Packing your Homebrew like a Pro! By: Ben Bakelaar
Every homebrewer ends up getting into different aspects of brewing – some like the process, some like the tweaking, some like building equipment, and some don’t really care about anything but the end result! Over the years, one of the areas I’ve gotten more into is labeling and packaging. If you have any graphical inclination at all (I’m an amateur at best), you can mess around with various software like Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, etc. to design some pretty decent looking labels. I’ve even used Microsoft Word! And I know a few brewers who will print out mailing labels and slap those on. For identification and information purposes, that’s great, but if you want to take things to the next level where you’ve got a logo, or some styled fonts at least, it can really boost the wow factor on your brews!
Naturally, this conversation only applies to bottles, but I am sure the creatives out there could figure out a way to package kegs too. The easiest way to package your beers like a pro is also the most expensive – pay for it! In this article I’ll be reviewing two websites that I’ve used recently to get stellar results for bottle caps, bottle carriers, and labels. Next week I’ll continue this theme with more DIY ways to make your own labels, including some MS Word document templates that I’ve used over the past year. I’ll also get into the details on measurements, pixel sizes, DPIs, etc. But for now, I’d like to introduce you to my 2 new favorite websites: myownlabels.comand bottlemark.com.
I don’t know who is behind this site, but they are basically geniuses. If you navigate to the “beer/drink” menu, you’ll find an assortment of labels, coasters, and carriers. It is similar to cafepress.com, if you’ve ever used that site, but here there is an actual template pre-defined, you just fill in the text (and in some cases, a photo). For example, if you go to their beer labels section, just pick one you like the looks of, and you are presented with several label shapes. Click on one of those, and you get another choice in terms of the color. When you select that, a Flash window pops up which actually let’s you fill in the text on the label on the fly, right in front of your eyes! As I said, it’s really genius, and the interface is pretty useable and friendly in my estimation. One thing I was not sure about when I placed my first order was the quality – on the site it looked kind of pixelly, so I wasn’t sure how good they would look once they got printed and shipped. Let me tell you, these are high quality, no question. Another great aspect of the ordering process is that after you’ve selected your text, you get yet another choice – what kind of paper you want the labels printed on. You have about 6 options, including waterproof options and gold foil. Can you ask for anything more? Here’s the proof below. I’m not even sure if the digital picture does it justice, but here is a link to the hi-res version of below if you are interested.
To give you an idea on pricing, you are paying about $0.50 per collar label (the really small ones), $1.25 per bottle/box label (the bigger ones), and $1.25 per bottle carrier, whether a 4-pack, 6-pack, or single. So for example, adding up the cost of the 4 pack, it comes to almost $11. Let’s say you wanted to package up a full 5-gallons: that’s 5 gallons converted to 640 ounces, divided by 12 ounces per bottle, divided by 4 bottles per pack. Roughly 13 – which comes out to $143 per batch! Craziness you might say, but the point is, you are never going to do that. The way I use bottling/packaging is to give out gifts, and at this cost I’d probably be limited to maybe two 4-packs per batch. But also, every batch isn’t stellar, so I probably wouldn’t package those out as gifts anyway. If you go the route of the 22 oz bombers, your cost is a bit lower – as shown in the picture, about $4 per bottle. At that price you can probably afford to spend $20 on 5 gift bottles.
Again, there are cheaper and more DIY ways, but as I continue brewing and developing my “brewery”, it sure is nice to have something professional to look at and take pride in.
[Editor's Note: We have one of Ben's labled bottle 22 oz bombers hanging on our office shelf; it really is a cool way to present your favorite brews!]
I found out about these guys through the latest issue of Zymurgy. I think it is one engineer / homebrewer who got fed up trying to get bottle caps. The article mentioned that normally you can’t order less than 1,000 (or 10,000?) and you are very limited in terms of colors, graphics, etc. So this guy set out to create a digital printing solution so he could print anything he wanted on the bottle cap. A few years later and his business is born! I just placed my first order. Much like the myownlabels.com site, there is a solid interface for you to start your order, upload a digital picture, arrange it on the bottle cap, zoom in and out, and finalize your order. The best part? You can order as few or as many as you want! Literally, you can order 1 bottle cap. And at 12 cents each, this is something you CAN afford. Once I receive the caps, I’ll attach a new picture to this post showing you the result, but I am pretty sure the results are going to be quite nice. As with all things digital, mostly it depends on the quality of the original image – if you upload something blurry, blow it up past its original resolution, stretch it out of its original ratio, etc. then your result isn’t going to look great. So stick within the guidelines that the site gives you, and you’ll be all good.
Look for a continuation of this article next week, where I go into much cheaper DIY options, and reveal a secret DIY glue mixture that’s cheap, easy, and leaves no mark on the bottle!
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