Posts Tagged ‘design’

Keep this Beer Away from Lederhosen and KFC


Right there on the label of this beer, almost every part of it, Austin Beerworks makes it clear that you should proceed with maximum caution. You should not even think about consuming this beer with KFC, while wearing lederhosen, or while operating heavy machinery of any sort.

The label is not new, but it is a tad out of the ordinary. It pokes gentle fun at the oh so serious Government Warning Statement, mandated by Congress since the 1988 Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act. In the early years, after this Warning became required on most every beer, wine and spirits label in the U.S., it would have been essentially unthinkable, to allow any fun-poking, aimed in this general direction. To wit, one of the Government’s biggest objections to the Black Death Vodka labeling and packaging, was that it tended to mock the — oh so serious Warning. This label shows that a lot of beer has flowed under the bridge since then, and there has been a general chilling out.

It probably also helps, that the real Warning does appear at least twice, and with good, solid prominence and contrast. But, that base having been covered, Austin revs up for a snarknado. I can’t list all the snarky comments and warnings, because there are so many. But some of my personal favorites are that this beer should not be paired with:

  1. Lederhosen
  2. Eyebrow tweezing
  3. Bro-tazing
  4. Edible underwear (or other underwear, such as bras)
  5. This
  6. Putting baby in a corner
  7. KFC

The full brand is Austin Beerworks Heavy Machinery IPA, and the approval is here. Apart from the modest legal issue noted above, I hasten to add that I have a small, personal connection to this label. Christian Helms is the man behind this label and many other high-end alcohol beverage labels. I went to see him once, in Austin, to try to get help on a big legal and design project. As he sat behind his big screen, with lots of Texas light streaming in, he was willing to talk — but he was not willing to take on the project. At any cost. In 30 years since law school, I have rarely seen a professional who won’t consider any given project, if the fee gets high enough. He was not interested, at any price. One part of me is disappointed, and the other part gives him credit for his decisiveness (not to mention his good sense when it comes to mixing beer and bro-tazing).

Please let me know if you see any other funny, or unusual warnings out there.


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Cocktail Inspired Beer

STB-114 BarrelWorks_R.1

A beer with a reference to:  DISTILLERY, COCKTAILS, BOURBON, and a MANHATTAN?




Posted in:

cocktail, distilled spirits, flavored malt beverage

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Bacon Labeling 101


After a full day wrangling booze labels, I heard a good story about bacon labeling on the way home from work (bringing home the bacon, as it were). The radio story emanated from a Bloomberg web story, “Why Supermarket Bacon Hides Its Glorious Fat.” The story touches upon the intersection of our love-hate relationship with fat and with government, and also upon labeling issues and wily businesspeople. Explaining that bacon has “one of the most unusual and underappreciated packaging formats of any supermarket product” it says:

The standard one-pound package shows the bacon slices fanned out, with only their leading edges exposed. The industry term for this is a shingle pack—a reference to the way the slices overlap. Because those front edges tend to feature more lean muscle than the fattier back edges, and because the face of the top slice is invariably covered by a paperboard flap containing the manufacturer’s logo and other branding information, the consumer sees a relatively unbroken field of red protein, creating the illusion that the bacon is leaner than it is.

Lest the bacon packaging hide the fat too much, the U.S. government requires the packaging to show the real story, at least on the back window. The window allows the consumer:

to see how the bacon truly looks in all its fatty glory. … [T]he shingle pack doesn’t just present an idealized bacon fantasy—it also provides a built-in reality check. It’s hard to think of another package that engages in such a clever sleight of hand on the front and then gives away the game on the back.

The story also has a nifty video about the machinery used to slice the bacon slabs optimally. In a radio version of the story, Lukas says the shingle pack is “ingeniously deceptive.”

And if you don’t think bacon shingles have a lot to do with booze marketing, you should take a peek through this window.


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Spirits Make the World More Beautiful


I have not looked at The Dieline in a while, so it’s time to catch up. This website does an excellent job of showing the best and most creative package and graphic design from around the world.

I am struck by what a huge percentage of the posts relate to food packaging — and alcohol beverages in particular. Below is a fairly random sampling, the last 27 posts, covering the past five days (in September of 2014). Fully 11 of 27 (40%) directly relate to alcohol beverages; I put those in black. The other foods are in medium blue, and the unrelated posts are in light blue.

  1. Coffee beans
  2. Juice
  3. Beer
  4. Mezcal
  5. Tattoos
  6. Lemoncello
  7. Gewurztraminer
  8. Rum
  9. Gardening products
  10. Biscuits
  11. Whisky
  12. Juice
  13. Playing cards
  14. Energy drink
  15. Chopped tomatoes
  16. Chocolate
  17. Salsa
  18. Chocolate
  19. Water
  20. Fruit bars
  21. Oat drinks
  22. Beer
  23. Spirits
  24. Spirits
  25. Invitations
  26. Wine
  27. Wine

The Dieline’s tag for all beverages is here. Which ones seem best and worst to you? This one is pretty darn good in my opinion. Also, this Skyy label, which seems to glow in the dark and react to the music, is nicely done.


Posted in:

alcohol beverages generally

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Of DSS, SOC and LabelVision


Well here I sit, writing on day 15 of the shutdown. All the government stuff I need (such as COLAs Online) is unavailable. Thank goodness that all the private stuff is available. It takes a lot of public and private resources to make this blog go. That is, on the private side, I need my web server, my ISP, my WordPress, Google, a bit of AC power, etc.

Increasingly, I also need my LabelVision. LabelVision is a tremendous resource, provided by the people at ShipCompliant. It provides various ways to scour TTB’s label database, even when TTB’s systems are down. LabelVision enabled me to quickly find the WinterJack COLA as above. To find this label, my other and much less appealing options would have been to wait until TTB re-opens someday, or jump in the car and drive around until I find this new product.

I had a sudden need to look at this Tennessee Cider label in order to explore what is new and current in distilled spirits specialty (“DSS”) labeling, and the statements of composition (“SOC”) that go along with this category of spirits. To recap, where you have a common type, set out in the regulations, it is sufficient to mention simply VODKA or RUM or TEQUILA or WHISKEY. But where you have something more like miscellany, it is necessary to provide, on the front label, a “statement of composition.” This needs to appear near the “fanciful name” (and “brand name”) — and needs to match the SOC as suggested on the approved formula (formula approval is required for all DSS products). Most suggested SOCs have the alcohol base, then flavors, then colors, with very little extraneous matter. And so, the “normalized” SOC, here, would be LIQUEUR, WHISKEY, CARAMEL COLOR. Not too enticing.

So, with plenty of marketing prowess, the mighty Jack Daniel Distillery has substantially rearranged the various terms. Even the smallest changes (such as changing WITH NATURAL FLAVOR to WITH NATURAL FLAVORS) can cause delays, needs correction notices and rejections. Here, it seems Brown-Forman changed what would have been the TTB-suggested SOC, to add a whole lot of puff. All these words got added to the SOC:  A, SEASONAL, BLEND, OF, APPLE, CIDER, JACK, DANIEL’S®, TENNESSEE. All these words got removed (from the SOC):  CARAMEL COLOR. That is, the most-probably-suggested-SOC and the approved-label’s-SOC do not have a whole lot in common. And yet the label got approved.

I am not trying to suggest that there is anything wrong with the label or the SOC at issue. Instead I am using this label as an example of how the seemingly simple requirement, to put an SOC on the front, can raise many legal issues. Should the caramel be shown in the same font and color as the remainder of the SOC? With the caramel moved a line below the SOC, would it be ok to move it a bit more, such as to the back label? At what point does the puff, in the SOC, go too far and crowd out and obscure the true SOC? Could Brown-Forman add the caramel to the whiskey component, rather than the end product, in order to de-emphasize or avoid label references to color? For every approval like this, with a “creative” SOC, how many times did TTB press for an SOC that much more closely matches what is suggested on the formula approval?


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Posted in:

distilled spirits specialty

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