Here’s something that’s never mentioned when talking about beer judging: bottle (or can) art. When we are at a brewery or anywhere ordering a beer, we are making that decision based off of possibly beer style, description, recommendation, or familiarity. In those moments, the artwork the brewery decided was just right to represent and market that particular beer is out of the picture.
And that’s totally okay. Nowhere in “aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, appearance, general impression” is label art relevant.
You may be attracted to a beer at the store at first because of it’s super unique, funny, or beautiful label and find it to be all you’d imagined it would be when it caught your gaze from behind the glass cooler doors. What a lovely aligning of the stars. You may also hate it. Better luck next time. The label says more about who the brewery is trying to connect themselves with than if you are going to love to drink their beer. If you gravitate toward their label, you are probably their target market. But what does that say about the quality of their beer?
Don’t get me wrong, if it seems like I’m taking the “don’t judge a book by its cover” angle you’re only half right. There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with things you find beautiful. There is a certain good way you feel when your purchases harmonize with the person you identify as, or hope to be.
Us reasonable beer drinkers know that a boring label may be housing a stellar brew, but label art is certainly an integral part of craft beer culture. Any brewery with mind-blowing beer and no label to match it is doing a disservice to themselves. Case in pint (pun intended), we consume with our eyes first.