Craft Beer Labels Round Up: Trends, Artwork, NFTs and Puck Futin!

Craft beer labels really do have an effect. According to a study, 66% of craft beer buyers say that a beer’s package and label is very important for getting their attention. As well, 60% of those same buyers say that the package and label are important in convincing them to purchase.

First impressions are everything, and that’s why careful consideration of the label is so important. The components of the label are everything you can visually see on a beer can or bottle. This is the first thing people will see, and it is often what gets people to buy. The components include colour, label shape/size, typography, style & imagery, and words. While this may seem simple, ensuring each component fits well together is not an easy task.

Puck Futin Beer Supports Ukrainians

Everyone loves a good beer and when you can mix it with a great cause at the same time it always goes really well. Australians have found a familiar way to show their support for the people of Ukraine as a beer named Puck Futin sold out before it had even been brewed. Released in collaboration by Ukrainian brewery Pravda and South Australian producers Prancing Pony Brewery, Barossa Valley Brewing and Route 9 Distillery, proceeds from sales of the Puck Futin red ale are being donated to charities assisting with humanitarian aid in the Ukraine and for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Australia.

The beer, which comes after Pravda shared five of their recipes and labels to encourage the global brewing community to show solidarity with and raise funds for Ukraine, was brewed at Barossa Valley’s brewery on March 30 and was released by April 22. Following “crazy” sales, where both Prancing Pony and beer retailer Beer Cartel sold out of their initial allocations, a second batch was to be brewed at Prancing Pony’s brewery. Batch two pre-sales have now been exhausted also.

After pre-sales of the beer commenced on March 24, Beer Cartel’s director Richard Kelsey, who is Puck Futin’s exclusive distributor for NSW, ACT, VIC and QLD, told Beer & Brewer their allocation from batch one went in an hour. “It went crazy,” Richard told us. “When we were planning this I told Corinna (Steeb, Prancing Pony’s co-founder) ‘be ready, because this is going to sell out in no time’. But I was thinking perhaps overnight, not in an hour.” “(The cause) is something that has resonated with Australians even though we’re a long way from Europe. Globalisation means we feel connected to the Ukrainian people… and we want to find ways to help people in need. This fits perfectly.”

A direct connection to the people of Ukraine was the catalyst for the first Australia-based initiative to take up Pravda’s Brew for Ukraine challenge. Rob Watt, managing director of Route 9 Distillery, is married to a Ukrainian while Corinna and husband, and fellow Prancing Pony founder, Frank Samson migrated to Australia from Europe in the 1980s during Cold War times. “My wife, Natalie, and her family are from Ukraine, and we are very connected to the Ukrainian community in Adelaide,” Rob said in a statement. “We couldn’t live with feeling helpless, as we watch the devastation being wreaked on this country.

“I approached Prancing Pony with this idea of brewing for Ukraine and, coincidentally, they were talking already about this to the brewing community. Within a day, we had Barossa Valley Brewing throwing themselves at the opportunity to brew with us, Black Squid Design reworking the labels, CCL Label helped us to print and Barossa Enterprises assisted with labour for packaging.”

The red ale, which Pravda won gold with at the 2016 Brussels Beer Challenge, will be brewed to Pravda’s specifications and Corinna said the respective brewers from Barossa and Prancing Pony would be communicating with Pravda’s team to “do the beer justice”. After seeing batch one’s pre-sales go so well she said Frank made room in their brewing schedule to brew another batch of Puck Futin a few days after the first was brewed at Barossa Valley Brewery.

Inventive, Fun, and Creative Labelling Ideas

Alternate Ending Beer Co. released a beer can with a licensed Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT (Non-fungible token). Licensing a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT for a limited-edition beer can label was the brainchild of Evan Hechtand Ross Cohen, co-founder of The Lifetime Value Company, who presented the idea to Alternate Ending Beer Co.’s Scott Novick, and Alexis Castellano. Novick and Castellano recognized the enormous potential of utilizing a Bored Ape for commercial use and a fun way to collaborate and merge the world of craft beer and NFTs. “We look at our beer cans as not just a can but as a canvas for amazing art, and a vessel for the love that we put into our beer,” Novick said. “Featuring the Bored Ape NFT on the can is just the next iteration of that!”

Denver Beer Co. announced the release of an NFT entitled “Beer For Life” — a one-of-one spinning digital gold coin with the company logo on one side and the words “Beer For Life” on the other side. The winner of an auction is entitled to FOUR FREE BEERS each day at any Denver Beer Co taproom indefinitely. The auction was open for two weeks and the NFT was granted to the highest bidder. The owner of the Denver Beer Co. “Beer for Life” NFT will be able to present their digital coin at any Denver Beer Co taproom location in order to receive up to four free beers each day to enjoy and share with friends.

The team at Atlas Brew Works has been printing messages on the bottom of their cans for a while – normally something related to the beer or a timely world event the brewers want to highlight. On its own, a cool little thing for people to discover or an Easter egg for fans to check out each time. To get the public excited for the release of its seasonal beer, Ninja Sauce, Atlas had fans vote on the message that would run with it.

Beer buying and drinking is a full-on sensory experience that starts with the packaging / branding catching our line of sight. Well, why stop there, says CraftHaus Brewery. The Las Vegas brewery’s newest creation, Way to Man-Go, is hitting the shelves this weekend with a groovy throwback ’80s design that they are enhancing with (maybe the first ever?) scratch ‘n sniff sticker on the can. The ever-creative CraftHaus worked with Express Labels on printing these — it is a translucent flurry that is applied to the label. The smell will last 6 months before it begins to fade. They also worked with Victoria Hart over at Pink Kitty Creative on the design.

Unique and Crafty

We’re all aware of the standard beer labels with their branding that is seen not just on the cans but on T shirts, mugs and such. Craft beer hasn’t taken that traditional labelling route. Many craft breweries are teaming up with artists to help their brand stand out on the shelf.

In 2013, Evan M. Cohen was hustling to make ends meet as an artist: selling prints at farmers’ markets, painting signs for local shops, and, once, helping to demo someone’s house. John-Anthony Gargiulo was a bartender when they became friends, with aspirations to open a brewery one day. When the funding came through, and Hudson Valley Brewery became reality, Gargiulo remembered his friend and called on Cohen for the artwork. Since then, Cohen’s distinctive aesthetic adorning the brewery’s beer cans has become a driving force for the brand, as artist and brewery found success together.

“There’s a very symbiotic relationship,” says Cohen, whose illustrations and comic book art are now featured in the New York Times and the New Yorker. “It’s been one of the largest collaborations I’ve done. Thousands and thousands of cans with my art on it, which is crazy to think about. I’ve been tagged in pictures from Israel, Europe, all over. It’s really beautiful, and that would never have happened without the brewery.”

The cans are instantly recognizable on a shelf for their bright, expressive artwork that is often fairy-tale-like or highly geometric. His designs also appear on merchandise, from t-shirts and prints to skateboards and sticker sheets. While the collaboration speaks to the DIY spirit of so much of Hudson Valley’s creative scene, Hudson Valley Brewery isn’t alone in employing artists to lend their distinct style to a beer brand. From the emotive colour scapes on cans of Foreign Objects in Monroe to the loud, cartoonish art of Sloop Brewing in East Fishkill, the can has become more than a vehicle for branding; it has become a canvas.

People have been wearing beer logos on t-shirts for decades, co-opting the iconic appeal of brands like Budweiser or PBR for their personal aesthetic. In recent years, however, breweries do more than simply hire a graphic designer; they promote the artist behind the label art. “A lot more cans acknowledge the artist rather than saying it’s their proprietary brand,” says Mike Barcone, co-founder and brewer at West Kill Brewing in the Catskills. “There’s a lot more celebration of the artist.”

With more small and independent craft beers available now than ever, the paradox of choice is right at our fingertips and cans are an efficient way to build a brand and get consumers to reach for a specific product. More than marketing, the artwork speaks to the values of the brewery, and it’s those values which people who buy the prints or wear the t-shirts support. If you have great quality in the can, you should have great quality outside the can as well.