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1 beer, 4 playful sleeve-label designs

1 beer, 4 playful sleeve-label designs
Each of four sleeve labels highlights a key ingredient of Manic Pixie Dream beer. Photo: Ale Sharpton.

Sleeve labels for limited-edition 16oz cans of Manic Pixie Dream Beer reflect the brew’s unconventional formulation with a subtly sexy packaging design in four versions.

Manic Pixie Dream Beer #1, a Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged for 11 months in bourbon-maple-syrup barrels, debuts this month in sleeve-labeled 16oz cans and a 4-count multipack. The product’s tagline is “beer that exists for your mere enjoyment.”

The sleeve label’s design is as unconventional as the brew, which is from Second Self Beer Co., Atlanta: The product “line” consists of one beer wrapped in four different designs highlighting one of the four main beer ingredients: Bourbon, maple, coffee and oats. The artwork for the packaging design was done by Keith P. Rein, a neo pin-up artist who has worked as an illustrator in the design industry for nearly a decade. Rein’s art combines his love of humor, sexuality, geek and pop culture to produce an original body of work, blending watercolor with digital painting.

Second Self Beer Company cofounder Jason Santamaria and artist Rein participated in a Packaging Digest Q&A about the uncommon beer and packaging design.

Who’s the target beer drinker?

Santamaria: This is a fun beer that would appeal to a beer drinker with a sense of humor. Because the art itself is a vital element of the vision behind the beer, I think it will catch the eye of those who appreciate interesting design.

What graphic goals or direction were provided to artist Rein?

Santamaria: I wanted to make a four-pack that told a story and played up the Manic Pixie Dream Girl concept. Keith has been a friend of mine for years, and I love his work; about half the art at my house is his. When it came to making a one-off label that told a truly unique story, he was the first artist I considered. The direction was that I broke the beer down into four key elements: coffee, bourbon, maple and oats, and I wanted his interpretation of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl using or personifying those ingredients.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl muses in this label for one of the ingredients, oatmeal.

What vibe do the graphics present?

Santamaria: I think these draw a fine line of playful, sexy, fun and unrealistic. Like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

The artist comments on his design.

Rein: Second Self’s cofounders and I all hope the concept of the packaging comes across visually and that consumers will be intrigued enough by the design to take a closer look at the details. Something that makes the first iteration of Manic Pixie Dream Beer unique is it will be one of the few beers sold with four individual labels; each can has a different illustration and background pattern.

The Manic Pixie Dream Beer logo consists of some word association in regards to the small Second Self Beer pixie. The dotted lines, or pixie can's trail, shows that she is hard to catch and reinforces the limited nature of Manic Pixie Dream Beer.

Bourbon is highlighted as an ingredient in this wraparound label view.

Were the sleeve labels selected instead of printed cans due to volumes?

Santamaria: That is correct. Given that this is a very limited edition beer, and we’re only producing a select quantity of cans, it made sense to use sleeves rather than printed cans. Sleeves also allow sharper printing, so we can get more detailed with the labels.

How would you compare the quality of sleeved labels with printed cans?

Santamaria: Sleeved graphics look great from the printing side. They also give us the flexibility to do small runs on fun beers. The only negatives I can think of are that sometimes there are air bubbles under the label and the texture doesn't quite feel like a regular can, but most people don’t notice the difference.

Can you credit the sleeve label vendors?

Santamaria: We work with two local (Georgia) companies for the sleeves. GenFlex Label handles the printing and Craftpac heads up the sleeve application. GenFlex has been proven to make a good sleeve, and Craftpac was the only supplier that would do a 16oz can with this limited quantity.

Comprehensive renderings of the four sleeve-label designs in the initial Manic Pixie Dream Girl Beer release.

It seems unusual to have four different label designs for the same beer.

Santamaria: This is the first time we’ve created and sold a four-pack and the first time we’ve offered 16oz cans. The design of each can within the four-pack highlights a different element of the beer, though it’s the same beer is in all of them. We use biodegradable rings to hold the cans together.

We went this route because it’s a limited edition beer and collector’s item that’s as much about the art as it is about what’s inside. With four different sleeves, we’re able to use multiple canvases to showcase artist Rein’s designs, and when you line the cans up next to each other, you get a full series that’s visually interesting and unique. With sleeves, the cost is the same if it is one or 1,000 designs because it’s all digital printing. The only added cost was on the design side.

What’s meant by “digital painting” process you’ve used?

Rein: Digital painting is a process of creating an illustration or painting from scratch using traditional artistic techniques and theories on the computer, rather than paper or canvas, using materials like a specialized drawing tablet and pen. This is different from other digitally rendered images and graphics that use computations to create visuals—digital paintings are created from the artist's hand.

Although I did not utilize this workflow on the Manic Pixie Dream Beer project, my personal work involves the blending of traditional watercolors and digital painting. Not all pieces are the same, but will typically involve a combination of a watercolor underpainting scanned into the computer that I can digitally paint on top of and/or hand finish the prints with watercolor embellishments.

What’s the suggested pricing?

Santamaria: The collector's four-pack will sell for $35 at the brewery's tasting room on Atlanta’s Westside along with individual cans for $10.


Do you have an interest in beverage packaging? Or perhaps packaging and technology? Find all that and a whole lot more at UBM America’s newest design and manufacturing trade show and conference in Cleveland, OH, on March 29-30. Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Cleveland showcases five zones—packaging, automation and robotics, design and manufacturing, plastics and medical manufacturing. Visit for more information.


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