By covering everything from unique label art to special events or contests, small and independent brewers are kicking things up a notch. So, which brands are leading the pack? Check out the list below to see who has what it takes to be heard above the noise.
When it comes to marketing and branding in the world of craft brewing, it’s hard to overemphasize its importance. Take this stat from the Brewers Association, for example: From 2015 to 2016, the number of operating U.S. breweries grew 16.6 percent, and small and independent breweries accounted for 99 percent of the operating breweries in the U.S.
Essentially, that means a boom in business is creating more competition and forcing brewery owners to step up their game and find ways to stand out from the crowd. By covering everything from unique label art to special events or contests, small and independent brewers are kicking things up a notch. So, which brands are leading the pack? Check out the list below to see who has what it takes to be heard above the noise.
Straight out of San Diego, California comes Ballast Point, a brewery perhaps best known for its IPAs and fishing-themed label art. It makes sense given their philosophy of doing what they love and making what they love to drink. And, since so many love fishing almost as much as brewing, their labels serve as a reminder to always do what makes you happy.
That’s genius in and of itself, but they didn’t stop there. A local San Diego artist named Paul Elder realized he and some of the Ballast Point founding members had a similar interest in fishing, and the former had an incredible artistic talent, too. His sketches became paintings, and paintings became labels. To this day, Paul Elder creates all of the fish illustrations and nautical scenes that have come to be synonymous with the Ballast Point brand. Combining local talent with a local brewery? That’s a match made in beer label heaven.
Next up is Ohio’s Land-Grant Brewing Company, an incredibly popular brewery born from the minds of four like-minded friends and one basset hound. This crew does it all – sustainability efforts, community service initiatives, Euchre leagues, rotating selection of food by local food trucks and more. Their can art is cool, too. Even better, Land-Grant does an exceptional job at staying true to their roots while opening themselves up to new opportunities.
By offering four core beers (always available in the taproom), they have the flexibility to try new things without losing their most ardent fans. They’ve launched seasonal releases, limited releases, Space-Grant, Sea-Grant, Sun-Grant, Supporter Series, and Collaboration Beers, all of which enable them to declare who they are and what they stand for without sacrificing growth and opportunity. Can’t ask for much more than that.
We’re heading back out west now to feature Uinta Brewing, a quirky and adventurous establishment founded in 1993 in Utah. Visit their website and you’ll see the adventure theme everywhere you look – it’s part of everything they do. And, as any marketer worth his weight will tell you, knowing who you are and what you believe is step one to achieving any level of success in the business world. Luckily for Uinta Brewing, it seems they can go ahead and cross that off the list.
Not too long ago, Uinta underwent a major makeover, keeping its “Earth, wind, and beer” tagline while removing most everything else. Their logo, compass bottle and packaging all saw major changes, but the outcome was a defined beer brand that hits the mark. From the website design and photography to typography and visual identity, this group took a long hard look at themselves and fully declared who they are. They make you want to step out and try something new, if only for the sake of the adventure. That’s something we can raise a glass to.
There’s a lot to love about Pipeworks Brewing. Since opening in 2012, this Chicago based craft brewery has seen tremendous growth. That’s thanks in most part to quality brewing, a varied offering, and team of passionate individuals. You get the vibe of the brand immediately after visiting their homepage. Instead of using typical top page navigation like, “Our Beers” or “Staff,” Pipeworks infuses some personality and unique copy and voice attributes with the labels, “Beerz” and “Squad.” It’s a simple content decision that sets the tone for the site and brand.
They’ve also received significant attention and admiration for their can art. Oftentimes, they’ll use artist Jeff Kuhnie to put his magic to the labels, and his work speaks for itself. Even when the art isn’t his, they make sure to credit the illustrator on each label. Again, that’s an easy add to a label and something that highlights their passion and commitment for quality craftsmanship. It builds brand loyalty and creates a positive buzz around the brand, and costs them little in time or management.
We’re rounding out the list of top brewery brands with Hershey, Pennsylvania Tröegs Brewing Company. Founded by brothers Chris and John Trogner, this brewery has a little bit of everything. Like Land-Grant, Tröegs doesn’t stop at brewing quality beers. They host trivia nights, participate in non-profit events, attend festivals, schedule release parties and more. By taking some time to look past the walls of their taproom, they’re able to extend their reach and connect with new and current customers alike. They also have an innovative annual event that helped put them on the map.
The Art of Tröegs contest encourages artists (both local and out-of-town) to “take a piece of Tröegs” – like a label, bottle cap, etc. – and use it to create a piece of art. They don’t put a parameter on art type, either, so paintings, sculptures, collages and more all count. They display the winning work in their Art of Tröegs gallery at their Hershey, PA brewery, host an opening party to help celebrate, and award the winning artist with $500 in cash. You don’t even have to use your winnings to buy Tröegs’ beer, though they would surely accept it. This creative thinking has helped them to draw attention from people who might not otherwise drink their beer, thereby extending their influence and generating more potential customers. Well done, Tröegs!
Like we said at the beginning, it’s impossible to place too much emphasis on your brewery’s brand. Very little is as important as your image and perception to customers. The good news is that you have the freedom to try as many tactics as you’d like. Once you’ve clearly defined who you are through design, copy and a logo, your vision, and creativity can take you anywhere you want to go. The brewing industry has proven time and time again that small can be mighty and ingenuity the difference maker. Put your ideas to the test, learn from your mistakes, and dream big – your brewery has the potential to be best in class. It’s just waiting for you to get it there.