The craft beer world is a colourful one, and nowhere is that more apparent that on the eye-catching and thought-provoking graphics plastered across the cans and bottles that inhabit our shelves and fridges.
While we can all agree that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, it has to be said that a striking label design has become instrumental to the continued success of our industry. From technicolour comic strips to provocative minimalism, designers and illustrators across the globe have been given a new canvas in which to showcase their talents.
Furthermore, ‘beer art’ is also responsible for providing a brewery with a more distinct identity and unique personality. An exclusive pantone or unmistakable font is often all you need to identify the beer in front of you as being from a particular brewery. Despite boasting around 400 beers in our stores, our customers have no trouble honing in on their beloved favourites, picking out their must-have brews amongst a swathe of ever-changing colour.
We wanted to celebrate some of our favourite labels and shine a light on the designers who have become influential in the decision making of many of our patrons. Their fun, dramatic, eye-popping and thought-provoking work has become of paramount importance to the culture, because without these talented individuals beer shops around the world would look a little more uninteresting.
Omnipollo – Karl Grandin
Sweden’s Omnipollo make big, bold and flavourful beers, but their branding tells a different story: abstract shapes, compelling simplicity and modest restraint do a stellar job at creating intrigue. The puzzling designs give little away, they don’t even hint at the type of beer that might be inside. It’s not until you spin the bottle round that the details are revealed. If Omnipollo wanted to get your attention, they’ve done it in the most understated way possible.
The man behind Omnipollo’s curious labels is Karl Grandin, a Swedish native who was born in 1976. Grandin is is also a co-founder of edgy fashion label Cheap Monday and part of the Swedish design team Vår, not to mention an avid brewer himself. When asked about the ideas behind his imaginative designs, Grandin had this to say: “I like visual clichés but try to stretch and turn them into something new, give them new sense and logic. I hope my work to be simultaneously clear and abstract.”
Beavertown – Nick Dwyer
Nick Dwyer gave me a t-shirt once. I was drinking in Port Street Beer House, a sublime watering hole on the cusp of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and they were hosting was a competition to design a beer label. Inebriated patrons were given pens and paper and set the task of creating a can design of their own. I took the runner up position, and I think it was my innovative use of using beer to smudge the colours on the paper together – totally psychedelic, and totally intentional…
Beavertown were up north to celebrate the annual release of Bloody ‘Ell and Nick had came along for the ride. It’s no secret that the Tottenham-based brewery make exceptional beer, but I also believe that NIck’s skull-laden comic-like illustrations have contributed to their success. His surreal scenes of technicolour spacemen and toxic-green hop monsters are beacons of booze for beer lovers across the UK.
Magic Rock – Richard Norgate
Magic Rock are amongst the UK’s most respected and best loved breweries. Cannonball is a classic, Grapefruit Highwire is a summer staple and Salty Kiss has been known to convert the sceptics and turn them into sour-loving lunatics. You can spot their two-tone cans a mile off, each one depicting an intricate patchwork of kooky circus scenery performed by adorable little cartoon creatures.
Richard Norgate, the creative behind the cans’ mesmerising graphics, has done a stellar job at giving the Huddersfield brewery a unique and significant identity. Each of the cans only uses two colours to stand out, but along with the tangled cartoons that plaster the aluminium, they do just that. When you see each of Magic Rock’s core range lined up against one another, it almost looks like a collectable series. Thankfully, we’re stocking the entire catalogue for your enjoyment.
Mikkeller – Keith Shore
Bold lines, playful illustrations and a limited yet bright colour palette are the foundations of Keith Shore’s Mikkeller artwork, which boast an almost childlike innocence to them. The likes of Esther Pearl Watson, David Hockney and Henri Matisse have clearly had some influence on Shore’s designs, and rather than opt for in-your-face typography, he’s chosen to let his characters and colours tell the story.
Mikkeller has produced more than 600 beers that are sold in 40 countries around the world; out of all those innovative, ground-breaking and curious brews, Shore’s favourite label designs include the Nelson Sauvin Brut, K:rlek, and Crooked Moon Tattoo double IPA. Personally, we’re a big fan of the Spontan series and Green Gold labels.