In the three years since I started beer blogging & podcasting in Ireland, Irish craft beer has come a long way. We’ve gone from a contingent of well crafted but unremarkable holy trinity from breweries to some absolutely stonking world beating craft beers. And another huge area of improvement has been the label designs. It’s been fantastic to see as a lover of microbrewing.
I’ve long been a believer that craft beer should be fun, & not take itself too seriously. Yes, some beers are challenging & are really complex, but the point of craft beer is to not just brew some f**king amazing beer but to take the rule book, dump gasoline on it, strap some fireworks to it & set that sonuvabitch on fire.
I’m a sales & marketing geek. I love it. And I believe the packaging is absolutely paramount to the sales process for craft beer. Some of my favorite breweries for labels are Clown Shoes, Stone Brewing, Brew Dog, Beavertown, Siren, Narpabier, Defiance Brewing, Vocation Brewing, Rogue Brewing, & Crooked Fence Brewing Co just to name a few.
When you put this next to labels like the following in Ireland, it’s easy to see how Ireland could be thought of being behind:
And I’m not bashing the team at Reel Deal Brewing by selecting them. I could have picked a host of boring labels from Kinnegar, Brú, O’Hara’s, Porter House, Fulcrum, Mescan, St. Mels, Whitewater, the list can go on & on. To be ultra clear here; I am not bashing any of these breweries. Their labelling just does nothing for me, even if I enjoy the beers in the bottle.
Now we go take a look at some of the breweries who have stepped outside the box. And a disclosure needs to me made here by me before I get into this;
- Yes, I’m friends with Rye River Brewery, Alex Lawes in Whiplash, Sam Black in Blacks of Kinsale, & a big fan of Eight Degrees Brewing
- No, I’m not a shill for ANY brewery, nor am I paid by any brewery to promote them, or an employee of any brewery
- These are my opinions, nothing more.
Right now, I personally believe YellowBelly have the single most interesting set of beer labels in the country. I love the fact they also create a mini online comic to accompany each beer. The style, design & yellow/black/white/gray colours on them just make them ridiculously pretty. It also helps the beers inside the bottle are phenomenal. Every beer from them I’ve tried has been f**king stunning. My favorite from them thus far has to be the label for ‘The Wexican’ (pictured above, taken by me).
I LOVE the choice for labels for Whiplash. There’s something incredibly modern art about them that just rocks my boat. Whether it’s the exploding head for Scaldy Porter (pictured above, taken by me) or the incredibly minimalist ‘Surrender to the Void’ can, I love this style.
Eight Degrees Brewing
Eight Degrees when they put out special run beers, the colours are incredibly vibrant. And they really stand out a mile on shelves. I just love them so much, I’ve started collecting their labels into an Eight Degrees scrapbook I started.
Blacks of Kinsale
Black’s labelling has come a looooooong way from the dull boring labels that first adorned their Kinsale Pale Ale. When the current design came out, it was really in my mind the best beer label in the country from an aesthetic standpoint. On a can, it’s the business (see photo above, taken by me). On a shelf of canned craft beer to me, it still stands out a mile. It also helps what’s inside that can is to me, still the best Pale Ale in the country.
McGargles from Rye River Brewing
When the lads & lassies from Rye River first introduced the McGargles brand, they were effectively lynched. Their branding has been (and remains) incredibly divisive with many (wrongly I might point out) reducing it to ‘paddywhackery’. When I first saw it for their beers, I honestly wasn’t enamored with it. But, when I look at it in the context of so many breweries stepping up their label game, it achieves one very important thing for me. It stands out on a shelf or in a chilled beer cabinet & you’ll pick it up for curiosity. It achieves its purpose as part of the sales process whether you like it or not.
I’ll bet those who know me weren’t expecting me to add these to this list! I really love the minimalist approach Dot Brew take that really plays well on the brown glass bottles. It really just stands out for me as a great contrast design. The above when I first seen it on a shelf, reminded me of The Atomium in Brussels.
Trouble Brewing’s labels are just visually interesting & so different when you see them. I really like their labels (except Wired IPA’s one – it’s f**king dull as dishwater, which the beer is not – it’s pretty damned tasty!). A godzilla-esque creature on the label plus that logo, which I still love to this day makes it great to look at. I really should start a TB scrapbook.
Other notable mentions
- WildBat have some really lovely designs for their bottles.
- Rascals Brewing’s cans are wonderfully minimalist in a really eye-catching way
- Boundary Brewing do some really cool arty-farty labels that are quite kitsch
- Hope Brewing have some really nice labels that I just dig especially the label for Handsome Jack
- O’Brother Brewing have some insanely vivid colour choices & then there’s the label for ‘Joe’ … love the s**t out of it
Yes after all of that, what’s in the bottle is still more important. These are just some fantastic examples of labels by some breweries here in Ireland that I feel are really stepping the game up to compete with the growing number of imported craft beers from breweries such as Beavertown who spend an insane amount of money on their branding (anyone remember their old labels? Oh boy they were dull until their can designs redefined their branding).
Are there any beer labels that stand out for you I’ve missed? Tell me why & leave your comments below.