In liquor stores full of new and ever-rotating cans and bottles of beer, how can a startup brewery -- or one that is new to packaging -- stand out from the pack?
That's the question that local graphic designer Josh Emrich asked himself when he sat down to create a label for Copper Kettle Brewing's Mexican Chocolate Stout, a beer that was bottled for the first time this month and will be released this Friday.
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It's the question that he tries to answer every time a brewery asks him to design a label.
"In crowded or established markets like Colorado, it is difficult to do something and still get shelf space when there are so many good breweries with distinctive packages already out there," says Emrich, who owns his own firm, Emrich Office. (See photos from the Copper Kettle labeling process at the end of this post.)
One of the keys to getting a reaction is to "appeal to an audience that is different or is underserved," he says. That's a strategy that worked in the case of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, a Loveland company that makes beers based on fairy tales.
"Grimm Brothers is fantasy geek meets beer geek," says Emrich, who designed the distinctive, fairy tale-related imagery for the German-style lager specialists.
Emrich has also worked with Utah's Uinta Brewing Company, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco and is in talks with several other breweries and distilleries. "Pretty much for the past two years, I've done nothing but beer labels," he says.
Copper Kettle owners Jeremy Gobien and Kristen Kozik noticed Grimm's designs when they were looking for someone to do their own labels and decided to hire Emrich to create a concept for their first bottled beer, Mexican Chocolate Stout, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011.
"One of the first things we tackled was redesigning their logo. We polished it up and made it look for professional, so it would work in the Denver market," he explains.
Then Emrich created the label's shape and colors -- copper being an obvious choice -- and settled on a typeface. But the real work went into researching the ancient gods of chocolate and agriculture, which was what Copper Kettle wanted to put on the label.
"There are multiple cultures in Mexico, so it became more of an amalgamation of those," he says. But people associate chocolate with the Mayans, so that is what we focused on."
Copper Kettle recently bought its own automated six-head bottling line, which will be able to fill 22-ounce bomber bottles at a rate of one case per minute. The brewery will sell them first from the taphouse and from a handful of liquor stores later this summer.
The first run will consist of about 3,500 bottles, which the brewery will release at a party from noon to 10 p.m. on Friday, June 21, the first day of summer. Bottles are $12.
Emrich will also design the labels for at least two other Copper Kettle beers, High Country Breakfast Stout and Oak Barrel Aged Double IPA.
"We'll use the copper effect, and the same label shape and type face, but the artwork would be some other design based on the story we are trying to tell," he says.
See photos of Copper Kettle's labeling process on the next page:
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