How Magic Hat Is Arting Around With Packaging

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON: SEVENDAYSVT

WRITTEN BY: SADIE WILLIAMS

Back in the day, Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery was the only craft brew you could get in a can. Of course, there were also the inexpensive everyman’s beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser. Now, more and more craft breweries are packaging their suds in aluminum.

Why? The brewers interviewed for this article cited portability, trendiness and better light-blocking capabilities. And some brews, such as the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, simply taste better from the can.

Not to mention, a 16-ounce silver cylinder provides ample real estate for branded artwork. And that’s increasingly important in the saturated beer market. The U.S. counted more than 5,000 craft brewers as of 2016, according to the Brewers Association. That’s a lot of competition.

Whether printed on the bare metal substrate or on a glossy wrap, beer-can designs speak to the personalities of the brews and the companies that make them. We tapped four designers in an attempt to better understand the artful can.

  • Founded: 1994
  • Location: South Burlington
  • Designer: Ryan Ober leads the Foundry, an in-house design team.
  • Annual production: 150,000 barrels
  • Format: 12- and 22-ounce bottles, 12- and 16-ounce cans
  • Aesthetic: “Eccentric, psychedelic, artful,” says brand manager Lisa Kelly.

SEVEN DAYS: When did you start selling cans, and why?

LISA KELLY: We started selling cans in the spring of 2011. Cans have become a great option for outdoor activities, like gathering in parks, camping trips … boating and enjoying at all the outdoor music festivals. [And] here are some benefits to using cans over bottles: Cans seal out oxygen better, which keeps the beer fresher longer. They also block out the light completely, so you don’t get that skunkiness to the beer.

SD: How has Magic Hat evolved to keep up?

RYAN OBER: We just rebranded all our cans — we were focusing on better communication, a formula. We want to have a consistent look to the logo but stay true to who we are, being a little bit mysterious with our beers and having fun with it.

We really hadn’t changed our packaging in 10 years, so we’re [evolving] with all of our packaging, creating this family look. It looks more modern.

SD: Do you print on wraps or the bare substrate?

RO: I like printing on the substrate, because you have to communicate more with the printers — pick where you’re going to let the shiny spots come through. I think some people like to print on the wrap, because then they can guarantee a white background. [Printing on the can] changes the colors.

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