Unlike wine—whose selection often relies as much on the labels as the vineyard or vintage—beer is typically picked based on style, brewery, ABV, and (for some) the list of ingredients printed on the label, typically written in near-microscopic text. But that doesn’t mean beer graphics don’t matter. You think all those craft beer t-shirts would sell if the graphics were banal and uninspired?
Witness Odell Brewing.
The Fort Collins, CO-based beer-maker has some of the most iconic labels on the shelves. Unlike some breweries who rely on trendy bright colors and graphics paired with fantastic, pun-infused names, Odell’s label art feels almost timeless, from another era and yet so distinctly part of the present. They come from San Fran-based Mona Caron, who’s been doing digital block prints for the labels for more than a decade, often working in consort with the now-defunct tbd Advertising.
The images often evoke Odell’s Rocky Mountain origins, from its leaf logo to the outdoor adventures that await in their back yard. But they also echo Japanese wood block prints, vintage travel posters, and just a hint of the religious imagery. Here’s a handful of some of their best.
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Runoff Red IPA
Spring in Colorado means roiling whitewater as the winter snow melts and flows into the rivers, which is when this seasonal red IPA drops.
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Levity Amber Ale
This cool blue color on the label of their lighter take on an amber ale evokes crisp Colorado fall evenings, the snow-covered Rockies, and high-alpine lakes. But really, the dangling flip-flops say it all.
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Less about Colorado and more about the enduring legacy of the beer style, the graphic feels lifted from the days when the IPA was shipped from England to India in the 1700s.
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Five Barrel Pale Ale
Odell's leaf logo almost takes on a Fleur-de lis-quality that reinforces the use of fresh whole-flower buds for the five hops used to craft this singular pale ale. And yeah, the label also displays the five barrels.
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St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale
This summer seasonal is named after St. Lupulin, a mystical character who passionately tended the live hops, nurturing the "lupulin" yellow resin within the hop cones. Like the label, the beer is a bright burst of colorful warm-weather flavors, light and refreshing and hoppy.
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As demonstrated by this label, Colorado winters often bring lots and lots of snow. But here the isolation is more a celebration, less a Shining-esque nightmare. The rivers still team with fish, the white covering the earth lets the full moon illuminate the scene, and a warm fire raging in a backcountry cabin sits only a few steps away. Available October through December—so stock up for the second half of that long winter.
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Loose Leaf American Session Ale
The name refers to the loose whole flower hops used in this session ale, while the label evokes running rivers, fly-fishing, shifting seasons, and a slight nod to the now-iconic Odell's leaf logo.