I’ve never designed a beer label myself, but I’d imagine it’s easy to get carried away. For instance, I like robots and surfing and early Val Kilmer movies. So why not craft a beer label that has a robot hanging 10 on a surfboard while shooting skeet as an obvious homage to Val Kilmer’s greatest role as Nick Rivers, the American rock star/spy in Top Secret!?
Of course, the label would be a disaster because there’s too much going on and only 17 people have ever seen the movie Top Secret!. I love a wild beer label, but sometimes restraint is the key to great art. And when every other brewery is putting M.C. Escher-like artwork on their beer cans, maybe taking it down a notch is a smart way to stand out on the shelves. How does the saying about Jazz go? It’s more about the notes you don’t play. So, with the spirit of subtlety in mind, we’re raising a glass to these eight beer labels, all of which are gorgeous examples of understatement and restraint.
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Uncommon Brewers Whiskey Thief
Santa Cruz-based Uncommon Brewers doesn't brew any IPAs. Instead, they opt for less common brewing territory, like this Smoked Scotch Ale, that's brewed with peat and beech smoked malts and aged with heather blossoms. Damn.
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Maine Beer Company
Every single beer label from Maine Beer Co. looks essentially the same. White label, tiny black font. That's it. Super plain. And yet, I always get so excited when I see it.
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Camden Town Brewery IHL
There's something about a black can, am I right? With IHL, Camden Town gives their lager the IPA treatment. They promise the beer is "all of the flavor of an IPA, minus the heavy sweetness."
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We should do a whole spot light on Wild Heaven's cans—the designs are that good. In the understated category, you can't beat Emergency Drinking Beer. Because when you're name is that catchy, you don't need a bunch of flashy artwork.
Disclosure: Wild Heaven is owned by Nick Purdy, one of the original founders of Paste.
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Austin Beerworks manages to imbue their beer cans with the essence of a superhero without even trying that hard.
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Fullsteam Thieves of Joy
Fullsteam typically has a retro thing going on with their labels, but this new beer, a New England style IPA with lactose, takes an almost futuristic departure from the status quo.