A Breath of Fresh Air in the Craft Brew Market

By David Fried, Creative Strategist at Experiences for Mankind

The past five years have seen an explosion in the craft beer market, especially in San Diego. Nationwide, craft beer production has nearly tripled since 2008. And the San Diego region boasts 97 breweries and brewpubs—and counting, compared to just 37 in 2011.

All this astronomical growth has been a boon for beer lovers. But it has also meant that every grocery or liquor store you enter offers a beer section packed with seemingly innumerable options. Something that can be more than a little intimidating to even the biggest beer enthusiasts.

Seeing how finding the right craft beer had become this overly complicated endeavor, the brewers at Port Brewing Co. and The Lost Abbey had an idea for a new brand that would boil craft beer down to its most essential element: Flavor profile.

Dubbed The Hop Concept, the idea was to launch with a series of limited-run IPAs with flavor combinations like Dank & Sticky, Citrus & Piney, Lemon & Grassy, and Tropical & Juicy.


But when they started pitching the ideas to distributors, they found that even a brewery as respected as Port Brewing Co. faced an uphill battle just trying to get picked up for distribution. They needed a hook, something to help set the new brand apart from the dozens of other breweries looking to break into the market.

Their solution was to call these new IPAs The Hop Freshener series, bubbling up the hop cone and its role in determining the flavor and aroma of each brew. Followers of craft beer already get this idea, but the novice, not so much.


To help tell this story, the team at The Hop Concept enlisted branding firm Experiences For Mankind to roll out every element of the new brand.

The challenge was how to craft an identity for both the brand and the series that would support The Hop Concept’s mission while having some fun with the image of the hop cone, and its similarities to some other recreational herbals. And of course, it needed to clearly distinguish itself from the ubiquitous air freshener design.

EFM designed the label to reflect the simplicity of the concept, prominently featuring a hop cone and incorporating clear color cues to the beers’ bold flavor characteristics. The same philosophy held true for the story. Everything on the bottles and cases needed to be easily understandable to the craft beer newcomer, without turning away the craft lovers.

As a result, all the brewing details enthusiasts look for appeared exclusively on the website, itself a single, scrollable page that keeps the experience simple and straightforward.

The Hop Concept_Case Study_FNL.indd HF_8_Mobile

Beyond the bottle, a series of playful coasters featuring the series’ release schedule helped spread the word in local bars and pubs.

Launched in February, The Hop Freshener series made a sizeable splash in the marketplace. Bottles for the inaugural release of Dank & Sticky quickly became scarce. Tap rooms exhausted their supply almost immediately. And The Hop Concept’s unique take on the whole endeavor of enjoying craft beer has kept beer lovers and other local breweries talking, and waiting for a taste of what’s next.

Agency: Experiences For Mankind | Client: The Hop Concept | Project Title: The Hop Concept Brand Launch | Creative Director: Dylan Jones | Designer: Ashley Kerns | Copywriters: David Fried, Crystal Small, Ronnell Morris | Illustrator: Terri Mitchell | Photography: StudioSchulz | Retouching: Daniel Fishel, Alex Koshelkov | Project Manager: Nick Lopez

By Daniel Bellon & Steven Speeg

Whether you drink beer or not, the recent growth of the craft brewing industry and its popularity is undeniable. What better way is there to celebrate the increase of breweries than to admire one of the aspects that makes these beers great: their label design? Featuring well-designed labels from craft and small breweries from around the world, Cool Beer Labels by Daniel Bellon and Steven Speeg demonstrates how commercialized packaging design can be elevated to a whole new level. Not only will you get a chance to peruse these label designs, but you’ll also find interviews with those involved in their design process, like the owner, master brewer, or designer of the packaging. Get a taste of quality packaging design, and great beer, and delve into an exploration of fun design and a celebration of the craft brew culture. Get it here.

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