A designer’s guide to American craft beer merchandise
Finding well-designed craft beer merch online is not as easy as you might think.
Craft beer is booming and as millions of barrels of liquid gold washes across the country, so are truckloads of branded merch. Often tucked away in the back corner of a brewery’s website you can find some unique t-shirts, glasses and bar accessories.
Surprisingly, though, finding great merch is much harder than I would have thought. There are a lot of great breweries in this country that just don’t have online stores. Then there are the breweries that are fine with just slapping a basic logo on the trinity (t-shirt , hoodie and glassware). A number of breweries take that a step further and put every label they make on their swag.
Luckily, there are some breweries that have beautifully designed logos, and just getting that on a comfy T is all you need. There are some that have superb labels that, with proper sizing and placement, can also make for a great design find.
Cottage industries and start-ups are looking to fill a design and culture void within the community. Some of these merch centric brands are critically focused on design and aesthetics. Fortunately we also have some breweries that are wholeheartedly embracing design and creative branding.
Below you’ll find a collection of swag that I personally thought was well designed. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s very much a work in progress, and with over 3,000 breweries in the US, it will likely be a never-ending task to try and track down every piece of good design coming out of the craft beer community.
Just to qualify one aspect here. While my deeming something as “well designed” is definitely subjective, I’ve had the fortune and luxury of working professionally in the creative services industry for the past 16 years. I’ve been exposed to some incredibly talented people and have seen both the good and the bad sides of design along the way.
Here’s what you can expect within this list. I scanned the heavy hitters and well known breweries. I have checked the states with heavy concentrations of breweries and went through the lists provided by their respective guilds to track down as many recognizable breweries that I could find. I cross-referenced the breweries listed in both Beeradvocate’s top 250 list and Ratebeer’s top 50. I’m a guy, so most of the apparel I picked is of the male cut and size. Ladies, please use this list as a jump off. If you see a t-shirt you like the brewery may very well have a similar version for you.
Yes, there are some omissions, as there are a few very well respected breweries that peddle crap for merchandise. There are also a few breweries that had online stores that were so poorly designed from a user experience perspective that it just was not worth my time to stumble around inside them to find anything worthwhile.
Please be aware that inventory is always changing in these webstores. What is here today maybe gone tomorrow. Just over the course of collecting all these pieces I’ve had to go back and remove a bunch that are already no longer avaialable or have been replaced.
So lets get into this… (in no particular order)
Craft Geer: Drink Local
Simple message & playful typography. Black on Grey is always a great color way too.
Threadless: Dark Lager
Great illustration for the metal heads out there.
Threadless: BEER BEAR
A Bear with a beer. This shirt pretty much sells itself.
Whales Bro! For the treasure hunters out there.
Jester King: Atrial Rubicite
I love all the illustrations on their labels but this one works especially well on a T.
Beer Dabbler: Yeti
It’s a well known fact that Yeti’s imbibe.
Breckenridge: CO flag
A nice graphical play on elements that define the home of Breckenridge.
Deschutes: The Dissident
This has that sort of irreverent indie-rock vibe to it.
Brew Tees: Evil Twin Falco
Amazing what you can make with a series of triangles and smart color choices.
Good Beer Hunting: Aim True
Words to live by.
Brew Tees: Hop Head
I love the 80's horror campy-ness of this design.
Beautiful illustration work and smart design choices with the type and logo placement.
Hair of the Dog: Cherry Adam
Such a good logo and that is all you need for this shirt.
Brew Tees: Mikkeller Invasion
Ok, Ok, I know technically Mikkeller isn’t an American company but they do have a beer bar here and you can get this site through an american retailer.
Modern Times: Logo T
From a brand that just gets where craft design is at right now. Such gorgeous typography.
Oscar Blues: Cyclhops
Cyclops Hops are coming for you!
Oscar Blues: Dale’s Firebird
This retro rip totally fits Dales Pale Ale.
Westbrook: White Thai
Westbrook does a great job on their simple yet interesting labels. Those designs feel just as natural on their T’s.
Prairie: Their Webshop
This brewery’s merch is ever changing but the design is always top notch so check em out.
Solemn Oath: Pyrros
Another one for the metal heads. This shirt lets everyone know that your ready to go fists first into the mosh pit.
The Rare Barrel: Logo T
Great type and great name for a brewery.
Left Hand: JuJu
Another amazing label design that I would be proud to wear.
Great Divide: I Believe
He’s out there. You know it.
21st Amendment: Monk’s Blood
Great color choice on this comfy as hell looking longsleeve.
21st Amendment: Scarf
Keep your neck warm in style.
Great Divide: Lumber Cap
Love the old school gas station branding of Gigantic. It works well on these hats.
Shorts: Maniac Sweatshirt
Speaking of old school, This sweatshirt looks like it rolled right out of an 80's steel mill.
Craft Loyal: Snifter
Simple snifter with a poignant call to arms.
Craft Geer: Nonic
This nonic pint glass will easily become your everywhere anywhere glass.
Lagunitas: Mason Jar
Everyone needs a Lagunitas mason jar. A simple thumb dimple makes it feel perfect in your hand.
Modern Times: Tulip Glass
There is this retro decadence that these glasses exude. From the pool bar pina colada shape to the gold striping they just make you want to hang out on a roof deck over the city all night.
Pretentious Beer Glass Company: The Full Set
Look at that lineup! For when you don’t want to play by the rules or if you just want to stare at your brew in a form you never thought it could be in.
Founders: Breakfast mug
When a pun just works. If you’ve ever had this gem from Founders you know exacly why this mug is perfect.
Sticker Mule: Beer Stickers
A number of breweries and bars use the Sticker Mule service. Check out all the designs they have.
Craft Beer Hound: Shadow Box
Turn all those caps into art. Not only does it make you eco conscious it also makes you classy.
Craft Loyal: Logo sticker
Everything about this sticker says craftsmanship.
Beer Dabbler: Craft Posters
Spruce up your cave with any of the amazing posters in this webshop.
Field Notes: Coasters
You won’t find a better designed coaster out there.
Seriously the best opener ever. Watch the video on their site and you will find yourself wondering why don’t already own it.
So there it is. A little bit of everything for the discerning craft-beer lover. Hopefully I made it a little bit easier for someone to find that perfect gift or treat yourself.
As I mentioned earlier, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. So, if you have seen some dope design work from your local brewery drop a link to it in the comments. If you’re a brewery and have some rad shit you want people to know about, please do the same and send me an XL. Cheers!
You can find me drinking on Instagrams @ https://instagram.com/eflynnbot/