What You Need to Know About Craft Beer Label Printing

The largest craft brewing industry event—Craft Brewers Conference and Beer Expo in Denver—is slated for September 9-12, 2021. And not a moment too soon. In spite of the pandemic economic fallout of 2020, craft brewing is a hot and growing industry. In fact, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. reached a record high of 8,764 crafters in 2020. And year after year, the share of craft beer drinkers continues to increase.

So, this is a perfect time to discuss the ins and outs of craft beer label printing, craft beer can labels, and custom labels for beer bottles.

What size are craft beer labels?

Although an experienced beer label printer can produce any size label needed, there are some standard sizes available that help craft brewers keep costs down and make faster turnaround time possible:

  • Cans
    12 oz can: 8.1875” W x 3.5” H
    16 oz can: 8.1875” W x 5” H

Again, these are standard sizes and some brewers may require shorter labels or ones less wide than these dimensions. Custom labels are always an option.

  • Crowlers
    32-oz can: 10” W x 5.845” H
  • Bottles
    Because bottles come in many sizes and shapes, there are no standard sizes for beer bottle labels. The label size and shape are customized to the craft brewers’ specific needs. Some designs require a label that wraps all the way around the bottle; others have less information and don’t need a full wrap.

To spec a beer bottle label, brewers should measure all dimensions of the bottle, paying particularly close attention to the curve at the bottle neck, and work closely with a graphic designer and label printer company to determine the final size and shape that will work best. An improperly sized bottle label will wrinkle during the application, causing performance and aesthetic issues.

  • Keg collars
    7” circular shape with inner 3” hole punch for keg tap.

What’s the best material for craft beer label printing?

Labels used on craft beer cans and bottles must be suitable for wet application and a coldcraft beer label printing environment—from filling and label application to storage and end-use (i.e., a refrigerator or cooler full of ice). Beer labels are produced on sheets or rolls that include the facestock, adhesive, and release liner together for efficient printing and application. The specifications of each of those three materials are determined in advance by the printer for optimum performance.

  • Facestock: Labels for craft beer cans and bottles are printed on a film material, which has proven durability for the application and end-use. Film labels are available in white, silver metallic, or clear. The silver metallic material provides a metallic look craft brewers often desire.
  • Adhesive: Like the facestock material, the adhesive used on craft beer labels must be able to withstand wet application and cold, moist environments during handling, storage, and usage.
  • Liner: Liner material can be paper or film. Paper liners are sufficient if labels are being applied by hand or with a tabletop applicator. When using mobile canners or high-speed canning machines, film liners won’t tear like paper and reduce production issues.
  • Shrink sleeve: These 360° full coverage “labels” are printed on a variety of durable film substrates that requires no adhesive and are applied with a special process that includes a heat or steam tunnel.
  • Keg collars: These are required by law on kegs of beer and wine. The materials used are different than can and bottle labels. The facestock is made of a thicker material and when adhesive is needed, the collars have a special removable adhesive that does not leave a residue.

Other important considerations about the printing and application of craft beer labels

Craft beer can and bottle labels are as unique as the contents. In addition to the considerations above, craft brewers need to keep other things in mind:

  • White ink with metallic and clear film: When printing on silver metallic film, to achieve a non-metallic look in specific areas of the design, the label design artwork must include a hidden layer of white. White ink will be laid down in the printing process under the desired surface ink color to block out the metallic facestock and create an opaque, non-metallic color. The same hidden layer of white ink is used when printing on clear film. The final label design must incorporate a layer of white where opaque ink coverage is needed.
  • Label application process: Final specs for craft beer can labels and custom labels for beer bottles must take into consideration the label application process, whether it is done by hand, with a tabletop applicator, a mobile canner, a high-speed applicator, or a shrink sleeve process.
  • Bringing the printer into the picture: For craft brewers, every decision can impact the success of a new brew. The label is no exception. Working with a printing company, seasoned in craft beer label printing, early in the process is critical to make the right choices upfront. This includes consulting with your printer on label size, shape, and label machine specs for canning or bottling.

Ask the experts

At Columbine Label, we work with some of the tastiest–and newest—craft brewers around. We know what questions to ask to provide labels best suited to your needs, sometimes ones you hadn’t even considered. Contact us for a free consultation. Or stop by our booth at the Craft Brewers Conference and Beer Expo, in Denver, September 9-12.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: Jeff Klocke
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