Burning River Pale Ale by Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Label Approval by | Jun 2015 | Issue #101

Anyone who’s had a Dortmunder Gold or Eliot Ness knows Great Lakes Brewing Co. puts out some of the finest beer on the market. But the Cleveland brewery wanted to reach those who haven’t.

“Since 1988, we’ve had the same logo, and most of our labels have remained unchanged,” says public relations supervisor Marissa DeSantis. “There are a lot more brands in the marketplace now, and we felt that more striking, consistent labels would help customers recognize Great Lakes Brewing Co. as an established brewer of high-quality beer.”

Enter Darren Booth. With a style “often and best described as ‘painterly with fragmented collage elements,’” Booth set out to capture Great Lakes’ rich culture.

“We shared archival materials, ingredients and images related to each beer with Darren,” says DeSantis. “He was able to incorporate some key pieces into each one of his paintings, so if you look closely at our packaging, you’ll see even more detail and storytelling elements.”

Take Burning River Pale Ale. Referencing the infamous Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 (when pollution caused the river to blaze), the revamped image took inspiration from recycled materials to help symbolize Burning River’s environmental message, and incorporates newspaper clippings from the fire and text from the 1972 Clean Water Act, the legislation that the fire inspired, explains DeSantis. “Beyond the flames, we see Cleveland’s current skyline, showing our city’s resilience and pride, even after such an unfortunate event,” she adds.

Origin stories of each of the five year-round beers are reflected in the new labels; Conway’s Irish Ale includes the owners’ grandfather’s Ireland-to-US immigration papers, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter features handwriting from the ship’s first mate. The bottoms of the packages reveal even more hidden details. “What makes a redesign challenging is that change isn’t always welcome,” says Booth, “especially when it’s to something that’s as beloved as Great Lakes. Rest assured they took a great amount of care and time with the process.”