The rise in popularity of beer cans and the local designers creating them  

The rise in popularity of beer cans and the local designers creating them  
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Cans are more popular than ever. In just two short years, shelf space for cans at Good Bottle Co. has tripled prompting its owner Chris Hunt to joke, “Who knows, in a couple years, we might be called Good Can Co.”

Just last week I witnessed crazed craft beer fans storm his shop to snatch up the limited release of NoDa Brewing Company’s canned NoDaJito. They sold out in 4 hours.

The trend is occurring across the nation and here in Charlotte our local breweries are investing in canning technology and introducing local craft styles to the market, just in time for some summer pool sessions.

Lucky for us, brewmasters are keeping it in the family and using local talent to design the cans – which can sometimes come across more like works of art than packaging design. Ahem, NoDa Brewery and Saturday Brand Communications.


Cans, raise up. 

Sure, when it’s warm out, it’s all about the cans. When we spend our days at pools, lakes, parks and beaches, cans are our most accessible friend – you can easily take them anywhere. However, if you ask the top beer bosses around town, they’ll tell you it’s not just a seasonal thing. The can is the new bottle and it’s here to stay. Here’s why:

(1) Accessibility: Throw it in your purse or pack and take it anywhere…swimming, beaching, hiking, biking, picnic-ing, music festival-ing. Pop the top and enjoy.

(2) Taste: Cans are like mini kegs. Oxygen and light kill beer but cans protect the brew from these elements, keeping it fresher and tasting as the brewmaster intended.

(3) Technology: Canning technology has vastly improved since 80s marketing told us to buy bottles. Craft breweries are now buying their own canning machines, enabling them to produce limited releases of rare specialty styles.

(4) Better for the planet, better for business: For brewers, cans require less material, making this method more environmentally friendly and lower cost.

Chris at Good Bottle Co. says they are seeing breweries switch entirely to cans now. For all you bottle snobs out there, Chris says he challenges his customers to do a blind taste test. When NoDa stopped carrying bottles of Hop Drop + Roll, one avid fan was devastated. So much so that Chris gave him a new can, along with the last bottle he bought and had his wife pour a blind taste test for him. He liked the can better.

The cans and their designers 

Four Charlotte breweries and many regional players are distributing cans into the market. Here’s a rundown on what that design process looks like…

The Unknown Brewing Company + The Plaid Penquin

The work day seems especially tough for Brad Shell, Owner of The Unknown Brewing Co. and Conor Merrigan, Lead Designer at The Plaid Penguin who start each design process with a pow wow over the beer in discussion. As the only brewery in Charlotte that makes 12 oz. cans and distributes them in cartons they have more space to tell their story, so they can keep the cans bold and simple, just how they like ’em. Conor explains, “We want people to be able to spot our cans from across the party. The Hospitali-Tea cans that are coming out next are a matte white and copper which we think will look perfect in your hand sitting outside in a rocking chair planning your next adventure.”

NoDa Brewing Company + Saturday Brand Communications 


“One of the aspects of the brand that informed the design was NoDa’s name and what that area of town means,” explains James Ward, Creative Director at Saturday Brand Communications. “Rich in culture, counterculture, independence and real character, it’s Charlotte’s avant garde neighborhood. We set out to capture that spirit and created designs we like to call ‘pop-art with a splash of mischief.'” The NoDa can designs have received national attention, with coverage in the industry leading publication Beer Advocate, mentions on craft beer blogs and inclusion in a beer label book.

James thoughts on a few of the labels:

CAVU Blond Ale – “Before Todd and Suzie became owners of the brewery, Todd was a pilot. CAVU is a term for perfect flight conditions; clear skies, unlimited visibility. This beer is light and fun so we’ve added a bit of noir playfulness to the design. It’s become my favorite summer beer.”

NoDaJito – “This beer has a passionate following. The taste is modeled after a mojito with mint and lime flavors. It’s a perfect summer beach beer. We’ve tried to reflect that in the design.”

NODAJITO first can run is looking sharp. Nailed it @nodabrewing. Via @deboone

A photo posted by Axios Charlotte (@charlotteagenda) on

NoDa_Monstro Bottle

Monstro Russian Imperial Stout – Ok, so this is technically a bottle label design but it’s pretty cool, so I share his thoughts…”Named after the whale in Pinnoccio, Monstro is nearly black in color. I challenged our team to reflect the darkness of the beer in our design. The scars you see on the snout are from the giant squid the black sperm whale eats.” Gnarly, y’all.

Saturday is currently working on another can design that they cannot disclose. Look for the reveal this fall.

Birdsong Brewing Company + Good Bottle Co.


A photo posted by Birdsong Brewing Company (@birdsongbrewing) on

While design for Birdsong Brewing Company’s Jalapeño Pale Ale can was directed by the owner’s good friend who lives in Boston, the brewery collaborated with local beer man Chris Hunt of Good Bottle Co. to provide market insight and feedback on colors, layout and positioning. In addition, Sarah Pollock, a local artist, originally drew the Jalapeño sketch you see on the can and taps. Jenny Sassman of sales and marketing with Birdsong explained the driving factors in design were

(1) Brand Recognition…Since the style is mainly on draft, they needed to incorporate elements of the tap design to make the can recognizable in the store. And…

(2) Cans needed to pop on the shelf – which is how they landed on the off-white background.

“A lot of thought went into it. Hours and hours. In the end, we wanted to find a design that fit the beer and us,” said Sassman.

Of Note: The can was just released this week to bottle shops and retailers, and will show up in bars and restaurants in next couple of months.

We can only expect to see more of our local breweries release new styles. Let’s hope they keep the designers local too. Meanwhile, cheers to beer with style.

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