People always say, “ You can’t judge a book by its cover”, but can you judge a beer?

Welcome to Wisconsin: official land of cheese, unofficial land of beer. Ask any Wisconsinite over the age of 21 and I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you what their beer of choice is… but why is that particular kind of beer their favorite?

Anyone from the age of 21-25 will probably tell you it’s his or her favorite because of the price (poor post-college students unite!), anyone with a more refined palette (that’s not based on how many beers they can get for ten dollars) might say their favorite beer is dependent on taste, others might be loyal to beers that are local, and  a few people might only drink a certain kind of beer just because its what they’ve always bought.

Then there are people like me. I judge every beer by its “cover.” I suppose it might have something to do with the graphic design degree with my name on it, but I gravitate toward beers that hook me by the label, the advertising, how they stand out on a shelf surrounded by other competitors, the visual appeal… I want to be enticed aesthetically before I even  begin think about what kind of beer it actually is.

Beer label designers take a lot of different things into consideration when creating a unique look for a new drink. One thing they consider is the name of the beer. Where does the name draw inspiration from… a historical event or figure? A country? A lifestyle?

Secondly, what kind of beer is it? Is it a dark stout or golden ale, or maybe something in between? What flavors are present? How heavy or light is the beverage? What color does it pour?

Another thing they consider is where the beer is brewed… does that factor into the look of the bottle or the label? And of course, what does the company want you to feel when you see the beer on the shelf? What mood does the artwork create?

That’s the fun when you look at every individual beer bottle as a piece of artwork. You see the art and it immediately tells you something or transports you to another place or time.

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking, “But how artistic can a beer label really be?”

Well, luckily for you I did some extensive research and found some of the most artistically literate beer labels you can buy.


Ethos IPA (India Pale Ale) Tall Grass Brewing Co.

Starting way back at the beginning of art history with prehistoric cave drawings, Tall Grass Brewing Company’s Ethos IPA uses a big, bright, colorful design reminiscent of the images we’ve discovered in the deepest caverns of the world. Coincidentally, Tall Grass describes its Ethos IPA as having a big, bright, and beautiful aroma that explodes with hoppy flavors. If you google the word “Ethos,” you will find that it comes from Greek origins meaning “character,” used to describe the guiding beliefs of a people or nation and how music influenced emotion, behavior and morals in those people.  Think of how cave drawings must have guided people in that time period!

EOS Hefeweizen Nebraska Brewing Company

EOS Hefeweizen Nebraska Brewing Company

Moving into the ages of Greek Mythology, I bring you Nebraska Brewing Company’s EOS Hefeweizen, a Bavarian-Style wheat ale. Although the design has more of a modern illustration feel to it, the imagery draws inspiration from Renaissance marble sculptors such as Michelangelo and Bernini.  Pictured on the can is Eos, the Goddess of Dawn who, according to Greek Mythology, was lifted into the sky at the start each day by her own set of golden wings to welcome the new day. The figure of Eos is a perfect representation of this golden colored wheat ale that has an uplifting fruity flavor.

Duchesse de Bourgogne, BR. Verhaeghe Belgium

Duchesse de Bourgogne, BR. Verhaeghe Belgium

Drawing inspiration from 15th Century Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painters such at Jan Van Eyck, Br. Verhaeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne features a portrait image of Mary, Duchess of Burgundy.  The style of bottle and suggested “chalice-shaped glass”along with a roasted malt taste and mature oak finish, ensures that this West-Flemish red brown ale  will transport you back in time to the royal table of Mary herself… talk about the power of design!

Polygamy Nitro Porter Wasatch Brewery

Polygamy Nitro Porter Wasatch Brewery

Finally we arrive to the Italian Renaissance. Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Nitro Porter channels the work of Italian Renaissance painters such as Titian and Michelangelo.  The imagery displayed on the label ties in flawlessly to the title of Wasatch’s newest brew. The Polygamy Nitro Porter is the “sister-wife” of the classic brew by the same name, amped up and smoothed out by the addition of nitrogen bubbles in each bottle.  The porter’s dark, smooth texture is echoed in the bottle design, but the dark mood is uplifted by the brewery’s witty description of the beer. Wasatch makes it very clear that while the Nitro porter is the sister-wife of their original porter, its “OK to love them both” and that it pairs well with “more than one of everything.”  I don’t know about you, but I love any beer that tells me to order two meals with it.

Who would have thought that you could get an art history lesson just by taking a seat at the bar?

Still not convinced that you are missing out on an educational art experience every time you throw back a cold one? See for yourself here.