Who amongst us hasn’t bought a beer based on looks?

Are you sure? One of the beauties of the beer industry is the huge investment many breweries make in artwork. It makes browsing the shelves an experience in its own right.

To celebrate the creativity of the breweries and the artists they employ, GABS this year created the first New Zealand Label Design Awards.

In Australia, the awards were dedicated to cans – because sponsor Orora is a can manufacturer – but In New Zealand they opened the awards to bottles as well, as the majority of New Zealand breweries still put beer in bottles … believe it or not.

What follows are the Top-10 as decided by a People’s Choice voting system. And the winner will probably not be a surprise to anyone!


Garage Project
Harmonic Convergence

Design: Rebekah Tisch

A blend of hazy IPA and foeder-aged wild beer demanded artwork that said “new age”, but Garage Project – in keeping with their ‘don’t take it seriously’ vibe – also wanted it to be a “slight piss-take … a hark back to crazy dolphin t-shirts, dream catchers, nag champa incense and that joyful double rainbow guy”. The brief to Weta Workshop artist Rebecca Tisch was “New Age, Neo Baroque Space Whales, but make it Craft Beer”. Hence whales, crystals and astrological signs. The label also features a rainbow holographic foil finish.



Finalists as voted by the public

Abandoned Brewery IPA

Design: Aaron McKirdy (Chrometoaster)

The Lower Hutt-based brewery made a real impact at the past two Beervana festivals with their dark and anarchic branding. Unapologetic, honest and direct, they pride themselves on calling an IPA an IPA – “not something that’s hidden behind some flouncy, pretentious, made-up name”.  The hand-drawn labels with the anarchy symbol are punk, irreverent and anti-brand. There’s also a practical element, as their entry noted: “Creating branded material is quick and practical, not needing careful consideration for brand rules. This disregard for convention has proven itself to be versatile and adaptable, disrupting everything from supermarket aisles to craft beer festivals.”

Bach Brewing Beyond The Clouds West Coast IPA

Design: Donovan Bixley and Craig Cooper 

Bach Brewing have built their whole design around an iconic Kiwi coastal lifestyle scene. It changes with the seasons and the beer, but always reflects a sense of getting away from it all, relaxing and drinking good beer with your mates and families. In recent iterations, they’ve upped the ante and put an edge on the design with use of the “The Hopster” – a bearded beer drinker who, in this label, is riding a dragon. As Bach notes, he represents the passionate obsession of many craft drinkers: “we’re a little bit mad and passionate, love good living and love good beer!”


Design: Simon Courtney (Deflux Design)

The most controversial craft beer label of our time, having reached around the globe over the four years Donald Trump has been President of the United States. The design brief was simple and unapologetic: “to make Trump look like the laughing stock that he is”. Using Behemoth’s universal Churly character in the guise of Trump surrounded by fast food and a distorted MAGA hat, this is typically Behemoth.

Boneface Sabotage
Double IPA

Design: Blair Sayer (Watermark Creative)

Boneface founder Matt Dainty and artist Blair Sayer share a love of science-fiction, comics and alternative music. The inspiration for Sabotage is from the Black Sabbath song of the same name. If you look closely at the label, you can see classic Boneface characters Ozzy, Kurt, and Lemmy fighting the two-headed dragon. It’s like a scene from a comic book and adheres to the Boneface style.


Cargo Brewing
Lost Cargo IPA

Design: Laura Shallcrass (Friendly Creative)

Cargo are a brewery located in a vineyard in Central Otago. They veer towards classic styles and this IPA uses old world hops, so the design was intended to create that feeling. It’s a nod to the origin of IPA as a beer designed for a long journey at sea, but also references the brewery name as the ship is carrying precious cargo.


Deep Creek Dragon
Hazy IPA

Design: Mike Shaw & Scott Taylor

Deep Creek’s range of Hazy IPAs are captured under the Haiku project. The imagery is based on Asian-inspired tattoo sleeves. The brewery founder, Scott Taylor, worked with former Deep Creek employee Mike Shaw who now does that style of tattooing. “The Dragon is so integral to Eastern culture, but also translates to Western culture. It is a powerful figure, and with the huge hoppy flavours coming through in this beer, we thought it was the perfect match,” Deep Creek said.



HeyDay Beer Co
West Coast IPA

Design: Hannah Blackwood (Heyday Beer Co)

Heyday’s first canned beer came with the brief of keeping it simple and fresh. The pastel pink reflects the look of Heyday’s Cuba St brewpub, mixed with “summery California vibes of metallic palm trees and suns”. Because it was a first release, the Heyday is prominent. They describe the design as “fresh and modern with a little splash of retro vibes”.


Panhead Custom Ales

Design: Harry A’Court (Inject Design) & Simon Morse (Illustrator)

This fourth release in Panhead’s Tarmacker range – a watermelon wheat – draws inspiration from monster art of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The brewery wanted an over-the-top, larger-than-life creation. It represents a rev-head’s “all or nothing … ride or die” living on the edge attitude to life.