Craft Beer Label Design: Sidetracked Barrel-Aged Series
Craft beer label design for Sidetracked Brewery

WEEK 7: Craft beer label design and illustrations for Sidetracked Brewery Barrel-Aged Series. Okay, so these designs are more about the illustration than the fonts, but you wouldn’t know the name or what kind of beer this would be without the supporting type!

Beer Logo Type Fonts

The font for titles of these beers is Vhiena, a typeface I scooped up as part of a vintage font pack. I added the thin “highlight” myself in Illustrator, and there are versions of this font with shadows.

The script font for “Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels” is Magesta Script Bold. It has different thicknesses and a nice ink bleed effect. Sidetracked was looking to have some part of this look as though it had been written with an old quill pen, and this font fits that bill.

Other fonts used in these label designs were Sidetracked Brewery’s corporate fonts, Bebas Neue and Nexa Slab. These were used in the descriptions and other sidebar elements, and worked for making these labels consistent with the brand and other label series.

Craft Beer Label Design

The designs for these labels started with Tyrannis, an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. The brewer and I knew we wanted to have some kind of sword or dagger, because the name comes from what Brutus is thought to have said when he assassinated Julius Caesar, “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, which is latin for “thus always to tyrants.” Oddly enough I’ve recently come to find out this is what John Wilkes Booth yelled after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. There’s a whole back story to how this beer named Tyrannis came to be, from an earlier beer another brewery called Brutus, but perhaps we can discuss that in the comments below for anyone who wants to know! Back to the label design, after presenting the dagger on the face of a barrel which doubled as a shield, it was too monotone and just wasn’t there yet. So, I added some blood to the dagger—much easier said than done—and some blood splatters to the background and boom! We had a look we loved, and decided to carry it through to future labels in the series.

Next up was Aleannan, a Barleywine-style Ale also aged in bourbon barrels. Aleannan translates to “lover” or “beloved” and this beer and label was a surprise gift for the brewer’s wife, who used Aleannan as a screen name. The peony is her favorite flower, and I had fun illustrating this and adding more color than we had on Tyrannis. I splattered greens and pinks in the background to tie into the petals and flowers.

Altera Vida Craft Beer Label Design

The most recent beer in this series of craft beer label designs is Altera Vida, an Imperial Milk Stout aged in bourbon barrels with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon and cayenne peppers added—one of my all-time favorite styles of beer! If you’ve heard of or have been fortunate enough to try Mexican Cake from Westbrook Brewing, this is the same style. The idea for this label design came from thoughts of Mexican heritage and the beer being released on Halloween. It was natural to go with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) but came to realize there were a ton of other beers out there with this name and theme. I created several sketches for Day of the Dead faces and characters, but nothing stuck. We met in person to discuss the theme and beer name. The brewer had a Hispanic friend who recently passed and wanted to dedicate the beer to him and others with a similar story. We eventually settled on naming the beer “Altera Vida” which roughly translates to “Next Life”. This is fitting in so many ways, since the afterlife is considered in Mexico to be the next life, and the next life for this craft beer came after aging it in bourbon barrels. We combed through photos and illustrations for Day of the Dead characters and found a news photo of a woman in a Day of the Dead parade we really liked. From there I drew inspiration and began to build a character and filled her with surrounding of ingredients featured in the beer. Much like this beer, a ton of things came together in harmony. See that Aztec calendar earring? That’s my sneaky way to reference ancient civilizations. Designing this label was a labor of love, but hey, I love my labor!

Sidetracked Brewery Craft Beer Label Design Series

More Craft Beer Label Designs in this Series to come!

This barrel-aged series for Sidetracked Brewery in Morganton, NC is far from over. In fact, at the time of writing, we have another label in the works. I’ll be happy to show that one off when it’s complete and I’m already looking forward to the next. And like Tyrannis, a new version can come out every year or so, and we’ll update the label to coincide. Stay tuned for more from m.e. and Sidetracked!

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