Sunday, September 2, 2007

What Brewery Has the Best Bottle Art?

It's hard to single only a handful of breweries out for their bottle art but I'm going to try to list my top 3 favorites. Is it really important? YES! Whether we want to admit it or not, artwork is a big factor for many people's purchasing decisions. I'm sure all of us have bought beer based solely on the art before. These three breweries have great artwork for a large majority of their beers, not just one or two great labels.

Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, Michigan
I know probably as little about art as its possible to know, but I can tell you that I really like Jolly Pumpkins awkward art. Whatever you call it, it kind of reminds me of Van Gogh. Lots of weird, vibrant colors going on here and lots of interesting shapes. Take a look at their website, they have 11 different beers listed and the labels for each one. I love them all. I haven't even had a Jolly Pumpkin beer before but I think I'll go out tomorrow morning and pick one up just in appreciation of the interesting art.

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
Deschutes was my first favorite brewery. That might have had a lot to do with how cool their bottle art is, but I tend to find most of their beers really tasty as well. Pretty much every label they have has something to do with the Oregon outdoors. Mountains, streams, trees and lakes are what they tend to focus on. They also release Jubelale, which comes out each winter and has new artwork every year from a new artist.

Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA
Probably no surprise, these guys can't do anything wrong. They could come slinging paint from suspended wires 10 feet in the air ala Maude in The Big Lebowski and it would still look great. Simple, peaceful drawings is how I would describe these (well, probably not the Judgment Day or 10 Commandments artwork... but for the most part...)

So these are my top 3 right now. Anyone care to argue or maybe throw one out there I missed or that you think is just flat out better? I'd be really interested to hear and see.


neal263 said...

I'm am totally biased (I'm the Director of Marketing for Flying Dog) - but I have to at least throw Flying Dog in the mix. Ralph Steadman illustrates all of our labels - many might know him as the "Gonzo Artist" from his work with the "Gonzo Journalist" Hunter S. Thompson.

Other ones I like: Three Floyds and Magic Hat


Mattias said...

If you talk about US-breweries a couple of my personal favorites are the following (regarding labels I believe that the US-breweries know the importance about this more than the european breweries which is a bit more conservative and is often bound the their old traditions);

Great brewery and great simple labels with a common layout. These little simple strange photos looks great, like the IPA with 2 elderly men and a garden gnome!

Bells Brewery
Michigan brewery which on my top 3 US-breweries list and with very simple labels, the Two hearted ale
with the simple greay colors and a salmon!, nothing more. They do not have a single theme, but each brews has its own unique labels with a story to tell.

Three Floyds
Just wacky and cool arts, and a great brewery.

Colorful bottles with a single theme, maybe to much, but it reaches out and you get the bottle from shelvs, so it is a success. The favorite is the IPA in the added URL.

Pelican Brewery
A single theme, simple but it works.

As I mentioned before we are not so into doing labels that tries to reach out, at least not most of them. We are sort of more laid back and do not experiment to much, which is a bit of a pitty.

Cheers from Sweden


Steve said...

Neal, Flying Dog's art is definitely out there and unique. The whole theme (I guess I would call it extreme cartoon) used is not exactly my taste but a large majority of people definitely identify that specific art with Flying Dog beer, which is probably what you want as an artist.

Mattias - Great point. I totally overlooked Smuttynose last night. Now I don't know if they could crack my personal top 3, but I wasn't really even thinking about them as I wrote the entry. They do have very nice labelwork. I like Bell's too, and mentioning that reminded me that another one of my favorites is Great Lakes - Especially their Edmund Fitzgerald and Burning River pale ale.

Stiv said...

I think that Victory Brewing Co.'s graphics are terrific - big bold drawings with lots of color. Especially nice incorporation of hop cones on the Victory Prima Pils and the Hop Devil beers!

Steve said...

The HopDevil and Hop Wallop are two of my all-time favorite labels.

Mattias said...

So how about changing this discussion a bit, if you all think about US-breweries, what is then the brewery that we all drink beer from and that we all like very much but has not understand the concept of great beer labels at all?

Simply what brewery has the most uninspired and ugly labels with no theme at all?

I am not talking about the big dragons, simply what is the micro brewery that has the worst labels ever?

Steve said...

Oh, as my last honorable mentions I would have to say Sierra Nevada.

As some of my least favorite bottle art I am going to say North Coast doesn't really do it for me. I'm really not into the Rogue theme either.

Mattias said...

Yes, I would also say Rogue.

But when I was wondering about it for a while, I simply came quite blank, simply the US-beers in majority have good labels, it sort of part of how US-beers are produced and sold.

Labels are important for the beers and therefore are often very good.

So talking about Rogue and as you say Sierra and North Coast it is a bit difficult to find anything else, at least if you talk about great breweries from the US.

ThePurpleSeal said...

Hi there,

A while back I started brewing my own traditional english ale, I have really started getting into it and now actually sell beer to friends and family. I wanted to add that extra touch to my beer so I designed my own beer labels and had them printed by a british labels company who did a excellent job. It has made my beer bottles look really great!

nick coleman said...

Unibrou also makes some amazing labels.

Just thought I'd throw that into the mix.