Craft beer has brought better-tasting brews to discerning drinkers – and created exciting opportunities for designers and illustrators. Here we look at the wonderful work of designers, illustrators and agencies at the forefront of British craft beer label design in this feature.
Modern craft beer often takes pride in unique but bold artistic design – simplistic, bright and brave labelling is the new face. And now that we're finally coming into summer, you'll want to be seen sipping from one of these cans or bottles in your local beer garden. Maybe after reading this, you'll be able to impress your friends with some facts about the label.
As the craft beer market began to boom in the UK and US, more reserved, traditional labelling no longer matched the fresh and exciting recipes inside the bottles and cans. So the likes of BrewDog and Beavertown commissioned designs and artworks that more accurately reflected the beers, the breweries and the brewers themselves.
Perhaps surprisingly then, the first beer we're featuring was created by supermarket chain Sainsbury's.
Depending on your perspective, supermarkets are either cashing in on the popularity of independently brewed craft beer, or bringing better beer to people who can't make it to a local bottle shop (and the line between independents and 'big beer' are blurrier than your vision after a bunch of triple IPAs).
We're staying well out of that debate, and while we can't make any claims about the taste of Sainsbury's own-brand craft beer, it does feature some lovely animal-based designs courtesy of packaging firm Parker Williams and illustrator Iain Macarthur.
Even well-designed own-brand booze has a tendency to look cheap due to the limited colour palette required to keep packaging costs down – yes, I am talking about you, Co-op. But by tapping into the talents of an illustrator who specialises in black-and-white drawings, Parker Williams has produced designs that look just as great as the true independents.
East London’s Truman’s Brewery has been around since 1666. It's recently modernised its core range, with a new aesthetic rolling out across its cans, bottles, lenses, T-shirts, glassware and delivery vans across the UK.
Glasgow beverage packaging design experts Thirst Craft has created the overall new look. Thirst Craft’s Craig Black says Truman’s assets had become "aged and fragmented over time", and the brand needed to add consistency, clout and contemporary appeal to their best sellers.
Thirst Craft and emboldened and elevated Truman’s iconic eagle, with a brighter colour palette to match.
"The robust new range keeps Truman’s distinctive DNA at its core, but restores pride and prestige to their eagle - truly letting the brand soar," says Craig.
To see the new packaging on glassware, vans and cans, check out the project over at Thirst Craft.
The extra pale golden ale is meant to compliment Japanese food, and is made using Koshihikari rice, so it was important for its packaging to reflect this.
Inspired by minimalist Japanese design, and a classic red, white and black colour palette, Thirst Craft came up with this simple design.
Thirst Craft dabbled in traditional Japanese calligraphy (in a "hasty homage to shodō"), and experimented with loose, textured characters that would disrupt the layout of the packaging with its vertical alignment. Thirst Craft's Craig Black is no stranger to a brush lettering style. Earlier this year he created detailed brush strokes for a luxury wine brand, and revealed some of his tips in our feature on how to create brush lettering.
The name literally translates to Rice Beer in Japanese, so the characters came to promise after Thirst Craft created "grungy passionate paint strokes", which were sent to Japan for approval.
Thirst Craft describes the final design as "a modern take on Japanese design for a modern take on Japanese rice beer".
We had to include these soon-to-be beer label and currently awesome pump clip designs by UK freelance illustrator Nate Kitch.
Nate’s friend Jim Fullegar happens to be the owner of micro brewery Broken Bridge Brewing based in Swanmore, and of which sells delicious beer to pubs throughout Hampshire whilst breaking into neighbouring counties.
Nate was given "full control of the creative reigns" for the brewery – from logos to labels.
The pair put their heads together for planning stages, but ultimately Nate had an open brief.
We love the final pump clip designs. Expect to see them in the pub soon.
Here's another of Nate's designs, named 'Super Villain'.
His comic-book designs are gritty and sometimes graphic, but he says inspiration for the design of each beer comes from the flavour and style of the beer itself. Oh, and his imagination.
Each artwork is created after the name of the beer is decided, and after Nick throws a few words around with his good friend James, the guy behind the recipes.
BrewDog has been around since 2007, but underwent a brand transformation in 2014 that received mixed reviews.
The company had seven agencies from three different countries pitch ideas before working with its chosen agency for over three months to develop the packaging and branding.
The Scottish company wanted keep the new design process organic. They used wood-cut and metal letters at one of the UK's few remaining letterpress studios to create the labels.
BrewDog says using physical texture and ink gives a "hand-crafted feel" to the embossed labels.
Additional features to the bottles include tasting notes on the caps, a three-word tag-line to each of the beers to describe what they are, and changing of the BrewDog logo to just the iconic dog symbol.
BrewDog has also produced ales featuring artwork by best-selling colouring-books-for-adults illustrator Johanna Basford (who's also married to one of Brewdog's founders).
London-based hybrid agency Studio Juice has recently given Camden Town Brewery a spice-up with its loud use of bold, block colours and typography.
Each beer name carries its own individual typeface to reflect the beer's character, as well as heavy use of white and drop shadow, transforming the label into an image to be noticed.
The Camden Town logo was also simplified and given a sharper geometric design to create a recognisable icon that would standalone from the brand name itself.
Adnams Spirits, known for its spirits as well as its beer, generated a small but fresh batch of craft beers named after a historic bottle found in the brewery archives.
CookChick Design created the packaging design of all Adnams alcoholic beverages - the combined work of Lee Cook and Sally Chick and a small team of creatives.
The packaging design for the Jack Brand still incorporates the traditional Adnams beer logo, but throws vibrant pastel colours overtop to create a striking look.
Manchester-based creative studio DR.ME designed a series of surreal collages for independent brewery Cloudwater Brew Co.
The collages depict black and white environmental landscapes with waterways replaced by colourful cloud designs.
DR.ME is made up of Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards who offer creative services in art direction, image making, graphic design, work shops, video and teaching from a creative studio based in Manchester.
Creative agency Mr B & Friends are behind the naming, brand strategy, packaging and website design for Fourpure Brewing Co – a family-run brewery based in Bermondsey, London.
The design used on the beer bottles and cans is based on the travel and adventures of founders and brothers Daniel and Thomas Lowe.
Each different type of beer stamped with the location of its origin and the cityscape's iconic features pencilled in the background.
British craft beer brand TicketyBrew unveiled a refreshed identity from multi-disciplinary studio Carter Wong, whose worked with the brand brand since it began in 2013.
TicketyBrew launched a core range of three beers, but has since expanded with more complex and experimental flavour profiles – more than 35 in fact – including Salted Caramel Coffee or Blueberry & Ginger IPA.
TicketyBrew has a new identity that ties together both its core range of 11 beers and limited editions of around 26 more unusual flavours by introducing more vibrant tones and patterned backgrounds.
Playing on the British phrase Tickety-Boo, the Tickety Brew label is a simple theatre ticket wrapped around the bottles of traditional Belgian Dubble and Pale Ale, with a subtle glass shape found in the ticket perforation. Fantastic.
Local graphic designer Emma Scott-Child's colour-infused labelling for Brixton Brewery incorporates the identity of the colourful Brixton neighbourhood.
The pattern design on the Brixi Saison label is Connect Brixton – designed specifically for Brixton Design Week 2015 by international design company EleyKishimoto.
It can also be spotted on the pavement of the Brixton Design Trail street gallery on Ferndale Rd and outside the Brixton underground station.
All label design incorporate vibrant colours and African batiks reflecting Brixton Brewery African and European inspiration.
West Yorkshire graphic designer Richard Norgate chose the magic from Magic Rock Brewing to create a beer logo that did away with normality.
His designs are intricate collections of creatures amidst various circus activities – breathing fire, on a trapeze and in a circus ring, giving the brewery ownership of the circus look.
Five Points Brewing Company is situated beneath an old Victorian railway arch at Hackney Downs station in East London, and graphic artist Kate Lyons used this as inspiration for the designs of the Five Points label.
A clean and classic look emerged based on rail signage and print ephemera from the late nineteenth century when the station was built.