December 4, 2012

The Best and Worst Beer Art of November

25 pages of labels on Beerpulse for the glorious month of my departure from my 20s, and there were some doozies. The best of the month, though, was probably in the area of minimalism.

For example, Just Beer had a couple new labels. The Horseneck is, I believe, actually a tweak of an earlier label:
Just Beer Horseneck Golden IPA label design
Nice permutation, just adding some hop vines to the interior of the horse head, but it's overall a very strong piece in one color. I also have a soft spot for those courier-esque fonts.
Just Beer Lump o Coal Porter label design
I love this label. The simplicity of the pint glass silhouette, the shading on the lump of coal, the dripping of, presumably, delicious porter into the glass... it all shows how you can make a great, striking label with no bells and whistles. Big fan.

(ed. I originally forgot to add these two labels, which I just like for simple cleverness and use of text. The first is by Just Beer, the second by Austin Beerworks)

Both solid and effective use of text.

Also, the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert has released labels for their big bottles. First, here were their old ones:

Fine, right, but nothing special. Mildly reminiscent of the Trappist labels, but a bit more designed. Certainly doesn't tell you that it's the only monastic brewery in the United States.

Here are the new ones:
Monks' Ale big bottle label design
Monks' Ale big bottle label design

Now that is a beer I connect with. Just the simple pictures of the monks from the monastery in soft black and white, with one color for accent. Classy, intimate, resonant... all of the things that make sense from a trappist-esque brewery. Awesome work.

Then we have the other side. 

City Steam Brewery, out of Stratford, CT, has a series of labels that might be best described as cutesy chauvinist.

The least offensive is the Innocence:
City Steam Innocence label design
I mean, okay, fine. Not really annoying until it's "recommended by lady librarians everywhere." I've known some librarians, and they are tend more toward smart, data-driven information junkies than large-spectacled  caricatures from some Bogart-wannabe's fantasy. But maybe they'd still recommend a stupid beer if it was really good.

It gets worse.
City Steam Blonde on Blonde label design
Oh boy, blonde beers represented by blond women. Never seen that before. "Oh, Mama!"? Really? That's the best flavor text we could get? Who's mama? Why are we exclaiming for her?  Because it uses hops like every other beer?

But wait, there's more.
City Steam Naughty Nurse label design
"Good for what ales you!" HA, GET IT?! Jesus. I swear, it was like they were concerned they hadn't used enough demeaning cliches. Sexy librarians, blonde beers, naughty nurses... Ugh. Full disclosure: my girlfriend is a nurse-in-training, so I'm a bit more sensitive to the portrayal of nurses than the average bear, but this is not a new or interesting thing, and it has nothing to do with making or selling good beer. The art isn't special, the ideas aren't original, and it's just kinda douchey.

Thankfully for City Steam, though, they are not the worst beer art of the month. Not even close. For that, we must go to Chefs in Black Brewery, a nanobrewery specializing in "high-alcohol farmhouse ales) in Iowa.
The Worst Beer Art of November
How many awful cliches can we get into one beer label?
First, we have an always-classy morning wood joke. Then we have an enormous-breasted, enormous-assed caricature of a blond woman holding a chainsaw. GET IT? IT'S LIKE IT'S A PENIS! WHICH SHE DOESN'T HAVE! WOOD! We threw in the tired "not just for breakfast anymore" joke so common to breakfast stouts, just in case someone would confuse this label with something original. And, for the number of times I have begged breweries to put artists' names on labels, I can't believe this is the one where someone decided to give credit. Congrats, Paul Schulz, you're responsible for the art that became far and away the worst label design of November, 2012.