Yes, this is a bold declaration, but feel I’m on solid ground. The minute I laid eyes on the four pack of Allies Win the War, a collaboration beer by 21stAmendment Brewery and Ninkasi, I thought it was a brilliant concept and design. Distinct, memorable and unique are just a few words that come to mind. It’s easily the best craft beer packaging design I’ve seen in 2011.
I haven’t done some exhaustive study of every beer label and package design produced in 2011, nor do I think I have too. I’m sure there are some other good examples that don’t reach San Francisco, but I have a discerning eye at the bottle shop, a Masters degree in art, and a healthy obsession with design. If you disagree, rant in the comments, but I feel comfortable making this assertion. By the way, there was no 2010 award. Consider this my inaugural foray into king making.
This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen for the design of a 21st Amendment product. For some reason their branding, and the skill of the designers they hire, I find consistently compelling, which seems to dwell on American history. Franklin Delano Roosevelt appears on the side of Fireside chat, the first monkey in space is floating on Bitter American and now they’re paying homage to World War II.
When I first heard about the collaboration and the beer’s name I was baffled, but quickly realized it was a fun and audacious metaphor for craft beer. I wouldn’t call 5% of the beer market a win, but the tied has certainly turned. I suspect the brewers share a similar sense of humor and wit in addition to taste in beer. Apparently Shaun O’Sullivan, co-owner and brewmaster of 21st Amendment, and Jamie Floyd, brewer at Ninkasi, spent some formative time together at Steelhead Brewing.
A lot of time and energy went into the faux newspaper design of the four-pack. Historical photos were manipulated and articles were carefully crafted in tone befitting the era. My favorite sections include the crowd of people holding Beer Defeats Boredom newspapers, kegs being dropped from an airplane, and the image of Floyd, O’Sullivan and Nicco Freccia (co-owner of 21st Amendment) as Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. The original image was taken at the Yalta Summit in 1945 when the three leaders were planning the final assault on Germany.
As for the can’s exterior, it’s simply contains highlights from the four-pack design. I think it would have been better as a Silver Bullet, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over very well with the Feds.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of craft beer’s clichés. For example, haven’t we exhausted the number beer names that incorporate hops? Hopalicious, Hoptastic, HopMonster, etc. It’s time for some craft brewers to get as creative with their beer names and packaging as they are with their brewing. Craft a story, be playful and don’t take yourself to seriously. It may not be as important as the beer, but it can go a long way towards standing out from the increasingly crowded shelf, which Allies Win War so brilliantly achieves. It’s a little piece of art, worthy of my own magnificent yet meaningless award.
What about the beer you ask? It’s good. Actually, it’s really good. Buy it if you can find it. I’ll let someone else give you his or her impressions.
When’s the last time a beer’s package or label kept you engaged? Do you have a favorite beer label or package design? Please share them in the comments.