Drawn by Drunken Seven-Year-Olds: The 10 Ugliest Beer Labels in Texas
I can admit it: I am a packaging whore to some extent. A nice label is bound to catch my eye, be it laundry detergent, gin, beer, heroin...By the same token, bad marketing can turn me off of what may very well be a great product.
Beer is a notorious offender in the bad-packaging arena. Across the country, bad labels stalk liquor store shelves. People that make beer aren't always the most visually stimulated folks around, and some of these beer labels are lasting proof that most of these guys may very well be blind.
As anyone who has been to the far reaches of the Northeast can attest, fashion and visual aesthetic are not paramount to these people, and their beer labels show it. Apparently, when you spend six months out of the year being accosted by blinding snowstorms, making things pretty takes a backseat to more important tasks, like not dying of hypothermia in a snow drift.
That's not to say the breweries farther west fare any better. Apparently getting stoned and busting out your kids' crayons is what amounts to label art for a lot of beer makers out west. Colorado breweries alone could fill a third-grade classroom with groan-worthy labels and still not win an art ribbon.
Since there really is so much bad beer-label artwork to choose from, we limited it to bottles with which you could personally assault your eyes at your local grocery or liquor store.
Without further ado, the ten ugliest beer labels in Texas:
10. Twisted Pine Raspberry Wheat
This somewhat innocuous label also has the distinction of being a fairly horrible beer. The label itself looks like something off a $7 plastic bottle of Schnapps. Bonus lazy points: Half the labels look exactly like this, except in a range of retina-damaging colors like sour apple pucker green that maintain the cheap liquor aesthetic.
9. Bear Republic Racer 5
In contrast to the previous entry, Racer 5 is a fantastic beer. It's also consistently easy to pair with a wide range of food, which is why you see it on tap constantly at well-curated places like L'Olivier and Petrol Station. Unfortunately, Bear Republic subscribes to the "let's get high and make labels" school of art. Just like my first college roommate, they think Rasta flags on black are the pinnacle of cool -- and it shows on their entire line of beer.
8. Jester King Thrash Metal
Let me start off by saying that Jester King has, without a doubt, one of the best lineups of artwork in the country, bar none. The art, the quality of the labels, the copywriting, even the layout and fonts are all impeccable. Thrash Metal is the sore thumb here. Seriously, what the hell is going on? I assume what the artist tried to do was take a caricature of '80s-era Dave Mustaine and then added Kerry King or Rob Dukes's goatee. What it actually looks like is a dude getting his face blindsided into a doormat by a tidal wave of butter.
Hite is from Korea. Hite looks like it came from Korea. Actually, Hite looks like if you took a Degree deodorant logo and crossbred it with Miller Lite. The giant plastic bottle itself even looks more likely to hold cheap laundry detergent than beer. Fun fact: Cheap laundry detergent tastes better than this beer.
6. Pyramid Hefeweizen
Pyramid labels have never been good. The old label artwork was half-assed at best, a lot like the actual beer inside the bottle. Pyramid noticed their shortcomings recently and decided to revamp their packaging. Unfortunately, they seem to have hired the guy whose sole experience was packaging artwork for sports drinks because the beer now looks more at home next to Powerade than Sierra Nevada.
5. Tommyknocker Anything
I couldn't pick one. Not only have I never had any of their beers -- largely because of their horrible labels -- I simply couldn't pick one that was any worse than another. They all suck that badly. Labels feature a '70s-era stylized gnome of some sort engaged in various "humorous" (read: creepy as fuck) activities vaguely related to the beer's name. Every time I am tempted to try a Tommyknocker, I lock eyes with that creepy fuckin' dwarf on the bottle and all bets are off.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
4. Real Ale Devil's Backbone
Real Ale labels for the most part are not very good. The year-round beers like Full Moon and Rio Blanco are boring holdovers from the '90s. This year, their Devil's Backbone Trippel Ale saw a recipe tweak and a bump to year-round status and saw its label go from bad to "Holy shit, my eyes!" The new artwork resembles that third-grade art project, the kind where you would color a piece of paper wildly in a myriad of crayon colors, then go over it in black crayon. This left you a blank palette to scratch a design into, which then revealed a rainbow of color underneath. Yeah, it's stupid, and so is this label.
3. Santa Fe Pale Ale
If you have ever flown into conspiracy theory-ridden Denver International Airport, you may have noticed the bizarre murals and oddly placed Masonic references. Santa Fe labels are the Denver airport of beer: largely innocuous, probably harmless, still really creepy. Sporting art that looks lifted straight from a box of Broderbund software circa 1989 and printed on a laser jet printer of the same era, the whole mess is framed in an unnecessary triangle, which we all know is the favorite two-dimensional shape of cults everywhere. The labels were outdated when Santa Fe Brewing pulled out of Texas back in 2009. Santa Fe has returned and has begun updating packaging, but Pale Ale can still be found on shelves.
2. Laughing Dog CSB
Another really solid beer plagued by horrible labeling. Every single one of Laughing Dog Brewing's labels -- with the exception of maybe Alpha Dog -- looks like it was drawn by a drunken seven-year-old. Don't get me wrong, Alpha Dog still sucks...it just sucks a little less. Maybe the seven-year-old sobered up, who knows. CSB noses out a win here among equally shitty peers because of its name. CSB stands for Crotch Sniffing Bastard. And as luck would have it, the dog on the label, who appears to have contracted a severe case of "derp," is about to jam his wet nose up the skirt of some unwitting yet thankfully faceless woman. Classy. As. Fuck.
1. Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale
Rogue's ode to the world-famous Oregon dough slingers, this beer is almost universally reviled for being, in technical terms, absolutely gross. Like most Rogue bottles, Voodoo Doughnut doesn't have a traditional label, but is rather painted. The Pepto-Bismol pink bottle is emblazoned with what I assume is supposed to be a caricature of a voodoo practitioner, but it looks an awful lot like a drunk alien in a top hat.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.