Often, in the craft beverage world, as much thought goes into the packaging of the beer as it does the recipes that make it taste great. Sure, it’s marketing. Everyone wants to stand out on a crowded shelf. But it is also art. And every so often it’s just fun to marvel over a design and the creative mind behind it.
We reached out to VA Growler contributors, readers and members of the Facebook group, Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries, to see which labels caught their eyes in 2019.
This list of a dozen submissions is by no means exhaustive, rather just a taste of what’s out there for you to see – and drink.
New Realm Brewing Company Pastry Porter Horse
Designed by Erik Leach; debuted December
“I don’t know about you, but when I think substance abuse, I think anthropomorphic horses. God bless this can.” – Matthew Korfhage, VA Growler contributor
The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery Das Yummy Cranberry Cherry Cobbler Berliner Weisse
Designed by Vaiva Rimeika; debuted November
“It’s so pretty but also fun.” – Robyn Sidersky, VA Growler contributor
The Virginia Beer Company Double Evil Santa
Designed by Matt + The Leeches (VBC co-founders, Chris Smith and Robby Willey, created the character); debuted December 2016, but most recent variant, Mocha Evil Santa, debuted this year
“The beer is a bourbon-barrel-aged winter spiced milk stout, a rich cold season warmer with more layers of flavor than a cake shop. I like the label because the Santa staring back at you is simultaneously jolly and Grinch-esque, as if he knows you’re in for a wild sleigh ride with the beer and its 11.3% ABV.” – Ben Swenson, VA Growler contributor
Benchtop Brewing Company Robot Squirrel IPA
Designed by Brandon Glass from Otzi Tattoo; debuted May, re-released in November/December
“I mean, just look at it; it’s adorable!” – Victoria Bourne, VA Growler associate editor. (Owner/Brewer Eric Tennant says the name comes from a dance his daughter Claire did when she was very young.)
Submissions from our readers and craft beer fans:
Commonwealth Brewing Company LoveStrong IPA
Designed by Thirst Craft; debuted July
A good label for a good cause. This brew was released in honor of the survivors of the May 31, 2019, mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. Proceeds from its sale were donated to a United Way fund set up in the wake of the tragedy.
O’Connor Brewing Company Pulped Fiction
Designed by Anthony Brown; debuted August
This limited edition can release of the brewery’s blood orange Berliner Weisse debuted in late August and hit all the 1990s nostalgia buttons with its depiction of Quentin Tarantino’s classic film.
Smartmouth Brewing Company Saturday Morning Marshmallow IPA
Designed by Erik Leach; debuted February
The can that launched a viral storm early this year, getting picked up by local and national media and even worked into a joke on “The Tonight Show.” Hundreds lined up in February to get their hands on these brightly colored cans reminiscent of a beloved childhood cereal box only to see it sell out within two hours. It was the last can Erik Leach designed for Smartmouth, but it wasn’t finalized before he left. The brewery added the final touch – a rainbow of marshmallows.
Tradition Brewing Company Veteran’s Blend Rye Triple IPA
Designed by (see below); debuted November
Brewed in honor of Veterans Day, it was released in six cans representing each branch of our armed forces, plus Space Force. Head brewer Brian Martin says the images were also veteran-designed by Joe Amos (Marines 2005-2011); Garrett Tankersley (Army 2013-19); Colin Bridge (Navy 2001-05); Jason Lam (Air Force 2008-present); and Alexi Howland (Coast Guard 2011-present).
Ocelot Brewing Company Helles Awaits
Designed by David Kammerdeiner; debuted September
This unfiltered helles lager was originally released in April then canned and re-released last September. The name is a nod to thrash metal band Slayer and the can is a geometric rainbow nightmare of a skull seemingly blowing fire.
Adroit Theory Brewing Company Resist Triple IPA –
Designed by Darko; debuted October
The brewery takes its motto “Consume Life, Drink Art” to the next level with this stunner, released in November. Adroit is perhaps best known for its ominous, heavy metal design aesthetic, this design took a spin on a classic “G.I. Joe” archnemesis, Cobra Commander. “It was done by our artist Darko,” said a representative of the brewery via Facebook messenger. “He stays off social media.”
Benchtop Brewing Company’s Wicked Walter imperial stout
Designed by Epic Made
Technically, the first ever bottle release of this brew was December 2018. But this year’s edition (2019), part of the brewery’s third anniversary celebration, was double barrel aged so we included it. And really, who wants to argue with a shadow man and his giant lobster friend?
Vasen Brewing Company Velvet Walrus series
Designed by BIOWORKZ (with an assist from 903 Creative): debuted October/November
You can see the tattoo influence in the intricate detail and tribal motif of Vasen’s regal walrus, which stands out from a black background. Its creator, a Southern California-based graphic artist and illustrator named Ben Kwok – aka BIOWORKZ – designs tattoos for friends, family and clients, according to his website, and charges a minimum of $1,500 per design. Variants of the beer include The Velvet Walrus on Vanilla & Mint and Velvet Walrus Bourbon Barrel Aged. Another is on the way in January.