Battle of the Labels Results

Eno Sarris, August 27, 2015

Yesterday we asked for votes on a few strategically paired beer labels. Today, we tally the votes.

Ugly: 7-2 for Flying Dog
I'm a little worried for Shaqapopolis and Harris King because almost everyone else agreed that the Dark Horse label was one of the ugliest they'd ever seen. In fact, it popped into Matt Dennewitz's mind immediately when I asked him for the ugliest label he'd ever seen. Beyond the fact that the drawing is ugly, there's the border, the green on brown thing, the weird double type, the out-of-focus writing behind the double type, the lack of information other than style and ABV... I could go on. Even if you find the Lucky Sob drawing ugly, there's information on what's in the beer, plus a story, and the border is at least weird, uneven and incomplete. 

Banners: 7-3 Ballast Point
I personally agree that the Nelson beer is better, but that the Ballast Point design is crisper. Both have stories, and some information about how the beer tastes, but the font on Nelson is harder to read, and the style reads older. Surprised there weren't more negative comments about Nelson, but 'classic from a smaller brewery' might encapsulate that less is expected from them when it comes to design, and so therefore it has a campy essence to it? Possible. 

Stupid Sexy: 6-2 New Albanian
Hell, I didn't even notice that there was a beer recipe on this one when I picked it. I just did a search for stupid sexy beer labels to put up against that Albino Python, because WOOF. Is that the most ridiculous beer label you've ever seen? People who voted for it, please step forward. There's a penis going into a woman's mouth on this beer lable. I know there's cleavage on the other one, but at least she's a mermaid and there's a story, and a recipe, and the color scheme is aight. I mean, it's much more conventional usage of sex to sell, and it's almost sexy. It's not actual fellatio on a beer label. 

Big Bad Beers: 6-3 Pabst
I'll admit my bias here, and it's not about beer. It's about how bad things should look. Bad things should look bad. Old English looks bad and old like a mustard shag carpet in a trailer in a 70s-era Vero Beach, Florida. Pabst Blue Ribbon looks almost classy and interesting and old school, befitting of a beer that was born at a world's fair. Perhaps I should switch my vote. But it is interesting that these two giants of beer (ahem) have made it all this time with none of the elements I described in my original piece. Perhaps that's because they aren't craft beer. They're made to attract the man who still lets his soul glo sometimes, and the man who likes to play pool in dimly lit dive bars that barely exist in real life any more because they've been made into sets for True Detective. 

Classy: 7-2 Trillium
I thought this was an important one to include as a battle because classy takes many forms. Perhaps Maine has gone too far. I do find it appealing when it's in my hand, and it looked the part when I had it in an expensive restaurant. It's not the label that does too much, at least. Does it do too little? The story it tells at the bottom is a story! It's just very short. And there's not a ton of guidance on what the thing will taste like. Then again, the story told on Trillium is all done by images and color scheme. It's just that those images and color scheme are more appealing than the ones on Maine's beers. 

Screen Print: 6-3 AleSmith
Seems like this one had more votes that go either way, and that's a little strange for me because I have a visceral negative reaction to Rogue labels. I do hear Jason, who said that Rogue's label shows more thoughtfulness. At least in terms of 'we tried harder.' But most of AleSmith's beers do this: big bold design element with little else. I'm not sure minimalism doesn't equal thoughtfulness, I mean, consider Maine. That's thoughtful beer. But it something for the cleaner labels to consider: should you include a text section that doesn't take away from your minimalist design? Perhaps you should. 

Busy: 6-3 Pipeworks
There's obviously a theme here with some responders that like the goth/rock aspect of certain beer labels and therefore preferred the Zombie Dust. I will say that Andrew responding that it seems more cohesive did hit home with me. The red and black border across the top of Pipeworks is a bit blocky, and their brewery icon doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the label. Zombie Dust has paired the green of the font with the green on the... bad guy, and the green on the government warning very well. I have respect for that label even if it's not the style of art I'd put on my beer. 

Tattoo: 5-4 Stone
In the closest battle of the day, Stone RuinTen eaks out a victory over Ommegang's Game of Thrones beer. I don't think I agree that RuinTen is so different from the rest of Stone's beers, but it is very nice that Stone has the story on the label, and the green and gold and black are very eye-catching and contrasting. The GoT artwork is better, probably, but the information level is worse, and would it catch your eye as much? Maybe. But not via contrast or color. Via weirdness. Factor in the fact that almost everyone will know immediately that this is an HBO tie-in, which comes with all sorts of preconceptions... let's say, I'm not surprised that this was the closest one. Both are nice from a graphic design standpoint, since they both had plenty of money behind them, but I like that Stone tells you more about, you know, the beer.

What did we learn? Probably only that these things are subjective. The comments about cartoon illustrations and boredom and beer quality tell us that we can't keep our preconceptions about the beer itself and our other likes and dislikes when we look at these things. 

But at the same time, it looks like we agree that things like beer recipes, stories, beer information -- especially when rendered in a cohesive and classy way -- are appealing to the craft beer lover.