It was another long winter, but we’re at the finish line. Up next? Patio season! Canadians are throwing off their down coats and meeting over beers, but which brews will they choose? Whether they know it or not, their choices will be, at least in part, due to packaging. Beer labels communicate so much about the product, company, and brand—it’s an integral part of the beer drinking experience!
We at Lorpon decided to get some intel on what made beer drinkers thirsty, so we enlisted the help of industry experts, the Beer Sisters. If anyone knows their way around the tap room it’s these two!
Competition and judging
For this first beer label competition, we decided to focus only on pressure-sensitive labelling. Brews with plastic sleeves or direct can printing were excluded so we could zero in on labelled cans and bottles that really own the shelf.
Real-life sisters Crystal and Tara Luxmore are the Beer Sisters, highly qualified Advanced and Certified Cicerones (like wine sommeliers, but for beer) who offer guided tastings, workshops, and education about all things beer for the public and media. Based in Toronto, these two provide custom beer-based experiences to corporate and private clients, and have presented their favourite drink at their niche festival, Wild Things, and on CityLine,CBC radio & ABC’s Good Morning Texas. As journalists, their work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Toronto Life, LCBO’s Food & Drink and enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine.
These influencers are usually focused on what’s inside the bottle or can, having judged at the World Beer Awards and the Canadian Beer Awards. But they were more than game to take a different view of these brews. When Lorpon Labels needed expert judges to rate and rank our clients beer packaging, Crystal and Tara were their first draught picks. Overseen by Lorpon executives Jeff Sommer and Murray Ditchburn, The Beer Sisters faced off with brews in five distinct categories.
And the winners are…
Category 1: Everyday brews
- Boshkung KungoKoo India Pale
- Boshkung Camp Fire Rye Pale Ale
- Goose IsIand Mantis Double IPA
- Henderson UPA
- Lake Wilcox Lake House Craft Lager
- Henderson Symington Saison
- Triple Bogey Amber
WINNER: Boshkung KungoKoo India Pale
Don’t let the category fool you—these “everyday” brew labels are anything but ho-hum. The trick for these labels is to communicate that the product is outstanding enough to be your go-to brew, while embodying the character of the brand. In this first category, The Brew Sisters picked the bright orange label with the kangaroo motif as the stand-out. “It definitely jumps out at you — the bright, colourful label is easy to read and grabs my eye” Crystal said.
Category 2: Specialty brews
- Dominion Day Dry Hopped Kettle Sour
- Hendersons Drake Art House Blonde Ale
- 5 Paddles Brewing Co. In Your Face IPA
- Town Brewery Kolsch’r to the Heart Dry-Hopped Kolsch
- Chronicle Lando Cal Juice Ian IPA
- Overhop Brewing Co. Mad Manu American Blonde Ale
- Henderson and Trolley No. 5 Brew Pub Go Lanny Go! West coast IPA
- Henderson Society of Beer Drinking Ladies Picnic Point Pale Ale
- Hendersons Upper Canada Repatriation Lager
WINNER: Henderson and Trolley No. 5 Brew Pub Go Lanny Go! West coast IPA
Often including small batches or limited run labels for specific events, the specialty beer category provides brewers with a unique chance to spread their wings and think outside the bottle. With its ‘removable moustache’, the winning label from Henderson definitely set a new bar. “We’ve never seen that! What a great way to bring the label to life, says Tara. “I also remember this creating some buzz on social media.”
Category 3: Variable brews
- Dominion City 1971 Pale Ale
- Henderson House of Anasi Cucumber Blonde
- Henderson O-PEE-CHEE Lager
- Railway City Brewing Co. Arts Crawl
WINNER: Dominion City 1971 Pale Ale
With variable printing, a different label can be printed with every revolution of the press. This method works well for labels with numbering sequence or for limited edition releases. Variable content can showcase different images, artwork or even randomize a unique mosaic for each label. In this category, The Beer Sisters chose Dominion City’s ‘1971’ series, a Pride-themed set named after the year of the ‘We Demand’ LGBTQ+ rights protest”. The creative produced by Northern Army in Ottawa, Ontario was designed to create a rainbow effect when placed together. The brand also won points for sending partial proceeds to the Pride Society.
Category 4: Premium brews
- Dominion City Wilderness Gothic Barrel Aged Gamay Saison
- Hendersons Best Amber Ale
- New Limburg Flanders Red Oak Aged Ale
- New Limburg St. Christina Belgium Single
WINNER: New Limburg Flanders Red Oak Aged Ale
A premium brew deserves a premium label, something that communicates quality. For The Beer Sisters, nobody achieved this effect better than the New Limburg Flanders Red. The oversized bottle wrapped in a tactile felt paper label with an elegant design “really puts this beer style in the wine category, which is where a bottle-fermented aged sour belongs.”
Category 5: Brand continuity
- Chronicle Brewing Co
- Dominion City Brewing Co.
- Town Brewery
WINNER: Dominion City Brewing Co.
Effective branding relies in part on consistency. Colours, fonts, and design elements all signal your products to consumers and help build a brand story. This consistency can be just the thing to convince, for instance, a lager-drinker to try an IPA from a familiar brewery. With the clean lines of its old school National Parks look, Ottawa-based Dominion City topped this category.
Brewmasters have an important job making sure their beers are of the very best quality, but their efforts are largely invisible to the naked eye. Effective labeling—that which communicates the product and brand effectively—is crucial in helping you own the shelf. Take it from The Beer Sisters.
Photocredit: Amy Sue Brant Portrait Photography