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Friday, January 11, 2013

Michigan Beer Label Competition, Part 4: Ranks 12-14

We are getting very near the end.  This posting reports on the breweries that placed 12th through 14th in the Michigan Beer Label Competition, brought to you by Beer Avatar.

Copper Canyon Brewery. Score: 21; Rank: Tied for 14th out of 36.
The Copper Canyon Brewery, located in Southfield, tied for 14th place with three other breweries.  This brewery does not sell their beer is bottles, at least not widely, but have developed labels for many of their most popular beers. These labels can be found on their website: 

I think their labels are pleasing to the eye, interesting, and have a lot of variety.  My favorite label is the Buffalo Jump Stout, with its Native American theme.   Because these labels are not on bottles or cans, I judged the information content based on the website.  Each beer has a brief description and the ABV% is listed.  I’ve not yet stopped at this brewery, but the beer and food menu look great.

Big Buck Brewery. Score: 21; Rank: Tied for 14th out of 36.
Gaylord’s Big Buck Brewery also tied for 14th in the beer label competition.  The brewery sells a number of their beers in bottles directly out of their retail market.  The labels come in a variety of styles, from simple text with no artwork (e.g., Doc’s Extra Special Bitter), to photo based (e.g., Big Buck IPA), to graphic arts (e.g., Black River Stout).

Some of the labels are very well done and others are just fun.  I particularly like the Buck Naked light label, in part due to the play on words with the brewery name.  All in all, the brewery, website, and labels have a somewhat corporate feel.  The next time I travel up north, I’ll have to make sure to stop by this brewery/restaurant/retail market.    

Frog Island Brewery.  Score: 21; Rank: Tied for 14th out of 36.
I’ve followed the Frog Island brewery for more than a decade, from when it was contract brewed up to the brewery finally finding a home in Ypsilanti (or is it located in Ann Arbor or is it only contract brewed in Ann Arbor??).  I’m still not sure exactly where they brew their beer and their website is pretty vague on this as well.  You can see a further discussion on this topic elsewhere in Beer Avatar.

Nevertheless, folks in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area are fortunate enough to have access to 9 of Frog Island’s highly recommended offerings in bottles.  I really like most of the labels that they have developed.  The artwork in many of the labels is quite detailed and I found myself using a magnifying glass to catch them all. 

If I had to pick, my two favorite labels are Devil in the Details Imperial Stout and Moon Squaller Scotch Ale.  (Note: Squaller = one who utters in a screaming tone.) All of the labels include a statement about the beer and the alcohol level.  I hope that this brewery can establish a home somewhere and open up a taproom.

Short's Brewing Company.  Score: 21; Rank: Tied for 14th out of 36.
The other brewery that placed 14th, was Short's Brewing Company in Bellaire. Short's is one of my favorite Michigan breweries and the brewpub is well worth a trip to that part of the state.  Short's must have set a record for the greatest number of different beers that are produced on a fairly regular basis.  I’ve been collecting their beer bottles for some time and have nearly 50 different Short's beer bottles in my collection.

The artwork for nearly all of the labels are done in what appears to be watercolors and probably done by the same artist. The details are minimal and the artwork is above average.  Several of the labels are fun interpretations of the beer names, such as Hangin’ Frank and Bloody Beer. 

All labels are lacking in information.  There is no alcohol content generally listed and it’s often hard to imagine what the beer might taste like.   The brewery often includes ingredients that you don’t normally find in beer, such as their beer Key Lime Pie that includes lime, graham cracker, and marshmallow in the recipe (one to avoid by the way).  Having some statement of the flavor would be helpful.   At any rate, I’m always excited to find a bottle of Shorts that I’ve never before tried.

Frankenmuth Brewery.  Score: 22; Rank: Tied for 12th out of 36.
Michigan’s oldest brewery scored a tie for 12th place in the beer label competition.  I recently purchased Frankenmuth Brewery’s 150th anniversary dark lager.  It is a little misleading, as the brewery called the Cass River Brewery back in 1862, and later the Geyer Brothers Brewery, before it became the Frankenmuth Brewery in 1899.  There is also a period of time where the brewery was closed after being hit by a tornado in 1996.  Nevertheless, it is an impressive history and length of time to be brewing beer.  And, as you might expect, the labeling from this brewery has undergone many changes throughout the years.  Here are two labels from when the brewery was called Geyer Brothers.

Currently, Frankenmuth brews a set of 6 year round beers.  Just a few years ago, the labels for these beers all had a unique character, with for example Red Sky Ale having a kind of funky, modern look and Batch 69 American Paled Ale having a patriotic look and so on.  A year or two, ago all the labels changed and they all now have the same basic look, with the brewery name and logo displayed prominently in the center surrounded by a black background.  The borders of the main label and the neck label varied in color and decoration depending on the beer.  Yes, this was a little boring but the brand recognition at least is there.

 What scored points for Frankenmuth Brewery was their annual release of a 750 ml holiday beer.  Each year these labels are different and in many years, the labels for these limited release beers are signed by the brewmaster.  It is an actual signature, rather than just having it as part of the printed label.  Indeed, in 2012 I purchased a bottle of New Years Imperial Stout that had the hand written message “Julie laughs like she is wasted.” I later found out that Julie is the brewmaster’s daughter.  Fun stuff.  I’d like to have a few brews with them sometime.

New Year Imperial Stout with Comment Written by Brewmaster
Dragonmead Microbrewery.  Score: 22; Rank: Tied for 12th out of 36.
Dragonmead Microbrewery, from Warren, also tied for 12th place.  Dragonmead is one of my favorite brewpubs to visit.  I like the medieval theme, stained glass windows, and extensive selection of amazing beers.  The brewery only sells about 4 or 5 varieties of their beer outside of the brewery.  The artwork for the labels is based on a shield design, with the brewery’s cool logo at the top, the beer name and style in the middle, and a scene in the background.  The shield ensures good brand recognition, and the names, colors, and background artwork give them decent shelf appeal.  My two favorites are Sir William Extra Special Bitter and Armageddon Grand Cru. Dragonmead labels often tells you a little about the beer, but do not provide the beers’ alcohol content.  

Stay tuned to Beer Avatar as we count our way down to the winner.


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