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Three Designers On Their Art Of Beer (Labels)

You're standing in front of a beer cooler staring at a sea of crafty looking labels. Like a puppy at the pound, each is designed to catch your eye and to get you to take them home.

Who's drafting these label designs and why? 

Three graphic designers at three different Denver breweries spoke with us about how they put the art in label making. Each has a different approach to getting that job done. 

Travis Olsen

Olsen has designed nearly forty labels for Crooked Stave in Denver. He says he often uses the beer name to inspire his designs. "Art in the bottle, art on the bottle," he explained.

One label in particular – Nightmare on Brett - took its inspiration from Crooked Stave drinkers. Olsen says some people report having strange dreams after drinking beers brewed with the wild yeast brettanomyces.

Dave Coleman

Bull & Bush Brewery and Pub is about to bottle its signature Man Beer. Brewery co-owner Erik Peterson has toyed with the idea of labeling and bottling for as long as they have been brewing. That’s 17 years by the way.  "I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights thinking. I guess I get too worked up about wanting to make sure it’s the right label," said Peterson. "So I’ve been kind of freaked out about it."

His college buddy and graphic designer Dave Coleman was tasked with easing that anxiety and coming up with a label for its Man Beer, which could appeal to both sexes.

"We tried out a lot of things, that were, I wouldn’t say were overtly sexist, but were more… you know cavemen or whatever, right?" Coleman says with a wink in his voice. "So we test drove that and said, eem, we’re going to pull back from that quite a bit."

Betty Wang

Betty Wang says she and her husband Danny, who own Caution Brewing Co., want their tongue-in-cheek humor to come across in their beer labels. They aren't bottling yet, but will have labels at the ready when they do. 

Wang's designs include, Card Your Mom Saison, which shows an elderly woman making her way, walker in one hand. Photo ID in the other. Confused? It’s a play on words; the beer has cardamom seeds in its boil.


Need another round for Craft Beer Week? Grab a word on sour beers, local ciders, or even the ingredients - like local malts.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO.

A native of Stamford, VT, I call(ed) the Berkshires of western Massachusetts my home. The Berkshires are a culturally rich area -- I’m talking pass the butter and heavy cream -- rich.
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