Last week, we took a look at some of the very worst labels you can find on a bottle of beer. To counterbalance all that artistic vomit, we gathered some of the most iconic and creative labels on shelves today -- labels that feature artwork as original and important as craft beer itself.
10. Boulevard Love Child #2
This foil-laden label is a graphic artist's wet dream. Great fonts, cool custom foil inlays and great color make this label jump off shelves. Its ultra-rare status (it's likely gone from shelves for good, voraciously gobbled up by beer nerds) keep it from being higher on the list.
9. Southern Star Bombshell Blonde
When you get down to blonde tacks, the art on these blue cans isn't that good -- but it's an important label nonetheless. Among the first craft cans in Texas, Bombshell's iconic Dr. Strangelove-style pin-up art is now synonymous with canned craft beer in the Lone Star State. Bonus: The tap handle is probably among the coolest around.
8. Saint Arnold Santo
In what is hopefully a sign of things to come, Saint Arnold has finally changed up its Ambien-replacement labeling. Designed by local Houston artist Carlos Hernandez, whose art can be found at Cactus Music and plastered on silos at the brewery, Santo is one of the best labels Texas has ever produced.
7. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
I bypassed the controversial Raging Bitch label, for this classic from Flying Dog's signature artist and longtime Hunter S. Thompson collaborator, Ralph Steadman. An homage to Hunter, this label has been a longtime favorite of the Gonzo writer's fans and beer aficionados alike. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the best American Porters ever made.
6. Avery Maharaja IPA
I love consistent brand labels, and I love series beers. The Dictator Series from Colorado's Avery Brewing Co. is arguably one for the best series of big beers offered on the planet, and the artwork is great-looking. I was going to pick something from the Avery Demon series, but I figured this article had enough evil-looking labels already.
5. Unibroue Maudite
I still remember spotting this label in Cost Plus World Market at age 22. It had to be the coolest label I'd ever seen. A decade later, Unibroue is making up for Canadian brewing mistakes like Molson and Labatt, and the brewery's artwork is still among the very best.
4. Dogfish Head Fort
I have a serious hard-on for pop artist and comic book illustrator Tara McPherson. I love just about everything she does, and her label for Dogfish is no exception. This isn't the first time craft beer and lowbrow art have tangled, but it's certainly one of the best. Adding to her work with Fort and Chateau Jihau labels, look for more Dogfish promo art from the cult artist this year.
3. Shmaltz Coney Island Lager
New to Texas, Coney Island artwork is top-notch, but their Lager is the trademark label. Even with my extreme aversion to clowns, I picked this label over the awesome Human Blockhead and the innuendo-laden Sword Swallower.
2. Left Hand Brewing Wake Up Dead
Named for a Megadeth song of the same name, and part of Left Hand's Ode to Thrash Metal (along with their yearly release, Fade to Black) Wake Up Dead is the very best art from the best lineup of labels in the country. Revamped over the past two years, Left Hand's labels have taken the beer community by storm and helped cement the brewery's place in beer history.
1. Jester King Black Metal
The grandfather of all Jester King labels is still the reigning king. This artwork set the tone for the brewery and the brand. With a full line-up of farmhouse beers, a lawsuit victory over the TABC and a growing nationwide reputation, the guys at Jester King have lived up to the reputation set by the Suds of Northern Darkness after only two short years in business. And while we're on the subject, that's not "one of the guys from KISS" on the label either. Instead, it's an homage to Abbath from classic Norwegian black metal outfit Immortal. (He's a household name, right?)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Bonus Label: Three Floyd's Apocalypse Cow
Not available in Texas (yet), this oddly styled, lactose-augmented Imperial IPA arrived on my desk just this week courtesy of a friend vacationing in Wisconsin. With a similar color palette and media similarities, albeit far different artistic styles, it serves as a great juxtaposition to last week's Devil's Backbone label art from Real Ale. Apocalypse Cow is the perfect example of simple yet clever and striking art on a label that's like its brewers: "not normal."