Vibrant colors. Trippy illustrations. Hand-lettered type. All of the craft beers were staring back at me from behind the condensation on refrigerator doors at a liquor warehouse in New Jersey. Some bottles provided no information about the beer at all, besides the style and brewery. Some cans listed every hop variety in perfectly grid-locked type. Some just had shapes on them, and yeah, the shapes were beautiful, whatever they were. It was at this point, examining at a yellow triangle that somehow indicated IPA, that I realized that the days of opening the cooler, grabbing a beer, and looking down to see a red can stamped “Lager” are gone. Your friends are going to pick the can that looks the coolest.
We asked Harvey Shepard, the eye behind Oh Beautiful Beer (a website that explores the beauty in beer design and a guaranteed rabbit hole you’ll fall into), to give us his picks for the nine breweries sitting at the top of the graphic design throne. From brand spankin’ new brew houses to old faithfuls, these are the beers sure to captivate the eyes of your thirsty friends:
Modern Times — design by Helms Workshop
“This brewery employs what has become my favorite naming convention, as each beer they release bears the name of a defunct or fictional utopian project. The cans are perfectly uncluttered, letting Simon Walker’s beautiful wordmark take center stage,”
Austin Beerworks — design by Helms Workshop
“Austin Beerwork’s brand is bold, bright and quirky, just like their beer and the people behind it. For the finishing touch, beer names were sourced from Norse mythology, power tools, and 1980s action movies.”
Shiner — design by McGarrah Jessee
“Shiner has been brewed in the tiny Texas town of the same name for over a hundred years, but you probably would have guessed that just by looking at a label.” Never change, Shiner. Never change.
Omnipollo — design by Karl Grandin
“Every beer label in the world starts with a few basic ingredients: the brewery name, logo, and the name of the beer. That isn’t true for Omnipollo. Designer Karl Grandin has thrown out all of these givens and created a wonderfully bizarre and oddly cohesive lineup.”
Anchor Brewing — design by Jim Stitt
“Anchor was at the forefront of the craft beer movement, a marked departure from the “Big Beer” machine, and their packaging has always reflected that. As designer Jim Stitt explains, ‘It’s a handmade beer, so the label should be hand-drawn.’”
Fullsteam Brewery — design by Helms Workshop
“Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery has created a distinctly Southern beer culture in this once booming tobacco town, with ingredients including sweet potatoes, basil, chestnuts, and figs. The vintage packaging and type from Helms Workshop wraps these brews in Southern heritage.”
Fort Point — design by Manual
“The clean, classic lines and tasteful gold foil spanning this visual brand are a nod to a notable neighbor of the brewery, the Golden Gate Bridge. The typeface is a perfect match for the architecture-inspired line art.”