Category Archives: designs

Judging a Beer By Its Label (part 1 of 2)

It’s a very risky game.  Sometimes it pays off brilliantly, other times…you end up spitting out the beer and pouring it down the sink.  But picking a beer just by the label design alone can be a really fun way to discover new types of beers and learn more about your own personal tastes.  Plus every time you buy a beer based on its design, a graphic designer gets its wings.  Or something like that.

There are too many beers to list on which ones have been a success, a failure and a surprise, so I’ll just list a few highlights. This entry is going to be separated in to two parts.  The first one the good beers with good designs and the second being on the bad beers with good designs as well as the surprises I’ve had.

GOOD DESIGN, GOOD BEER

Hobgoblin Ale – It’s been mentioned here plenty of times before and I SWEAR this will be the last time I mention this beer from Wychwood Brewery for a while, but it’s important! This was the first beer I felt that I HAD to buy on the design alone and not look at any of the details that point out alcohol content or taste notes.  I believe it was 2004 or so and at the time I was really in to fantasy novels.  While “preparing” for a weekend trip to the cottage with a few friends I came across this beer and found myself really impressed with the design of both the label and the bottle.  At the time, I hadn’t seen any designs that went beyond a crappy logo and standard beer bottle (or even a “stubby” which was a rare treat at the Beer Store).  And as you all know, this beer my stand-by drink to this day.  Hell, I had one on tap (the beer has an AWESOME custom tap by the way) just last week and it hasn’t lost anything in taste for me.

Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA – I found this beauty about a year ago when I made a trip to the Amsterdam Brewery here in Toronto and the label just blew me away.  But then again, I love William Cheselden’s Osteographia, so whatever.  The colour scheme, smooth bottle design and yes, the choice of typeface all contributed in making me wonder what this beer was all about.  I picked up three bottles on the spot.  Turns out, it’s a DAMN good IPA.  So hopped up that you can actually taste a kind of earthiness and so bitter that it is still the only beer that can make my throat go dry.  And as you folks out there who either read this blog or know me in person know, that’s just the kind of bitterness I like.

This brew very recently (about two months ago) went on tap and has been a pretty good success.  In fact, it was hearing about one of the few bars that carried this that led me to find the Town Crier/Halfway Beer House, which is now my favorite pub in all the city (more on that place in a later post).

Arrogant Bastard Ale – I like this design because it matches perfectly with the reputation that the folks at Stone Brewing Co. wants it to have.  It’s aggressive, it’s mean, it will spot a weakness in you and exploit it to the point where you leave the room crying.  Even by tasting the beer, with it’s strong punch of hops, one can tell that this is a beer for Tough People and I think the design puts forth that image incredibly well.

But aside from the design, what REALLY won me over was the copywriting on the bottle.  Here’s how it reads:  “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.  

DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO DRINK THAT?

Coney Island Lager – The label is in more detail at the head of this post.  This I think was one of the first craft brews I picked up when I went to New York City and actually had an appreciation for beer.  The label alone was enough to make me wonder what the hell this drink was about because, quite frankly, a pants-shittingly terrifying Carny on the label (which also reminds me of the good ‘ol fashioned Carnival signs back in the day when people didn’t think stuff like that looked terrifying at all) is enough to make me laugh and pick up the bottle.  It could taste like brown sugar in water, I don’t care.  You have to try it and you’d be half-tempted to keep the bottle as a souvenir. The same goes for most of the labels put out by Shmaltz Brewing Company.

But as it turns out, it was a pretty damn refreshing drink.  Very nice malt and earth flavours with an very nice aroma that just worked.  I definitely wouldn’t say no to this brew on a hot summer day.

So that’s it for this post.  Toon in soon for part 2 where I discuss the good designs with bad tasting beer as well as the surprises I had.  I might throw in a third post, but we’ll see.

But hey, I can personally taste and try so many beers, so if you have any DAMN good brews with some equally DAMN good designs on the labels (or heck, if you just want to suggest a brew to me) e-mail me at robin@therobinleBlanc.com! Or, you know, COMMENT.  Because that’s even easier.

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