We love beer. We also love design. So we went on a mission to find the beers with the best design, and determine whether or not they quality holds up to the label. First up? IPAs.
For the first installment of the beer design challenge, we decided to limit our selection to IPAs. We wanted to see which IPA stood out most in both design and flavor, and thought it was interesting that so many IPA bottles and cans had green accents (which makes sense: hops are green!). We stopped by Brouwerij Lane to pick out four delightful looking beers — an Almanac, Boulevard, Westbrook, and Mikkeller — and grabbed our most beer-savvy friends to begin our highly scientific data collection process.
In the design category, all four testers were pretty united on the design front. Nearly everyone voted the Mikkeller with the best design (who can resist a blocky looking man with hops for brains, a mysterious toe tag, and a cute little face sticking out over the barcode). The Boulevard was voted the least interesting design, looking a bit too much like other labels with its curlicue, chalkboard-style type. The Westbrook was fresh looking, but someone thought it was too cutesy, and while most of us enjoyed the Almanac’s type, some of us felt that the barcode detracted from its gothic-mod vibe. Someone said it looked inspired by Lord of the Rings, and we all concurred.
After a willing friend poured all four beers into unmarked cups for the testers to try and each had been sipped, we were surprised when we shared our rankings: almost no one agreed which beer tasted the best and which tasted the worst. Given how closely aligned our design preferences were, our tastes were completely scattered. Only two of us overlapped — two voted the boulevard for 3rd place and two voted the Westbrook for fourth place — though it was difficult to rank them because all the beers tasted very alike. Some of the most colorful observations of the evening had to do with the flavors of each IPA. Comments were made that the Almanac tasted “resiny,” “danker,” and “funky;” the Westbrook tasted “pungent,” “watered down,” and “like wet cardboard;” the Mikkeller tasted “like cedar,” “peppery and not exciting;” and the Boulevard tasted “cleaner,” “piney,” and “spicy.”
While there was no clear winner for best design and taste, we did see a little correspondence between a beer's design and its flavor: there were four cases where the two matched up. It turns out that Emily’s least favorite design ended up being her favorite beer, but Sam’s favorite design was actually his favorite beer too. The strongest conclusions of the evening? IPAs are really as consistent as you always thought they were, and you can only get so far by judging a beer by its label … but that won’t stop us from trying again.