A Totally Subjective Ranking of Craft Beer Logos in Denver

Beer is big business in Colorado. It seems like a month doesn’t go by without a new brewery opening up in the metro area. Just to give you an idea, here are some stats on the state of craft beer in Colorado from the Brewers Association (numbers as of 2015):

  • Colorado had 284 craft breweries, which is 7.3 breweries per 100,000 21+ adults (ranked 3rd in the country)
  • Craft beer had an economic impact of more than $2 billion
  • 1,775,831 barrels of beer are produced per year, which is 14.1 gallons per 21+ adults in the state

While I am impressed by those big numbers and I do have endless appreciation for a good brew, as a student of design, I am more concerned with what is truly important: a brewery’s logo and general branding aesthetic. Sure, that crisp pale ale might hit the spot on a weekend afternoon, but am I lusting over the coaster it is sitting on or marveling at how the logo looks on my glass? Am I tempted by your merch because it actually looks good? Will your brewery’s sticker make the cut to take up real estate on my water bottle?

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m here to ask the important questions.

In order to get down to what REALLY matters, I have embarked on a highly un-scientific, completely subjective process of evaluating logos of Denver area breweries to rank for you, dear reader, the best of the best. I realize that I am still relatively amateur when it comes to design in general, but I am going to go out on a limb and say this is the definitive ranking of craft beer logos… mainly because I can’t find any other list on the internet. ONWARD!

Note: Boulder + close-in surroundings, you are your own thing. Therefore, only Denver and close in ‘burbs were considered for this list.

Another note: Cider, you’re your own thang too. Beer only on this one. What can I say? I had to draw a line somewhere. Though, Stem Ciders, I see you there, and I appreciate you and your recent-ish crazy awesome redesign. You can have the title of honorary best beer logo of my heart.

But First, My Methodology

While admittedly unscientific, I did come up with some categories to help me determine the winners and losers of my logo love. Each logo was ranked out of 10 points for each of the following areas:

  • Is the logo distinct? A logo shouldn’t look like everything else out there. The branding has to stand on its own and be set apart from the competitors.
  • Is the logo readable? Not legible? Try again.
  • Is the logo versatile? A company’s logo should look good scaled up or down, and should work in color or in black and white.
  • Is the logo attractive? Because it MUST look super fly. No negotiation.
  • Is the logo timeless? If a logo looks dated to me now, in 5 or 10 years, that problem will just be compounded.

Since I scored each logo in five categories, they could be awarded a total of 50 points of design perfection.

Let’s Get to Judgin’!

What follows is my definitive ranking of the top 10 Denver area brewery logos according to yours truly.

10. Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, Ballpark — 40 points

All right, Jagged Mountain, I so wanted to hate on the use of mountains in your logo after looking at SO MANY Denver beer logos centered around mountains. But damn if Jagged Mountain’s logo isn’t super sleek.

All in white overlaid over mountains? I’m still down.

From the original, it would seem that it wouldn’t look good in just one color, but it still holds up. Way to go, Jagged Mountain, you and your mountains make the cut.

9. Ratio Beer Works, RiNo — 42.5 points

Ratio’s logo in black and white

Ratio Beerworks has a solid wordmark — clean and easy to read with some subtle quirks to it. Their pictorial logo plays on the math theme of their name.

That yellow! I love it.

There’s nothing too flashy or original here, but Ratio does a good job overall when it comes to their logo and branding. And, I can’t go without mentioning how awesome the interior of their RiNo brewery is. Each and every detail was thoroughly considered, making every inch of the interior and exterior an aesthetic dream.

The Ratio Beerworks interior.

7. (Tie) Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company, RiNo — 43 points

Our Mutual Friend’s logo makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s what they were going for, right? It’s unique, memorable and makes me want to shake everyone’s hand whenever I go in.

The mural on the front of OMF by Denver artist Jeremy Burns.

That mural out front just amplifies that feeling, and I love the clever use of the pictorial logo in the middle. OMF would have ranked higher if their pictorial logo scaled down better. The handshake gets a little lost when turned white and thrown on their beer glasses.

7. (Tie) Cerebral Brewing, Congress Park— 43 points

With another math/science name is #8 on the list. Cerebral Brewing’s clever hybrid brain-hops pictorial logo looks mighty fine on a beer glass.

Considering how gross brains actually look, their logo absolutely does not gross me out or turn me off from drinking their beer. It also transfers from the original gold color to black and white nicely.

5. (Tie) Westfax Brewing Co., Lakewood — 43.5 points

Westfax: Looks good in red.

Westfax Brewing Co., located on — get this — West Colfax in Lakewood, really hits a homerun with their good lookin’ logo.

The homepage of the Westfax website. Crazy handsome.

Like Cerebral, they use a brewery logo staple, hops, but they use it in a stylistically interesting way. Is it a hop? Is it fire? Is it a flower? After looking at as many Colorado-based company logos as I did, I quickly came to resent any logo that had mountains or hops in it, but Cerebral, Westfax, and one of the logos tied for first swayed me with their more creative depiction of the obvious.

5. (Tie) Spangalang Brewery, Five Points — 43.5 points

Spangalang’s painted sign.

On their website, Spangalang Brewery describes their mission as “brew[ing] fresh, high quality micro brewed beer in a lively, inviting neighborhood atmosphere.” Appropriate to their Five Points home, Spangalang’s pictorial logo is the intersection at the center of the neighborhood overlaid on a record, which evokes the spirit and history of the Five Points neighborhood.

Inside, looking out from Spanglang.

It’s in the name, too. Again, from the Spangalang website: “First popularized by the great Kenny Clarke beginning in the 1940s, you’d be hard pressed to find a drummer worth a lick today who couldn’t give you a little spang-a-lang.” The bright colors are unique amongst the competition and brewery logos in general.

4. Black Sky Brewery, Santa Fe Arts District — 45.5 points

Denver is lucky enough to have two different craft beer breweries that have both beer and metal on tap. As a former Baker resident, I am loyal to the beer, viking table, and vibe at TRVE, but I have to give it to Black Sky in the logo competition.

So.Metal.

Obviously, the logo works in black and white. But it also make be want to bring a friend to Black Sky and recreate my own totally metal cheers.

3. Little Machine Beer, Jefferson Park — 46.5 points

I first came across Little Machine Beer’s logo recently, when I was given my margarita on a Little Machine coaster at Cochino Taco, a new restaurant that recently opened within walking distance of my house. I couldn’t stop looking at it (and thus didn’t actually use it as a coaster). Such perfect use of negative space. And, robots. ROBOTTTTTTSSSS.

Best.glassware.

I mean, ROBOTS, GUYS.

From the Little Machine website.

Is there anything else to say here? I might love Little Machine’s logo a little too much.

1. (Tie) Lost Highway Brewing Company, Capitol Hill — 47.5 points

Lost Highway’s logo: wonderfully, classically creepy.

You made it to #1! Thanks for hanging with me.

Lost Highway’s logo is striking, memorable, and looks really good lit up along the longest, wickedest street in America, as Playboy once called it.

Lost Highway plans to move in the near future to a bigger location where they will be able to start canning beer, which means their skeleton-sailor/Scotsman? (I know I am missing some reference here) will be plastered all over countless cans of brew.

And damn, will those cans look good.

1. (Tie) Mockery Brewing Co. , RiNo— 47.5 points

Mockery Brewing Co., you have overcome my distaste for hops in beer logos by shooting them out of pistols. Mockery’s big, bold type and pictorial logo look good in any color and on just about any merch.

I want this glass.
And I want this shirt.

Mockery keeps it clean, distinctive, and cool when it comes to their logo. It looks great in multiple colors and works well small or big.

Looks good in red. Is this a theme?

And their tap room! Can I get their designer in my house?

So.cool.

Well, that certainly was fun. Looking so closely at so many logos has given me a new appreciation for a visually interesting beer logo that doesn’t look like every other guy.

Think I got it all wrong? Have a special favorite? Holler at me in the comments.

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