18 of the Coolest-Looking Beer Cans You'll Ever See

Modern Times Brewing Lightning Calculator
Photo: Courtesy of Modern Times

Not long ago, the humble can was seen as a second-class beer packaging: “Good” beer was sold in a bottle. But in 2002, Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery took advantage of a new, small-batch canning system, becoming the first modern craft brewer to put its product in aluminum. About a decade later, the can fully came into its own. Vermont’s The Alchemist began selling its now-legendary Heady Topper in 16-ounce cans in 2011, one of the many highly-hyped breweries that helped make canned beer not only cool, but coveted. Soon after, pint-sized aluminum cans – once reserved for mainstream “pounders” – had become the de facto packaging of craft beer’s hippest new style, the New England IPA.Now, the previous generation’s philosophy has flipped: Beer geeks gravitate towards cans. Aluminum comes with a number of pros – including doing a better job of sealing out the elements like light and air – but these cans also signal that a brewer is on-trend. To coincide with this image, cutting-edge breweries have also launched an unspoken initiative to insure the imagery on the outside of their packaging is as amazing as the liquid inside. Beer can art has emerged as the newest frontier for brands looking to make a statement in an increasingly crowded craft scene that now boasts over 6,000 breweries, a fourfold increase from the days of Oskar Blues’ first canning foray. Along the way, the style seen on labels has become as much of a feast for the eyes as the brews these cans hold are intriguing drinkers’ taste buds.

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10 of the Coolest-Looking Beer Cans You'll Ever See

Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder.

02 of 19

Other Half Cheddar + Broccoli (Double IPA) – Brooklyn, NY

Other Half Brewing Broccoli and Cheddar
Small Stuff

Back in the ‘50s, New York City was at the forefront of the contemporary art movement. Today, much of the city’s art scene has migrated to Brooklyn, and the borough’s amazing breweries have similarly led the way in modernizing can art. Other Half produces a bunch of beers with food (especially veggie) focused names, and the labels feature stark patterns that are as dank as the beers inside.

03 of 19

Threes Unreliable Narrator (India Pale Ale) – Brooklyn, NY

Threes Brewing Unreliable Narrator
Alexander Bohn

Swinging towards the surreal, Brooklyn’s Threes has released a number of its beers with can labels that feel as if they were pulled from the pages of a dystopian children’s book, simple yet evocative, like an aggressively hopped IPA.

04 of 19

Grimm Lambo Door (Double IPA) – Brooklyn, NY

Grimm Ales Lambo Door
Courtesy of Grimm Artisanal Ales

Grimm Artisanal Ales was an early standout in the movement towards juicy, tropical, dangerously easy-drinking double IPAs devoid of any harsh bitterness. Fittingly, the brewery’s labels feature pastels as soft as these flavors. On Lambo Door, our final example of Brooklyn’s influence, the art feels so ephemeral it’s as if the car will simply float off the can.

05 of 19

Pipeworks Ninja vs. Unicorn (Double IPA) – Chicago, IL

Pipeworks Brewing Ninja vs. Unicorn
Kate Brankin

An instantly lauded standout when it was first released back in 2012, Ninja vs. Unicorn from Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewing used more than just a massive dose of hops to grab people’s attention. The graphic novel-inspired can art is a lesson in eye-popping contrast: a battle not just between ninja and unicorn, but opposing color palates as well.

06 of 19

Half Acre Pony Pilsner (Pilsner) – Chicago, IL

Half Acre Beer Pony Pilsner
Courtesy of Half Acre Beer Co.

Another Chicago brewery that’s become as well-known for its great beers as its bold artwork, Half Acre Beer Company’s Pony Pilsner is a perfect example of how art can elevate the drinking experience: In today’s craft beer world, pilsners are sometimes seen as a bit stodgy, but with its hard lines, block font and intense color scheme, Pony Pilsner invites beer lovers to reconsider the power of what’s inside the can.

07 of 19

Trillium Coffee Pot & Kettle (Oatmeal Porter) – Boston, MA

Trillium Brewing Pot & Kettle
Quin McKinley, Trillium Brewing Company

Taking a subtle, but alluring approach, Boston’s Trillium Brewing entire range of beers feature realistic pencil renderings informed by each beer’s name, a detail-oriented approach much like the brewery’s beers themselves.

08 of 19

Narrow Gauge Double Dry Hopped Cloud City (India Pale Ale) – Florissant, MO

Narrow Gauge Double Dry Hopped Cloud City
Jeff Hardesty

Proving that brewers can take inspiration from each other on the outside of the can as well as in, Narrow Gauge Brewing in Florissant, Missouri, north of St. Louis, also opts for the simplicity of pencil art. But whereas Trillium’s work leans more towards hyperrealism, Narrow Gauge’s art is subtly distorted and dreamlike, sketches from a madman’s diary.

09 of 19

Fieldwork Coffee & Milk (India Pale Ale) – Berkeley, CA

Fieldwork Brewing Coffee & Milk
Courtesy of Fieldwork Brewing

Though Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing takes its artwork into all sorts of intriguing directions, their most iconic series of labels could be described as first-person perspective landscape views, similar to the one featured on their Coffee & Milk IPA. Somehow, the labels manage to superimpose an otherworldly feel upon these intensely Earth-bound images.

10 of 19

Four Corners Block Party (Porter) – Dallas, TX

Four Corners Block Party
Cristi Brinkman

Most cans from the biggest beer brands tend to be simple and forgettable. Can you remember what’s on Miller Lite’s label? (It’s a logo of wheat and hops.) Meanwhile, Dallas’s Four Corners Brewing turns simplicity on its head, branding each of its beers with a single, slightly cartoonish logo. On Block Party, the tap into the retro appeal of a blaring boom box.

11 of 19

Kent Falls Hawaiian Brunch (Fruit Pale Ale) – Kent, CT

Kent Falls Brewing Co. Hawaiian Brunch
Derek Dellinger

One of the biggest changes from the old guard is that beer can art no longer has to take itself so seriously. Though plenty of examples of goofy labels exist, Hawaiian Brunch from Connecticut’s Kent Falls Brewing checks a lot of fun boxes. A Kool-Aid man-like beer glass donning a Hawaiian shirt stands atop a pile of pineapples to showcase this hibiscus and pineapple pale ale that pours a reddish hue matching the color of the can.

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Graft Farm Flor Rustic Cider (Farmhouse Cider) – Newburgh, NY

Graft Flor Rustic Cider
Sae Kenney

Proving that beer isn’t the only alcoholic beverage that’s revolutionizing its artwork (as well as moving into cans), Newburgh, New York’s Graft Cider opts for art as beautifully crafted as its funky ciders and beer-cider hybrids. Farm Flor is a simple rustic offering with a label featuring an equally expressive vision of country life.

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Whiner Beer Company Le Tub

Whiner Le Tub
Ria Neri

A cartoonish depiction of a man bathing with his cat? Nontraditional to say the least, but fully appropriate for Chicago’s Whiner Beer, a specialist in far-out concoctions like this tart, funky, barrel-aged farmhouse ale.

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Hudson Valley Brewery Sky Thing

Hudson Valley Brewing Sky Thing
Courtesy of Matt Petricone for Hudson Valley Brewery

The cascading waves of flavor from this double dry-hopped double IPA mirror the intricate, visually complex imagery on the can for this hop- focused beer from upstate New York.

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Against the Grain Brewery Citra Ass Down

Against the Grain Citra Ass Down
Courtesy of Against the Grain

Featuring a heavy dose of Citra hops, this double IPA pushes boundaries with its irreverent name and kooky, stylized image of a tattooed fellow clutching a mace behind an ostrich, both pierced with arrows.

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Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic IPA

Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic IPA
Christopher Chad Brigman

More than one of Portland, Oregon’s Hopworks’ cans feature open-mouthed heads that practically scream, “Grab me from the shelf!” Because in the end, labels need to inspire customers to buy the beer.

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Spiteful Brewing Working for the Weekend

Spiteful Brewing Working for the Weekend
Brent Seifts

The first hire at this Chicago brewery was an artist on the packaging team. Spiteful’s ongoing dedication to hand-drawn imagery is clear on their signature double IPA, which tells a graphic tale of every beer lover’s plight.

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Stillwater Artisanal Yacht

Stillwater Artisanal Yacht
Courtesy of Stillwater Artisanal

The sleek lines and minimalist approach of this label perfectly reflect “gypsy brewer” Stillwater Artisanal’s crisp, easy-drinking dry-hopped lager with a light citrus edge worthy of a sunny afternoon at sea.

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Modern Times Lightening Calculator

Modern Times Brewing Lightning Calculator
Courtesy of Modern Times

San Diego’s Modern Times’ distinctive packaging seamlessly juggles classic beer-label aesthetics with techno-modern design sensibilities. This hazy, citrusy double IPA was a special release, but their rotating lineup includes many diverse beers.

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