“Craft” beer is bullshit
That is to say, that it doesn’t really exist. All beer is “crafted”, just ask any brewer regardless of size whether there is hard work and passion in their creation and they’ll walk you from the pub having only asked.
Such is the level of passion that brewers attend their craft.
The difference is primarily scale and was once also branding.
For the past 10 years, the industry has seen a deluge of new small(er) breweries taking on the big players, and the desire to stand-out and be noticed has resulted in a myriad of anti-corporate brands springing to life. The main communication of this anti-establishment movement has been the vessel itself.
Traditionally corporate breweries have relied upon masculine, simple, logo-based designs utilising bright, block colours for recognition.
Small breweries then, have typically taken the opposite approach to distance themselves and provide the all-important point of difference. Between 2010-2016 artistic designs had become common, ranging from irreverent ( Beavertown’s ray gun wielding zombies) to abstract (Partizan brewing’s illustrations) and everything in between, with a “more is better” approach that saw bottle-shop beer fridges become a battleground for attention.
Pop culture, fine art, fables, characters, and copywriting that spoke more to the brand than the product flooded the beer fridge – resulting in an almost overwhelming array of colour and messaging.
Bucking the trend
One Australian brewery that bucked the trend of thinking “more” is better, was BALTER who with their minimalist design using white (negative) space and a more feminine pastel colour range managed to prove that elements of the corporate style could in fact generate stand-out from the now chaos of the “craft” section.
Their design set the benchmark for beer brand cut-through and design, and since 2017 we’ve now seen the adoption of their design style appear across the next influx of brands to market, almost creating a sea of negative space. Colonial brewing, Pirate Life, Sample, have all moved back to design principles grounded in simplicity.
As this counter trend of simplicity continues to gain momentum, how long is it then, before a complex, illustrated, busy design style hits the shelf and causes a stir, resulting in a closed loop and the cycle beginning again?
Keep ahead of the curve
There is an idea that “craft” beer has come to mean a certain type of aesthetic — anti-establishment and different. But this space has quickly filled with lots of beers all trying to say the same thing to “fit” into this idea of craft beer. As this space becomes further saturated it’s the brands that truly value innovation and difference that keeps changing to keep a head of the curve. That’s the beauty of packaging! You always want to fit in, but still stand out.