Long before Alchemist Brewing expanded to a new facility that allowed them to increase production and regional distribution, their signature Heady Topper double IPA was in such high demand that industrious black market beer sellers were buying pints in restaurants around Alchemist’s home town of Stowe, VT, hand-bottling the beer, and making fake labels from art downloaded from the brewer’s website to turn a profit. And while the high quality of the beer itself would’ve fostered fandom even if it appeared in a simple silver can, the artwork for the Heady Topper—and later, the Focal Banger—quickly achieved an iconic status for beer snobs around the globe. Both of those illustrations come from Dan Blakeslee, a musician and artist whose work has also graced the likes of Smuttynose, Northhampton, and Ipswich Ale Brewing. Since then, the brewery has expanded their label designs from Blakeslee’s bold use of black and white to incorporate more color and—of course—more images of hops, along with playful use of negative space across the canvas of their 16-ounce cans. Here’s a handful of some of the best.
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Inspiration for this classic label grew from the brewer's guidance to have hops literally exploding out of a person's head. The result is less gory and more Americana. The texture of the hops billowing out from the scalp carries into the drinker's beard, while the introduction of the font and text would become a Alchemist standard.
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Forget hops exploding out of a person's head. The label for the Focal Banger Double IPA shows the hops exploding from the ears, along with a drinker so primed for the experience that he's wearing protective eyewear. The silhouette of Alchemist's home state is a nice touch. But this label rules thanks to an infinity dive into the art itself. The can being held by the drinker shows another man holding a can with the same label that shows another man drinking another can drinking another can…
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Light and Dark Scharzbeir
If the art for the Heady Topper and Focal Banger doubles down on explosions, the labels for the Light and Dark Scharzbeir leans into simplicity thanks to the display of a simple silhouette of a traditional German hat, echoing the Scharzbeir's origins. The brewery's icon comes through like a feather in the band of the hat itself.
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Boasting a halo made of hops, the mischievous expression of the cow almost implies that the American IPA weighs in more heavily than its 5% ABV. The graphic itself has undergone several revisions, from the use of the cow's spots (pictured here) to today's design, just the cow in black and white, encircled by the beer name, suspended on silver aluminum.
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Images of rotating hops on a contrasting color along with more straightforward typography has become Alchemist's more recent go-to label design, with color variations carrying across such beers as the Farmer's Daughter, Harvest Ale, Hellbrook, Lightweight, Double Twubble, Pappy's Porter, Alena, Skadoosh, Zomerbier, Luscious, Broken Spoke, and the Sterk Wit.
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This American dark IPA wears its love of felines on its label, along with the requisite hops and a snowflake; the beer was released in January 2014 and has been a winter release ever since. El Jefe—the cat on the label—captures the image of "the only cat" the head brewer ever loved, who died on Christmas day years ago.
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Named after an ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tale, the Ouroboros was originally brewed on August 8, 2008 (8.8.08). More recent versions on this older recipe clocks in at 8% ABV, and is brewed with dried orange peel to compliment the hop profiles characteristic to a double IPA.