For Breckenridge Brewery, redesigning its beer packaging this year was largely about reestablishing its identity. The local craft brewhouse was bought out by corporate giant AB InBev in 2015—the same company that owns Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois—but its new artwork pays homage to the Rocky Mountains.
“We want to show that we put as much work into our packaging as we do for our beer,” says Breckenridge brand manager Ryan Workman.
The new management hired Chicago-based VSA Partners and German artist Florian Schommer to redo their beer labels. At the debut, it was clear that the old design’s simplicity has been mostly eschewed for a visibly more artistic design that highlights the brewery’s craftsmanship. Schommer used old photographs, regional artwork styles, such as Chicano skull-art (see the Agave Wheat Ale), and mountainous landscapes as a foundation for the new packaging.
“We threw out the Clip-Art, stamped-logo kind of vibe that characterized our look for the past nine years,” says Workman, “We’ve progressed to something more hand-drawn, which we felt expressed the time and effort we put into making our beer.”
Some critics, mostly independent brewers, felt Breckenridge sold out when it was bought two years ago. Bob Pease, CEO and president of the Brewers Association, highlighted one of small brewing’s chief concerns when he told NPR that “…small craft brands are being squeezed out of warehouses, delivery vans and, ultimately, supermarkets,” as big beer buys up more recognizable craft breweries such as Breckenridge or Goose Island. That’s partially why the Brewers Association recently created an Independent Craft Seal to differentiate smaller breweries from those like Breckenridge that were acquired by large corporations. It’s also why, for the first time since 1991, the brewery won’t have a table at the Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest craft beer extravaganza.
All of that said, the beer still tastes the same. According to Courtney Lis, a spokeswoman for Breckenridge, the recipes haven’t changed since AB InBev took over. They’ve kept the same staffers, and new releases still come solely from the brewing teams at the Littleton- and Breckenridge-based brewpubs. The new packaging for Breck’s suds seems aptly timed to remind beer drinkers that—despite the lack of an Independent Craft Seal—Breckenridge remains a top producer of local brews.