Just like the heavenly brews that fill them, beer can designs continue to get better and better across Birmingham’s ever-growing brewery scene. Let’s take a look behind the curtain at the label design process, the designers who make the magic and their most popular labels.
Color Me Happy
TrimTab Brewing Company is known for the bright, colorful and unique designs that grace their beer cans. But have you ever wondered where the designs come from? Then meet Brad Reed, the man behind the cans.
Reed has been a graphic designer in Birmingham for some time. He’s created everything from branding designs and merch to poster art for places like Bottletree.
Now, he spends his days creating rad beer can art for TrimTab. Sounds like a pretty sick gig, don’t ya think?
Here are a few things to know about Reed.
- He’s a big fan of the vintage 60s and 70s.
- He’s all about a beer’s vibe and creating a visual experience that compliments it.
- He loves bright colors, retro designs and is a total beach bum.
It’s all starting to come around full-circle now, isn’t it?
Each “family” of rotational beers at TrimTab brings its own aesthetic theme to the label.
Series: Light Vision
Type: Hazy Double IPA
Labels: Bright colors, abstract art, quote
Series: Cellar Reserve
Type: Imperial Stouts
Labels: basic, neutral or dark colors, simple/clean aesthetic, retro vibe
Series: Beach Club
Type: Imperial Sour Ales
Style: vibrant colors
Label: vintage photography
The Design Process
When it comes to creating beer can labels, no brewery follows the exact same steps. The overall process, though, is quite similar. And it takes many pairs of eyes and plenty of back and forth before a design is approved and finalized.
Key elements include:
- Discussing the beer’s ingredients, style, etc.
- Naming the beer.
- Designing the label.
- Getting the label approved.
- Printing the labels.
From start to finish, the design process can take anywhere from two to four weeks per label.
How do the labels get on all those cans?
The answer to that question depends on each individual brewery.
For instance, Cahaba Brewing Company has a canning line and a labeling machine, but a decent amount of manual labor still comes into play.
“Our staff ends up doing manual labor to make sure the beer cans are full, sealed, labeled and packaged.”Danielle Chamoun, Project Manager, Cahaba Brewing Company
I did not see that coming, how about you? So the next time you grab a can of delicious Cahaba Brew, there is a good chance that cool can was actually crafted by the mad labeling skills of the brewery’s staff.
You’ve heard the saying—never judge a book by its cover. Well, do you judge beer by its can?
With new designs continuously popping up on beer cans around Birmingham, you may find yourself reaching for those that pique your aesthetic interest over what’s actually inside them. But that’s okay. The breweries expect it.
“Beer shelves are heavily cluttered. The designs that pop off the shelves are gonna get more eyes on them,” said Reed.
“Our main focus is, of course, the quality and flavor of our beer. But with social media being such a presence… it’s no doubt that people want can art that will reflect who they are and where they fit in the world.”
In case you’re wondering what some of the most popular beer can designs have been, here are just a few:
Good Dharma is the work of artist Linda Lewis. Lewis submitted a can label design for a growler contest Ferus held.
“We loved her style so much, we commissioned her to do a design for Good Dharma, which was released as our charity beer.”Raquel Dublin, In-House Artist, Ferus Artisan Ales
The newest can design to hit Ferus Artisan Ales in Trussville is Fallen Down, an Imperial Sour ale. This beer has a higher alcohol content of 8.0%. Hence the name.
One cool thing you may not know is that some breweries in Birmingham have collaborated with other local businesses to create new brews. Many of which have resulted in some stellar beer can designs.
Brews from Ferus Artisan Ales recently teamed up with Ghost Train Brewing Company to create Runaway Train, an IPA that highlights flavors of guava, lemon peel and fluffed tropical meringue.
Cahaba Brewing Company has also been involved in some unique collaborations. One with Seasick Records (Lagoon Gose); another with Sidewalk Film Festival (Cinematic Sour).
What’s to come in can art at these local brewing companies?
Ferus Artisan Ales expects to release at least 20 can designs this year. I have no doubt they will crush this goal. Having only been open since October 2019—a mere four months—the brewery has already released 10 different labels.
While Reed said that TrimTab features around three to four new labels every month, Cahaba Brewing Company said they have four new designs planned this year for their Pilot Batch limited releases, plus a few more big releases.