Sleeve-labeled cans showcase beer’s unusual character

Rick Lingle in Beverage Packaging on July 19, 2016

Sleeve labels wrap Chicago’s Burnt City Beer cans in a new look done on a tight deadline that adds a major dose of fun and irreverence.

Just about everything changed for Burnt City Beer over a five-month period: The name changed from Atlas Brewing Co., the packaging design changed from masculine and industrial to irreverent and fun with sleeve-labeled cans now delivering the package graphics.

The from-scratch-redesigned packaging debuted in May when the Chicago brewer rolled out its new sleeve-labeled 12oz cans throughout the company’s markets in “most of northern Illinois, northern Indiana and Alabama,” says Greg Lamacki, the brewery’s chief operating officer.

The 12oz cans are supplied presleeved by Tripack for three year-round formulations and one seasonal item, according to Lamacki, who answers our questions about the extreme packaging graphics makeover that was done by Ian Law of Mighty Few.



                        Then named Atlas Brewing, the brewer's previous packaging design had a decidedly industrial look.


What were the major redesign goals?

Lamacki: We ran into unique circumstances [in late 2015] since we were looking for a whole rebrand within five months.  Knowing that label approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau  would be at least six weeks and initial design would be another eight weeks,  I had to find a solution that had less than an 8-week turnaround. Speed was initially our biggest concern and goal. 

Along with that, we had decided to take our packaging from a “Legacy Look” (shown above) to one that was a little irreverent.  Knowing what we wanted and working with a designer that we had total confidence in helped us reach this goal. The only guideline we gave them was to make sure the whole brand was unified. 


What “vibe” you were seeking with this new name and look?

Lamacki: We wanted to convey that Chicago was a Burnt City and rose from the ashes.  We wanted to have a little fun and put characters on the can.  We wanted people to look at our brand and have it clearly be a Craft Beer brand.

Burnt City's first seasonal offering in a sleeve-labeled can is this summery Retrofit Lime Radler.


What was the hardest thing to get just right on the label?

Lamacki: We wanted to be fun without being silly.  Sometimes what you think is funny may come across as stupid.  Getting that right is the hardest thing.


Comment on the use of sleeve labeling.

Lamacki: We believe shrink sleeves gave us the best possible look in comparison to preprinted cans.  The cans come out looking mostly preprinted instead of a label applied—and we can get the cans sleeved in 4-6 weeks.  The real benefit is time and the ability to order smaller quantities.  At this time we plan to continue using shrink sleeves until business greatly increase, though we will continue to use shrink-sleeves for seasonal and one-off brews. 

[Ed.’s Note: You can read more about Tripack’s sleeving operations on the next page.]


What lessons were learned from this experience?

Lamacki: The best information I can pass along is to be flexible and open-minded with your graphic artist.  Give them big picture direction and let them work it out. This assumes you use someone who has experience in package design. 


What’s been the feedback?

Lamacki: Everyone I know likes the new look and the brand identity better than before.


What’s next?

Lamacki: We will continue to bring to market five seasonal beers this year.  Beyond that we are still a little too young for any concrete plans.


What can you say about Tripack’s involvement?

Lamacki: They have been a reliable and easy source to work with.  Since we did all the design work they performed all of the production work and delivery with great efficiency.


Read more about Burnt City’s fascinating backstory at the company’s website that led to the rebranding and redesign and about the threatened lawsuit and more in this Chicago Tribune article.



Interested in food and beverage packaging? Join like-minded professionals at MinnPack September 21-22 in Minneapolis.



Next: Sleeve packaging details from Tripack

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Sleeve labels on beer cans - a dream come true of the late Mr. Kronseder (Krones AG, Neutraubling). He spoke to this idea 33 years ago!
Sleeve labels on beer cans - a dream come true of the late Mr. Kronseder (Krones AG, Neutraubling). He spoke to this idea 33 years ago!