The Art of Craft Brew Labels

Woman shopping for beer

When the first beer brands and labels were invented, they were fairly simple. They existed to tell a customer what the product is and who made it. These days, however, craft brew labels are more than just identifiers. The designs tell the story of the beers and the breweries. When a customer grabs a can off the shelf, the label gives them an idea of what to expect.

That’s why it’s so important for craft beer producers to get labeling right. Columbia Distributing is one of the largest alcohol distributors in the nation, and we’ve learned what makes one label stand out from another. Here are a few tips about craft brew art to help you design eye-catching labels that are true to your brew’s identity.

Choose Your Priorities

The first step in designing a successful label is prioritizing. It’s a known fact that different kinds of drinkers will base their buying decisions on different label components. Before designing, take a moment to think about what’s most important about your brewery. Do you want to highlight your name and reputation? What features of your style or flavors should be emphasized? Are your unique product names considered in the overall design? Questions like these should be answered before you hit the drawing board.

Find Your Voice

The next step in label design involves finding a unique voice for your brewery. This is a decision that’s very personal to each brewer. Knowing what to choose will rely on your familiarity with your brand and the kinds of customers you want to attract.

In general, you’ll want label art that reflects your company’s personality. For instance, a very traditional-style brew should have a label with a similar theme. Consider simple color schemes, old-fashioned text, and colonial artistry that implies history and longevity. If your brews are more experimental and eclectic, however, you might want something a bit more distinct or modern, with bright colors, mesmerizing patterns, and the like.

Types of Craft Beer Labels

Although craft brew art is ultimately up to the brewery, there are a few categories of label design to consider when brainstorming a label for your beer. These include:


A brewery-forward label makes the brand name the biggest and most central design feature, with everything else secondary. If your brewery touts itself as a local establishment or has a standing reputation, brewery-forward might be a good label strategy for you.


This label type calls attention to the type of beer inside the can or bottle. Many shoppers have a preferred beer style and look specifically for the stuff they know they like. If your brewery specializes in a specific type of beer, capitalize on the market with a style-forward label.


Name-forward labels give prominence to the name of your brew. It’s the best strategy for breweries that express brand personality through humor, pop culture references, or unique brew names. If that’s your style, then you might want to prioritize the name on the can.


Finally, the last type puts art center stage. This type of label is useful for expressing your brewery’s character, which makes it the best strategy if you believe personality and culture are the most important aspects of your brand.

Ask Your Distributor

After spending so much time and effort creating the perfect beer label, ensure you partner with a beverage distributor that can put your products in the right hands. Columbia Distributing helps breweries big and small accomplish just that by bringing their brews to stores and establishments on the West Coast. To learn more about craft beer art, contact us today.