An Industry on the Rise: Signage and Branding for Microbreweries

by Jayme Nelson

Microbreweries, independently owned businesses known for their sophisticated brewing techniques and underdog spirit, are more popular than ever. According to the Brewers Association, the number of microbreweries increased from 1,521 in 2008 to more than 3,200 in 2014. In fact, even as overall beer sales decrease nationwide, craft beer sales continue to rise. But as more companies throw their hat in the microbrewery ring, the field is growing crowded and the competition more hotly contested.

Standing Out

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Photo credit: Brookston Beer Bulletin

With that increased competition, microbreweries are looking for ways to stand out from the bunch. But many of these small businesses don’t have the resources for national ad campaigns, and even if they did, the idea of mass advertising often goes against the spirit of the industry. That’s where craft beer packaging and signage is a key component of success, with many hiring professional designers and marketers to make sure their products jump off the shelves.

Many of these branding efforts begin with labels.  It’s a natural starting point as the label is printed on every bottle or can of beer, and the design of the label is often the first thing a customer notices. That’s led to some creative takes on labels and packaging.

St. Stefanus

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Photo credit: Creative Bloq

Most labels attempt to reflect the culture or history of the business, and this blonde ale does just that. This microbrewery in Belgium still uses a recipe passed down from monks that lived during the 13th century. St. Stefanus uses a font found in the books of the monastery library helping to share the story behind the beer.

Cerveceria Sagrada

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Photo credit: Creative Bloq

This Mexican craft beer, Cerveceria Sagrada, also uses history as inspiration for its colorful labels. Lucha Libre professional wrestlers are an integral part of Mexican culture, and their high-flying wrestling styles, colorful outfits and big personalities have crossed over into the American mainstream. These labels create a fun character around the beer while also attracting the eye with their bright colors.

Spreading the Word

Many microbrewery brands are regional and rely on word-of-mouth to promote their products outside of their home region. Within their region, these microbreweries sell their products to local grocers, liquor stores, bars and restaurants. In addition to attractive packaging, small breweries are producing authentic beer signs to be displayed in these same locations. These craft beer signs are designed in much the same way as their labels; with a focus on history or eye-catching art, as seen in this sign for New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk from Holland, Michigan.

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Photo credit: Beer FX

The craft beer culture is intense and competitive, spawning thousands of festivals across the country throughout the year. For microbreweries looking to expand beyond their regional footprint, that means taking their beer’s story, and signage, on the road. At most events, brewers are allowed to set up shop (for a fee, of course) and distribute their beer to festivalgoers. While you hope that your beer speaks for itself, the right mix of signs and visual graphics are needed to grab attention and drive traffic to your booth. A coherent set of banners, posters, decals and wall graphics reinforce your beer’s branding and story. This visual strategy reinforces the experience for attendees who will be sampling several beers throughout the festival.

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Photo credit: Craft Brewing Business

From rich, gold ales to fruity-dry porters to full-bodied malts, customers have endless options. Creating and distributing a flavorful beer has become an art form and point of pride for brewers. Craft beer producers are now focusing some of that creativity and competitive spirit on their beer signage. What are your favorite craft beer labels or signage? Tweet us @FASTSIGNS or post to our Facebook and Pinterest pages.

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