What Makes a Good Craft Beer Brand?

The pandemic presented a multitude of challenges for the craft brew industry, many that surviving breweries are still working to overcome. Even so, new brands and varieties of craft beer continue to emerge, leading to beer shelves around the country growing more crowded and competitive. Quality competitors and an overwhelming number of choices means your brand must be a key differentiator.

Of course, brewing a great product that appeals to consumers is the best way to attract attention and customers; but without a solid brand that stands out amongst a sea of competitors, without a look that consumers recognize, like, and remember, even the best brews can struggle to drive sales.

Beyond taste, your brand presence–your products’ shelf appeal–has to be tailored to attract the attention of your target customer. Your brand, and in particular, your packaging and labeling, matter. It can make your products instantly recognizable both to established consumers and those new to your customer base. Especially for the latter, bluntly, their off-the-shelf buying decision has little to do with your product. Craft beer connoisseurs love trying new brands and brews, and that initial purchase is driven primarily by your craft beer packaging.

The elements of shelf appeal

Craft beer packaging matters. Every part of how you present your product plays into attracting consumers’ attention. Is it in a beer can or bottle? What size are you offering? Are you selling singles or multipacks? If multipacking, will you offer 4 pack carriers, 6 pack carriers, 12 pack carriers, or more? And how are you packaging your multipacks? LDPE or HDPE plastic can handles (also known as can carriers or plastic rings)? Paper cartons? Is sustainable packaging a key consideration?

Of course, as we see across the industry, more breweries and more brews have required producers to get ever-more creative in how they name their businesses and products. That, in turn, provides the foundation for the brewery’s brand and that of its products.

Finally comes label design. How does it fit with, complement, and extend your brand? What colors does it incorporate and where does it draw the consumers’ eyes? Is it the brand name, product name, product type or style, alcohol content, or cool design?

Whether you watch and follow craft beer packaging trends or go your own way in creating a brand that represents you and connects with your customers, creating and cultivating a strong story, brand presence, and experience is an important part of competing and succeeding in the industry.

Beyond the shelf

Along with helping people identify or decide to try your product, craft beer branding has an impact well beyond the shelf–in the world at large and to your bottom line. The brand experience your consumers have must be an extension of your brand–which is a reflection and extension of you and your organization.

Consumers often connect with brands that align with their own values. Knowing this, it’s important to clearly define your brand values … but only if authentic! Do you support animal shelters and rescuing and adopting dogs and cats without a home? Are you focused on sustainability, reducing waste, conserving resources, investing in solar power and electric vehicles? Do you represent the culture of a specific region or country and its approach to brewing? Are you passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion?

No matter your focus, your drive, your mission, or the culture you create at your craft brewery, the causes or issues you support will attract customers for whom your priorities resonate as much as your product. That, in turn, allows you to create a cohesive brand experience through the look and feel of your taproom and brewery, your online and social media presence, and your merchandise.

In this crowded industry, it’s critical to view your brand as an investment and an asset in order to stand out and create brand relationships with your target consumers. Your brand is your most valuable asset – even more valuable than your brewing equipment and your taproom, production, and warehouse space.

Examples from our customers

It’s clear whenever you look around at craft beer branding on store shelves or online that many breweries have taken the challenge to create a distinctive, compelling brand to heart. Fun, goofy, formal, high-end, and minimalist brands and styles are on display. There are multiple craft beer-industry-specific annual contests that recognize the craft beer branding work in the industry.

Below are just a few examples of breweries who we, and others, think are getting branding right. In full disclosure, these organizations are customers of Roberts PolyPro and/or other affiliated ProMach brands. We’re proud to play a small part in how they have established, extended, and shared their brands with the world.

Wormtown Brewery of Massachusetts takes a local focus with its branding and ingredients. They highlight their freshest possible locally farmed products and an approach and philosophy to connect their beer to the local community, ensuring it’s not just a commodity. They live and breathe putting “A Piece of Mass in Every Glass.”

Their can design/labels use the lower quarter for consistent placement of their brand name, leaving the upper three quarters for bright, fun, playful graphics that reflect each product name. They offer different four product series – year-round, seasonal, specialty, and “undrground,” each with a distinct look that still matches the overall brand aesthetic. While each product graphic is unique, the consistent layout, block letter font for product names, and placement of their vibrant logo make this brand quickly recognizable.

Three Notch’d Brewing Company was named after Three Notch’d Road, a colonial-era major thoroughfare that ran across central Virginia. It’s believed that the road got its name from a distinctive marking of three notches cut into trees along the route. The brand highlights its logo, showing three crossed axes, front and center on most labels, surrounded by various colors and patterns with large print of varying fonts and styles showing each product’s name.

Dewey Beer Co. of Delaware has a script logo it places at the top center of most of its labels and uses a die cut so the upper profile of Dewey juts out above the main label. It uses most of the space on the label for eye-catching graphics featuring a name and logo for each brew. But the design is more minimalistic with “white space” that helps focus the eye.

Market Garden Brewery of Cleveland has a clean, more formal labeling approach. Each beer label features one bold background color, the brewery name at the top of the label, a large block sans-serif type for the beer’s name in a banner across the Roman-God style artwork from their logo, and the beer type centered at the bottom of the label. It’s balanced. If purchasers are looking for Market Garden products, the goal is that they’ll be able to quickly find them on shelves!

Metazoa Brewing of Indianapolis is dog-friendly and animal focused. Their tagline, “Drink Beer. Help Animals.” sums it up! Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome inside the taproom, on the patio, and in the dog park. Five percent of profits go to partner animal and wildlife organizations.

Can labels feature a white background with finely detailed black and white drawings of happy animal faces using a blend of realistic and slightly cartoonish elements. A different accent color for the name of the beer also shows up in small details on the can. This look is sure to grab the attention of fellow animal lovers!

Noon Whistle Brewing of Chicago is based on the brewmaster’s summers in a small Wisconsin town where every day at noon the town whistle blew, signaling it was time for the first beer of the day – a tradition that brought family and friends together. Today, the brewery pours their first beer at noon daily. Noon Whistle’s logo is a classic black and white mark with ornamentation referencing grain, hops, and a clock hand at noon.

Can labels feature a wide variety of looks and a surplus of creativity; but mostly no logo. Look for simple yet interesting and fun background graphics using smaller, thin elements, blocks of colors, angles, and thin black fonts for Noon Whistle, the name of the beer, and the alcohol content. Their Occasional and Collab beer collection labels do break outside the standards described above.

10 Torr Distilling and Brewing’s Reno-based brand has a high-end look with white, black, and gold as their primary brand colors and the use of gold filigree accents. This palette carries throughout their product labels, pulling in various accent colors, purple, green, red, yellow, etc, that align with the product name/type or even a full swatch of red for their “Hop Tramp” India Pale Ale. A “torr” is a precise measurement unit of atmospheric pressure. 10 Torr emphasizes quality and precision, claiming, “Precision Crafted. All-Natural.”

Lonerider Brewery in North Carolina asks visitors to “Affect change, don’t be an audience. Walk your own path, and instead of thinking outside the box, imagine ‘what if there was no box.’” They introduce the “outcasts” that make up their team, reminding visitors that there’s “a lonerider in all of us!”

Their logo features a dark, sinister-looking cowboy inside a bright yellow circle alongside old-timey western text in white. Beer labels and names are cowboy-oriented, most with two- or three-color creative hand-illustrated graphics. Labels sometimes show the full logo but often only the typeface at the top of the label. Designs are very creative – void of “a box.”

RPP complements your brand presence

As you know, details matter. Attention to detail is one reason customers continue to choose Roberts PolyPro. We partnered with clients to design our Craft-Pak can carriers to meet their needs. This led to a 100% recyclable product that uses 30% less plastic and costs up to 25% less than competitor products. Offered in 4 pack rings and 6 pack rings in all standard sizes, Craft-Pak enhances the shelf appeal of your products. With limitless color options to match your brand and label designs, they’re also engineered to show as much of your label design as possible, helping consumers see and appreciate the time and creativity you’ve put into your brand and your products. Done well, this leads to increased sales!

Robert’s PolyPro is here to provide a sustainable, brand enhancing, user-friendly product that also cuts your costs! Curious about cost savings or interested in free samples? Connect with our team today!