On Tap in Hawaii: Bottles, cans offer taste of art
Now that the craft beer shelf has become almost as crowded as the wine shelf, brewers are paying a lot more attention to design.
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You’re standing in the beer aisle, staring at a wall of beer choices. You may be an IPA drinker, but all of a sudden something else grabs your attention. Your eyes dart off to a wild, amazingly designed label.
I’ve found myself doing this exact thing and being lured into trying out a beer just because of its cool label. With over 8,000 breweries now in the United States producing dozens of new beers every week, there are so many new choices. It is becoming more difficult for beers to stand out on a very crowded shelf, and many breweries have learned that label art can help grab a customer’s attention.
Bright, art-driven labels are nothing new. The wine industry has been slapping bold, eye-catching designs on labels for years. Now that the craft beer shelf has become almost as crowded as the wine shelf, brewers are paying a lot more attention to design. But just like anything, looks can sometimes be deceiving. Shop wisely and always look at more than the graphics on a label.
Here are a few really rad labels for amazing beers. You’ll have just as much fun looking at the artwork as you will enjoying the liquid inside.
>> Dia de los Deftones Mexican-style Lager: One of the most beautiful cans to be released last year was from Belching Beaver Brewery. The 16-ounce cans are stunning and feature the artwork of Los Angeles-based artist Sylvia Ji. The beer is the second collaboration between San Diego’s Belching Beaver and the rock band Deftones. Ji’s hauntingly beautiful, macabre Day of the Dead artwork is vibrant and colorful — hard to miss on a shelf. Inside the can is a bright and refreshing Mexican-style lager with a pop of tart lime on the finish. Fun to look at, and so easy to drink!
>> Tighten Up IPA: Portland’s Gigantic Brewing Co. is built on great beer and great art. Each and every label features original artwork from a different artist. Since Gigantic makes new beers all year long, there are dozens of opportunities to work with a range of artists. The recent Tighten Up release features an illustration from artist Ben Walker, and the 16-ounce bottle shines bright on the beer shelf. Gigantic is so committed to label artwork that space on the back of each label is dedicated to an artist bio. Oh, and the beer inside is fantastic: It’s a bright citrus-packed IPA that never gets too sweet, yet isn’t bitter at all.
>> Aphrodite Rising: Over the past couple of years, the 16-ounce can has become the most popular packaging for beers. With the extra can space (compared to a 12-ounce), breweries are making sure the labels pop, like this hazy IPA from San Diego’s Mother Earth Brew Co. The stark, all-white can is the perfect canvas for the bold and colorful art of David Blake. This hazy IPA is bursting with intense peach, passion fruit and pineapple aromas and features a soft, smooth finish. The artwork, titled “She’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn,” will make you stop and stare at the can for a while before you crack the lid.
Tim Golden, a certified cicerone, shares his obsession with all things craft beer on the third week of each month. He is part owner of Village Bottle Shop in Kakaako.