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Craft Beer Can Labels | Lightning Labels

Make Your Mark with Custom Craft Beer Can Labels

When people think of fun, colorful product packaging, it's natural to imagine craft beer can labels. Breweries have spent the past few decades trying to outdo one another with outlandish, bold logos and images that match the creative names given to new brews.

If you're interested in launching a new variety of craft beer, carving out your own space in this very busy and competitive field can be both exciting and intimidating. You're operating in a well-traveled lane, and your mission is to create a new beer label design that expresses your brand identity rather than copying someone else's idea.

With the right combination of design sense and high-quality label printing, you can produce custom beer packaging that fits the assignment.

How Do You Make a Craft Beer Brand Stand Out?

The era of hip design on craft beer bottles and cans has gone on so long that several waves of trends have passed. As the operator of a craft brewery, it's up to you to fit into this shifting milieu, either playing into the latest craze or rebelling against it.

What's happening in the industry today? According to Craft Brewing Business contributor Shayne Tilley, recent fixations include colorful, 60s-influenced psychedelia, text art and references to the turn of the millennium.

These trends show how beer can labeling fits into overarching design sensibilities. Craft breweries are prone to 20-year nostalgia cycles, for instance, bringing back visuals that felt cutting-edge around the year 2000, as well as the paisley 60s look that was experiencing a 40-year revival at that point.

Text art is more timeless than any visual style, and shows how companies can get results with simple methods. While customers may be expecting bold imagery, breweries can create a breakthrough with just text — provided the words have a distinctive look and feel of their own.

Perhaps the most important concept to keep in mind is that, amid design trends and nostalgia cycles, it pays to be true to your brand. If you create a distinctive look that fits in with your brewery's mission and the overall impression you're hoping to convey, it will be easier to keep customers coming back over time.

Even when you roll out new varieties of beer, shoppers will be drawn to them right away because they share an aesthetic sensibility with your existing beers.

Beer Can vs. Beer Bottle: What's the Difference?

While planning out a graphic design strategy that suits your brewery's overall branding, you'll need to ask yourself whether those beverage labels will go onto beer bottles or cans. A common assumption is that a craft brewery will opt for glass bottles and leave cans to the large, corporate producers. In recent years, however, cans have made a comeback in the craft world.

A blog post by Oregon's Ninkasi Brewing explains the state of the market regarding cans and bottles. The can revival comes down to a few factors. First, there's the idea that aluminum cans cause the beer to taste metallic — this is a myth, and metal flavors in beer tend to come from iron-rich water.

While aluminum doesn't tend to harm the taste of beer, direct light can make a brew go bad. This is the reason why beer bottles tend to be green or brown instead of clear — and it's also a potential reason to choose cans, as they keep all sunlight out.

In the end, many breweries end up using both bottles and cans, which is the approach Ninkasi uses. The pros and cons lists go on, without a definitive winner. Cans are easier for consumers to transport, while bottles might be more pleasing to drink from directly. Both are recyclable.

How Do You Create Ideal Craft Beer Can Labels?

Creating craft beer labels that live up to your goals and expectations comes down to a few factors. For instance, you have to be sure you're using strong materials that won't break down when exposed to moisture.

The imagery and text printed on these tough label materials should be sharp and easily legible, demonstrating that your brewery is capable of producing bright, appealing cans that will stand out among dozens of options. If you want to convey more information than a label can hold, you can add extra options such as QR codes and augmented reality features, giving an interactive feel to the beer packaging.

You also need to keep your label design compliant with all relevant regulations, including the standard warning label. This is overseen by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, with a small subset of beers managed by the Food and Drug Administration because they don't meet the TTB definition of a "malt beverage."

What Makes a Perfect Craft Beer Label Printer?

Since craft beer can labels and custom beer bottle labels are such a large part of brewery marketing, it's important to get this stage of the production process right, with no doubts or delays. You should, therefore, entrust your label printing to a partner organization that will deliver quality, speed, flexibility and customer service.

Lightning Labels can be the ideal beer label partner for a craft brewer. With over 20 years in the product labeling space, Lightning Labels has helped companies of all kinds create branding strategies that will reach their audiences and help them stand out in their respective fields, even when dealing with tough markets such as craft brewing.

To find out how Lightning Labels can assist your brewery with custom beer labels, request a quote.