March 13, 2012

Five More Distinctive Labels by Jester King

I first noted Austin, TX's Jester King Brewery last August, with their distinctive label shapes that wrap all the way around the bottle and their cartoon characters in circular frames. They've had a bunch of new ones out since then, and I thought we'd take a look, particularly with regard to the use of an ideology as brand.

For the non-beer readers, you should be aware of an ongoing debate in craft beer, which is that of style guidelines. Beers win awards at major festivals/contests by being "true to style," which is to say conforming to the agreed-upon definitions of what makes, say, an American Pale Ale taste like an American Pale Ale. Some breweries, such as, say, Brooklyn Brewery, make beers that are generally very true to style. Some people within beer believe that these styles are important and guide the industry, sort of like the DSM in psychology. Without some objective criteria, the reasoning goes, we can't really be anything more than a group of amateurs all guessing at things. On the other side of the debate are brewers who say style guidelines limit brewers, reward precision over creativity, and are still subjective depending on the judges. If you'd like, you can consider the adherence to style the side of our brewing that comes from Germany and the Reinheitsgebot, and the anti-style side that of Belgium, where the only style you need is flavor and 800 years of history.

Jester King is on the latter side, and has turned jabbing at style into a big part of their brand.

First, the Bonnie the Rare, a Berliner Weisse:
Thank you for being a friend...
Very strange combination of lion and granny here, complete with a border that is somewhere between old drapes and a pie plate. The label copy, as always, pokes fun at the idea of style guidelines in beer, in this case asking if things would collapse if a furry male creature enjoyed housework in women's clothes, and if a session beer had flavor. I'd say no, but Rick Santorum would probably disagree.

Next up, the Mad Meg:
This looks like none of the Megs I've ever known.
Well, I would be pretty terrified of running into that Meg in a dark alley, or really anywhere. Again we see a new salvo in the war on style guidelines. "To Hell with the status quo, to Hell with your stereotypes, to Hell with it all." Yeah, this brewery does not care about style guidelines.

The Thrash Metal, which uses the Iron Maiden/Bruce Dickinson text, goes so far as to start crossing out style descriptions:
More cowbell.
Pour Curator blogger friend Rob at Daily Beer Review found his bottle to have some poor printing quality. All I have here is the digital file, which is I would say less interesting than the others in the image. It's mostly a mass of hair, and the strength of the label is in the weird copy and very 80s metal colors and text. I like the swords, too.

Since we haven't gone nerdy enough, the Das Wunderkind!:
Those goggles let him see beyond IBUs.
Another sessionable beer, the Wunderkind label copy's first sentence is: "There are how many of us who, in spite of their best efforts, just never quite seem to fit in." Grammatical issues aside, once again we have a nonconformist-as-hero theme. And, as we know, I am wholly in favor of everything geek. One thing we see here, as in all Jester King labels, is the willingness to establish a frame (or, guideline?) and then let the central figure cross outside it.

Lastly, the Noble King:
The hop lion is as delicious as it is adorable.
My favorite color is green, and I like the slight change of pace to a more, er, noble look. The lion is in the form of a hop flower, and only overflows the frame a tiny bit. Still, we see the same dedication to a single rich color with some different shades. The label copy is about how most kings are "overbearing alpha types" (which is likely a play on the alpha acids that come from hops), but that Jester King isn't "especially into that whole monarchy thing, anyway.") Yeah, you get it by now.

Jester King remains a good example of a well-branded, consistent brewery when it comes to mission and design. After Rob's report, I would be interested to hear if the finished bottles look as good as these digital versions, so please chime in on the comments or the various social media avenues.

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