Spring 2014

Labelled with love

The new craft beers come in bottles, ideal for trendy bars and hipsters who want to display what they’re drinking

Craft beers are the brewing equivalent of artisan foods. Made by enthusiasts in tiny volumes, they echo the ‘back to basics’ approach of farmers’ markets and street food joints. The railway arches of London’s old industrial areas offer cheap, basic homes for these micro breweries, while the city itself provides the outlets they need for commercial viability. Real ale is still served primarily from the barrel; the new craft beers come in bottles, ideal for restaurant tables, trendy bars and hipsters who want to display what they’re drinking. Which is where the labels come in.

Ultra-simple kraft paper labels make The Kernel’s beers instantly recognisable.
Top: Founder Evin O’Riordain checks the gravity of the wort with a refractometer at The Kernel’s southeast London headquarters. O’Riordain explains that this is to ‘measure the amount of sugar before fermentation to get an idea of potential alcohol levels.’ Portrait by Phil Sayer, 2013.

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It’s just a beer: The Kernel
Each label for The Kernel’s bottles may look like a clever, knowing representation of a hand-stamped label – but a hand-stamped label is exactly what it was. ‘The genesis of my beer was in home brewing,’ explains founder Evin O’Riordain …

Beavertown’s pyramid design, created by illustrator Jonah Schulz in 2011, was at its simplest on the Americana-inspired ‘8-ball’ brew. It has since been adapted for each of the brewery’s subsequent beers.

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Pyramid selling: Beavertown Brewery
The name is taken from the Cockney corruption of De Beauvoir Town, the North London district where Logan Plant began his Beavertown Brewery as just ‘one man and a bath’ …

Label design: The Tenfold Collective, Colorado, US. Tenfold worked with US craft brewers before redesigning Camden’s labels. ‘Craft entrepreneurs are kindred spirits,’ says Tenfold’s Josh Emrich.

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It works in the hand: Camden Town Brewery
‘Proud, simple and strong’ is the motto of Camden Town Brewery, and it is an attitude clearly reflected in their labels. Of all the young craft breweries, perhaps Camden have taken the most professional approach to their graphics. It may have helped that founder Jasper Cuppaidge’s father-in-law is Sir John Hegarty, a senior figure in advertising …

Wu Gang Chops the Tree, 2013. Illustration: Ching-Li Chew.

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Like little album covers: Pressure Drop
As Graham O’Brien, one of Pressure Drop’s three founders explains, each of their labels has its own unique image, created ‘not just to work on a shelf in a bottle shop, or to be identifiable in a fridge, but to say something about each beer and to reward the drinker who scrutinises it a little more closely’ …

Paul Keers, writer, co-founder of the Sediment wine blog, London

Read the full version in Eye no. 87 vol. 22 2014

EYE87 Cover

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 87 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.