Craft Beer: What Label is Best For You

Craft Beer What Label is Best for You

You’ve done the hard work. You have expertly combined your hops, grain, yeast, and water, heated and fermented the mixture into a delicious beer, and bottled it with your glass bottle of choice. All that’s left is choosing the perfect label to represent your brand, beer, flavor, and mood. 

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Packaging lines must move quickly. Empty bottles go at one end, and out flows wonderful, rich, nuanced, Instagram-worthy craft beer. That is, at least, how it is meant to function. However, if you're still dependent on manual labeling, your packing process isn't as efficient as it should be. 

Humans just can’t place labels as quickly or consistently as a machine. The beer inside may be worthy of being ranked in the Ratebeer Top 100, but if the label is crooked, falling off, upside down, or misspelled, craft beer enthusiasts will stick their noses up at it.

Hand labeling may have worked well when output was restricted to a few hundred bottles. Still, to compete with the growing number of microbreweries springing up around the country, containers must be branded fast, correctly, and consistently. In other words, a dedicated labeling machine would be beneficial. Even if you do decide to purchase a labeler, the more difficult choice may be between wrap-around and shrink-sleeve labels. Let's go over the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide.

Wrap Around Labels 

This label type wraps all the way around the bottle and is adhered to it. You often see it on bottles and jars. Here are the pros and cons of this type of label application


More Economical

When the costs of wrap around and shrink-sleeve labels are compared, wrap around is nearly always the less expensive choice. Because the labels require less material, there are fewer items to add to the cost. Shipping weight is also reduced, allowing you to have more labels supplied for less money. Furthermore, if you have containers with various heights but the same diameter, you may use the same label type on both.

More Traditional

Let's be real. Some decisions are influenced by consumer expectations rather than what is best for the product. This is why the wine business is constantly debating whether or not to continue using corks. A paper wrap-around label might make the greatest aesthetic sense for some beers, including old British varieties like Extra Special Bitters. The tactile feel of a paper label may also convey a homemade vibe, which may be required to elicit the appropriate feeling.

Takes up Less Container Space

Imagine you want to showcase your fantastic-looking beer. A shrink sleeve label takes up significantly less space than a wrap-around label. A shrink sleeve label, in fact, takes up the whole space. You can manufacture clear shrink sleeve labels, but that's wasting material when a smaller, clear wrap-around label will suffice. Of course, transparent bottles do not preserve the beer as effectively from sunshine, but tradition occasionally triumphs over pragmatism.


Takes up Less Container Space

Does this sound like we’re contradicting ourselves? Perhaps. But if you are hoping to cover as much of your beer can or bottle with graphics, a wrap-around label can’t cover as much of your container in the way a shrink-sleeve can.

Less Durable

Wrap-around labels, particularly paper labels, are more prone to damage than shrink-sleeve labels. They are more likely to rip or be dragged away from the containers. Furthermore, because wrap-around labels rely on adhesive to adhere to containers, the label will slip off if the adhesive fails for any reason.

Shrink-Sleeve Labels

Shrink-sleeve labels are labels that use heat to adapt to the shape of the container to which they are affixed. Shrink-sleeve labels are ideal for items that are subjected to water or abrasion. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of this label application.



Shrink-sleeves can cover the whole container with creative, captivating designs. For example, Pabst's Old Style/Chicago Cubs special edition bottles used shrink wraps to cover the whole surface with a cool baseball bat motif. Because consumers make most of their purchasing decisions within the first few seconds of seeing a product, the more appealing your container, the better.

No Adhesive

After being wrapped around a container, shrink sleeve labels are heated in a tunnel, causing them to shrink and conform. There is no adhesive in this method, so if the labels need to be removed, there is no residue to clean up, which is useful if a specific line of beer does not sell and you need to reuse the containers. This also means that there is no adhesive to fail, thus the labels are entirely moisture resistant, and they function on irregularly shaped containers that wrap-around labels may not work on.

More Durable

Because it is so closely attached to the entire container, the plastic sleeve is resistant to tears and rips. A shrink sleeve label will appear just as wonderful after a month on store shelves as it did when it came off the production line.



More Expensive

Shrink sleeves are more expensive than wrap-around labels. They compensate for this by increasing sales with appealing visuals, but make no mistake - you'll spend a little extra up front. If the initial cost is your biggest issue, you might want to consider wrap-around labels.

Possibility of Distortion

Distortion should not be an issue with the correct design software and high-quality labels. However, because the labels are shrinking, the picture must be correctly created to account for the amount that the label will contract around the vessel.

What’s the Difference Between Applying Labels on Beer Bottles and Beer Cans?

Bottles can look great with almost any style of label. Wrap-around and shrink sleeves perform about the same depending on your needs and which of the pros/cons lists above appealed to you. You don't have to worry about the un-adhered piece of a wrap-around label being easily torn away because bottles don't flex or crush. However, with glass container limits in public places (no one likes to stomp on shattered glass), cans have come to appear like an appealing option.

Aluminum cans have mostly won over craft beer enthusiasts, but they can still provide labeling challenges for craft brewers. Large corporations, such as Anheuser Busch, may purchase cans in quantity and have the label printed directly on the aluminum.

Unfortunately, most craft brewers cannot fulfill the required minimum order of 100,000 cans or more, especially for seasonal or limited-edition beers.

The issue is that a paper wrap-around label that looks crisp and elegant on a glass bottle would not work at all on a can. Cans are relatively flexible, and the prospect of a dented can allowing a paper label to be ripped off is enough to convince many breweries to use shrink sleeves. If you determine that wrap-around labels are the best option for your cans, maybe owing to cost constraints, film substrate labels are a considerably superior option, as long as the adhesive adheres to the aluminum under unusual conditions.

What Automatic Labeling Equipment is Right for Me?

If you're still unsure about which label type is best for you, think about what sort of automated labeler would be compatible with your label of choice – this might help you limit down your options. Download our free Brewer's Guide to Craft Beer and Microbrew Labeling Equipment to learn about particular labelers and the possibilities available for various label styles. Explore our craft beer labeling equipment if you're looking for wrap-around and shrink sleeve labeling machines.

Beer Labeling Equipment Guide [Download Now]


When it comes to craft beer labels, you have a lot of choices to make. Designing a well-received label necessitates extensive background knowledge on your goods, extensive market research, and a clear aim for what that label should represent. Here are eight actions you should take to guarantee that your new label assists you in reaching your objectives:

  1. Know Your Product: Before you even contemplate your craft beer label, you must first understand your product well. What distinguishing characteristics does it have? How does it stack up against other comparable items on the market? What do you want to emphasize the most?
  2. Set A Goal: After reviewing the market and determining what distinguishes your product from the competition, it is necessary to create a goal for your label. What type of association do you want your label to evoke in your customers? Should they recall a certain emblem or slogan? How much information will the client receive from the label? Determine what functions your labels should have.
  3. Branding: Branding is strongly related to the previous stage. If your company already has a well-known logo or phrase, make it clearly recognizable. Your brand should reflect your overarching philosophy as a craft brewer, and each particular product should demonstrate your dedication to that idea through its distinct attributes.
  4. Packaging: Naturally, picking a label will be influenced by the sort of packaging you choose, as well as ensuring that the bottles or cans you select are of excellent quality. Inspect your bottles for discrepancies that might impact how a label attaches. If you discover any irregularities, contact your distributor straight away.
  5. Materials: The next step in the procedure is to decide on labeling materials. There are several types of labels and adhesives available. While pressure sensitive adhesives on a white backdrop are typical, transparent vinyl labels and recyclable cardboard are other choices. These offer a distinct appearance and feel that will help your goods stand out on the shelf.
  6. Design: It's now time to think about your craft beer label. What colors would you want to use? Which photos will you include on the label? How large should the text be to be clearly visible from a distance? Will your label cover a vast area or only a tiny portion of the package's front? Even after you've settled on the photos and text, you may want to look through the portfolios of many other designers to see a range of various art styles that can give character to your design.
  7. Volume: Once the artwork is completed, the materials are selected, and it is time to print, you must calculate how many labels you will require. This figure is determined not just by the amount of goods you can make, but also by the adhesive's shelf life. Keep in mind that pressure sensitive adhesives, for example, might degrade if left to sit for an extended period of time. Furthermore, paper labels in storage are susceptible to humidity damage.
  8. Choosing a Printer: Before creating your label, you should look for a printer to assist you make the appropriate label. If the provider is eager to acquire your business, they will usually provide you with samples at no cost. Make sure you don't print huge quantities before your labeling equipment company and the customer both approve the label and the run off.

The Craft Brewer’s Guide to Labeling Equipment

Whether you're just starting started with manufacturing or looking at new label possibilities, the labels you pick will affect and effect customers.

Choosing a beer label is similar to selecting what to wear for a specific sport or event. Are you going to the beach? Sandals and swim trunks Are you going for a run? A tee and jogging shorts. A formal occasion? You should wear a suit and tie or an evening gown. Before you decide how to "dress" your beer, imagine it in a beer shop cooler or in the palm of a consumer – what would make it acceptable for the occasion and aesthetically appealing to the correct audience?

Craft beer isn't a single beverage, despite movie characters asking for "a beer" and never being questioned, "uh... what kind?" Brewery branding and label designs are as varied as craft beer recipes. Beverage labels should be as distinct and appealing as the beer itself. Labels should graphically depict your beer, providing the buyer an instant and intuitive idea of what to anticipate at a glance.

For example, if you're making a barrel-aged stout, make sure the container doesn't imply that the beer is an IPA. If the can or bottle is embossed in greens and golds with pictures of hops, any beer snob will raise their eyebrows as they pour a beverage the exact color of crude oil into their glass.

Once you've determined how your beer should be dressed for the occasion, you may choose a label type for your bottles and cans. Finally, your selection will influence which labeling machine is most suited to those labels and your packing line.

Paper Labels

Paper labels are relatively unusual for microbrewers to begin with. The issue with paper is that it is untrustworthy in the presence of moisture, peeling off or becoming wet and tearing. Ice buckets, moisture, and sweaty or damp hands may transform even the most beautifully designed paper labels into mush. Sprays and overlays can be used to increase the life of paper labels. However, they are simply temporary solutions, and the labels will still be ruined more faster than other forms of waterproof labels.

If your brewery wishes to make vintage-inspired labels for traditional genres or aesthetic reasons, the drawbacks of paper may be a risk worth taking. Because of its rough texture and handcrafted look, paper provides a tactile sensation not seen in other label forms. However, if you're going to use an over laminate to protect the paper anyhow, you'll lose the paper's individuality while also increasing the expense.

Paper labels are the least expensive solution in terms of purchase and application. For the greatest results, run them through a front/back labeler or wraparound labeler, although they may also be applied by hand. Hand application, on the other hand, is a laborious operation with mixed to poor outcomes when compared to machine application. If you have no other choice, it is better to labelless bottles or cans, which will get you in trouble regardless. The greatest results will come from a specialized machine that applies labels uniformly and without ripping.

Although label machines appear to be a costly alternative, modest tabletop machines are significantly more cost effective than continuing to hire a professional labeling workforce. Paper labels are a cost-effective starting point for new brewers. If they use recycled paper, they can even appeal to ecologically aware customers. There are, however, better solutions if you need a label that can survive tough circumstances.


Pressure-Sensitive Film Labels

Pressure-sensitive labels are often composed of polyester and polypropylene films, which are significantly more resistant to moisture than paper. They're made of films that keep their appearance even in hostile settings like refrigerators and pools. They are more flexible and will not tear or rip on production lines or retail shelves. They are resistant to fading from sunlight when produced with a UV varnish, and you may choose between a glossy or matte finish depending on your design. UV varnishes can also be used to produce a rough texture that resembles the feel of paper.

In terms of design, pressure-sensitive labels have an advantage over paper labels in that they may be translucent, giving you more possibilities when developing your brand image on your bottles or cans. This means you may either display your beer's rich look in a transparent container or include the bottle's color into your design. This implies that you can see the aluminum behind the label on cans. This creates a bright, metallic look on any clear space on the label.

Pressure-sensitive labels, like paper labels, may be applied by hand, but if you're already upgrading from paper, it makes little sense. Film/laminate labels are more expensive than paper labels, but their professional appearance and resistance to damage (when correctly placed) might help you get new clients. Front/back labelers and wraparound labelers can apply labels more quickly and precisely than the human hand. The initial investment may be overwhelming, but if long-term earnings are your aim, pressure-sensitive labels applied by an automated labeling machine will consistently provide professional-looking results.


Shrink-Sleeve Labels

Shrink sleeve labels outperform others in terms of moisture protection and total container covering. Adhesive-free shrink sleeves are wrapped around a bottle or can before being placed in a heat tunnel, where the label shrinks and grips the container. This coverage provides significantly more room for label designs with eye-catching images. If you wish to employ the color of your cans or bottles in the design, they can be opaque or transparent, exactly like pressure-sensitive labels. The pictures must be carefully positioned so that they do not distort when the sleeves shrink, however contemporary printing software has mostly solved this issue.

Shrink sleeve labels cost around 25% more than paper or pressure-sensitive labels; nevertheless, manual labeling is not an option. However, once on the market, shrink sleeve branded items more than make up for this. According to studies, people respond more favorably to shrink sleeves than to smaller labels and believe the beverage is more value than it is. Shrink sleeves have been a popular alternative due to its 150% increase in surface area for branding for such a small price increase.

Other Label Types

Direct object printing, which applies graphics directly to the container, and non-adhesive clings, which are vinyl materials that utilize static to stick to bottles or cans, are two further means of marking bottles and cans. With its raised ink, direct object printing may offer a distinct tactile feeling, but the cost of equipment and the difficulty in achieving bright, eye-catching designs have encouraged brewers like as Stone to switch to pressure-sensitive labels. Non-adhesive clings are the most reusable, but they must be applied by hand and are significantly more costly than the alternatives discussed above.


3 Common Beer Labeling Mistakes


Starting with the correct labels and label machines will help you avoid costly mistakes. Read our post, 3 Common Beer Labeling Mistakes to learn how to obtain the best results. After you've decided on your label material and application process, go through our craft beer labelers to select one that will make labeling a snap, saving you time, money, and unneeded downtime.

Beer Labeling Equipment Guide [Download Now]