Picture a trip to your local off license or bottle shop pre-lockdown. The shelves are stocked with rows of gleaming cans and bottles, many of them wrapped in bright, illustrated labels that carry the promise of craft. In fact, in the presence of quite so much defiantly anti-graphic-design design, and so many clashing colours and scrawled drawings, it can be hard to distinguish one craft beer brand from another. In independent companies’ haste to define themselves in opposition to big beer, have they all ended up in the same visual territory?
“It almost feels like the trope is there are no tropes,” says Natalie Redford, creative strategist at Robot Food, which has worked with brands including Masons of Yorkshire, Vocation Brewery and Hawkes.
“The craft aesthetic is just breaking the rules,” she continues. “With beer it started off with that craft, and being all about the brewery, but as it’s evolved it’s become more expressive and illustrative – and the other side of the scale is that Scandi influence where it’s super stripped back.
Going into a bottle shop is almost going into an adult Willy Wonka chocolate factory of amazing design
“It’s difficult now to pin down what the craft aesthetic is because I think it’s actually lots of different aesthetics you can put under that bubble of craft. Going into a bottle shop is almost going into an adult Willy Wonka chocolate factory of amazing design. But it’s completely overwhelming. What craft beer has done is basically give people permission to break the rules more.”