striking, inviting and cleverly suggests the lightness of the beer. A 3.4% pale mild ale, it's a beer even the General of the Glorious Session Beer Army could love. The second label, the Eye Chart Ale, is just a simple, clever label that does its job in a nice, minimal way. Memorable, striking, cheap to produce, and clean in design.

Okay, now for the bad, and this one kills me because I like their logo, and it's another session beer:
Okay, a couple things: 
  1. Papyrus is the new Comic Sans. Stop using it people; it just makes you look amateurish at this point.
  2. When you put something light brown on something else that's light brown on a background of light brown and gray, with gray and brown fronds coming up, no one can see anything.
  3. When you take that and put yellow lettering over it, it's like trying to salvage a plate of cold Chef Boyardee by covering it in mustard. 
I can't tell if Ancient Lakes was trying to take the dubious route of making it seem like their skeletal logo was hiding amidst barley and brown kelp fronds, but even if we give them that generous benefit of the doubt, this still fails miserably. Nothing's hiding, it's just unviewable. Nothing's distinct in the image, I have no idea how this beer tastes, and that yellow is actually painful to look at. They give us a crunched URL for their Website, which looks like they put even less work into that.

In all seriousness, this happens a lot; it is a brewery that decides it can not pay or barter with a designer for a few hours of work, and instead hands the job to an amateur with Photoshop or (gasp) Publisher. Of course I understand not every fledgling brewery can afford a firm or talented artist to do every label, but a few hours of refinement can usually be coaxed out of a knowledgeable patron for a case or two. For that matter, I know programmers who will knock out clean, basic Websites for $250, and some of them would do it for beer. Even if the concept is there, a small amount of time and skill with color manipulation would make labels like this look a lot better. One doesn't need a high-priced firm to make elements stand out and colors contrast, and whatever costs it might take, the damage to a brand from amateurish design can be far more costly. Put it this way: If it looks like your label was thrown together by an amateur, a part of me is - consciously or not - assuming that's how your beer was made, too.


  1. Those Blind Bat labels are brilliant. So far my favorites of the year.

  2. check mile markers label

  3. @Anonymous: It's on the docket. Might be in this week's installments.