They say, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ but can you judge a beer by its label?
Chris Long, producer of Victoria Beer Week, says the label says a lot about what’s inside.
“Many brewers have a connection with local designers who supply their visual identity, it’s what make them unique. Shawn O’Keefe has an amazing relationship with Phillips – he supplies them with their identity.”
Long’s was the mind behind Beer Week’s art show. “I did it in hand with Eric Van Kobra of Wolf/Sheep Arthouse – it’s a downtown gallery, they do a lot of great work and work with some cool graphic designers in town.”
The show included the work of local graphic artist (Chris) Crow Campbell.
“This was my second year doing it. I’ve never (designed a beer label) for money, this is a new venture. I haven’t done it for real before, but maybe one day,” says Campbell.
By day, Campbell works for Baggins as a designer.
“As a graphic artist, you prick your ears to that kind of stuff. It’s cool to see what’s going on, what people are doing, what different way they’re using to market a particular brand of beer. Sometimes when you’re in the store, you don’t know if anything about the wine or beer will appeal to you, you just choose based on the label.”
Campbell does have his favourites as far as labels go. “Phillips always does a really good job. Shawn O’Keefe’s been their primary designer for quite some time, he does some greatly illustrated labels with nice bold colours that grab your attention.”
He also pointed to Hoyne and Driftwood’s art work. “Driftwood just did a redesign, it caught me by surprise when I saw it. It’s great that the local micro breweries play with the labels to make them really interesting. It’s the way they set themselves apart. It’s nice to see a flashy label rather than the same old dull thing.”
Another recent standout redesign is Moon Under Water.
“Moon Under Water just struck up a relationship with a new creative (Bjauna Sorensen) she’s a great artist,” says Long. “It’s nice to see them taking it to the extra level. It’s one of the things that makes the local craft brewing community super cool.”
Sorensen is a Vancouver-based graphic artist who designed Moon’s Light Side of the Moon, Creepy Uncle Dunkel and its recently launched Hip As Funk Farmhouse IPA.
“Hip as Funk has a strong woman on the front,” says Sorensen. “They wanted to create equality within the beer industry so it’s not sexualized as much. You don’t see (the sexualization of women) on the beer labels, but in the supporting material, it’s all good looking people partying. This has a strong woman at the core, not just in a supporting role.”
Sorensen says the redesign was a fun project.
“Lots of the branding and packaging you do as a designer is more corporate, in the food and beverage industry a lot of clients let you stretch your creative muscles,” she says. “It’s super fun work to do beer labels, not a lot of projects compare. … New craft brewers have got to make a statement that contrasts to other craft brewers out there and crazy artistry is a great way to stand out. It’s a way to speak to the demographic that they relate to.”
And what’s under the label is reflected as well, she says. “You want the taste of the product to come through the label itself. (Drinking the beer you’re designing for) is not a terrible thing to have to do.”