The art of beer starts with the label

In the cosmos of inventive craft beer, labels adorning revolutionary liquids are sometimes as thought-provoking as the the bubbly inside. In San Diego, craft breweries have teamed up with local artists and designers to create eye-catching shells for their cans and bottles, with consumers clamoring for more. Here are some of the most art-inspired and distinctively designed labels you’ll see in the market:
The Lost Abbey
At the top of the list has to be the local veteran, with their complex, storytelling images. Artist Sean Dominguez, who has worked with the brewery from its beginning, has been creating imagery for almost 30 years, and has given beer lovers a range of conversation-starters over the years. Memorable examples include Witch’s Wit (which spawned an article in The New York Times and subsequent firestorm), the biblical Serpent’s Stout, the playfully controversial and musically driven Track series and My Black Parade. Be sure to check out their corresponding stories and commentary on the bottles and website.

155 Mata Way, Suite 104, San Marcos; and 2007 San Elijo Ave., Cardiff.

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego
For the past few years, artist Keith Shore has been delighting us with some of the most colorful and whimsical labels on the market. Drawing the attention of craft beer and art fans alike, Shore’s uniquely animated labels show homage to artists such as Matisse and Magritte, but with their own unique and memorable personalities. Especially eye-catching are the cans that nearly burst off shelves with vibrant colors and accessible images. Look out for a slew of new labels this year, with the brewery’s small batch experiment.

9366 Cabot Drive, Miramar.

Ballast Point

Moving far beyond mere fish imagery, artist/surfer Paul Elder creates a range of attention-grabbing skeletons, including the scream of Victory at Sea, the jovial Dead Ringer, and the peaceful Calm Before the Storm sailor. One of the latest beer, Red Velvet, depicts a celebratory king, an artistic nod to Francis Bacon and Dutch still life, and perhaps reflecting the unique blend of oatmeal stout, beets, and chocolate contained inside.

Various locations.

Acoustic Ales
Undoubtedly some of the most cleverly aligned name-with-image breweries in the city, Acoustic stands out on the shelves with its blend of graphic, comic-book, and pop art-style labels. With smile-inducing examples including Hop Save the Queen, Back in the GSSR, Hop Way to the Danger Zone, and You’ll Hop Your Rye Out, Acoustic continues to please craft beer and art lovers with color, style and, of course, delicious beer.

2120 W. Washington St., Mission Hills.

Stone Brewing
A wellspring of fonts, Pantone colors, design, and one of the most recognized icons in craft beerdom, this San Diego veteran maintains a continuity throughout all of its incarnations. Whether simplistic in color and focused on letter design in the Small Batch Series, or exploding with bright hues and imagery in their collaboration, the labels are always carefully executed and lend distinct personality that says one unmistakable thing: Stone.

Various locations.

With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to