Laura Bramley, who uses the name Laura Felina, for her art work, has created more than 100 labels for Definitive Brewing. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

These days, you can walk over to the refrigerated section in most any Maine market and get lost looking at the art.

You might feel the warmth from a golden beer can top rising like the sun over a purple horizon on Rising Tide Brewing’s Chart Topper summer lager or could be struck by the crazy look in the chicken’s eyes on a can of Hypnotizing Chickens farmhouse-style ale from Foulmouthed Brewing. Or you could try to follow the twisting green vines leading to colorful berries on a can of Faerie Offering from Belleflower Brewing.

Art on a Belleflower Brewing Company can created by artist Allie Norman. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Maine’s craft brewers have embraced label art as a way to make their beers stand out in a crowded market, to tell the beer’s story and appeal to a new generation of beer drinkers who value creativity. The days when a brewer simply used a stylish font for its name and slapped a few stripes on the can are over.

The number of Maine breweries has risen dramatically in the past 20 years, from about 36 to more than 150 today, according to the national Brewers Association. Many Maine craft brewers put out a couple dozen or more individual types of beer in a year, each with their own art, creating a demand for artists and for new themes and designs.

Beer can art by Laura Bramley, who goes by Laura Felina when creating art. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I think part of it is about competition, but there’s just a different energy around craft beer,” said Kail Partin, 32, who as director of branding and hospitality creates label art for Portland brewery Rising Tide. “The product is a craft, making it is an art form, so the packaging should represent that.”

Then there’s the fact that craft brewers now use 16-ounce cans, allowing more space for artwork than the 12-ounce bottles and cans that were once the standard for local and national beer brands. Many craft brewers found it was cheaper to sell four-packs of the larger cans than six-packs of smaller containers, because they were buying less packaging.


Grawlix by Foulmouthed Brewing has a label that reads like a comic strip, designed by artist Elise Dilger. Photo courtesy of Foulmothed Brewing

The boom in beer label art can be traced to the most recent boom in breweries nationally, with the number rising from about 2,000 in 2010 to more than 9,500 today, according to the Brewers Association, a national nonprofit organization that includes craft breweries and home brewers nationwide. About 98 percent of all breweries are craft brewers.

“We really didn’t see a lot of cans until about 10 years ago. Craft brewers found they were cheaper, especially to ship, and they were easier to recycle than bottles,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association. “I think the art has been part of that. It’s hard to print something intricate on the neck of a bottle. Every new generation of brewers looks for something to make their product stand out.”

The art on Devil’s Chair by Belleflower Brewing Co., in Portland allows it to double as a Halloween decoration. Photo courtesy of Belleflower Brewing.


Like any art, beer can art comes from a variety of inspirations and is made in a variety of ways. Some Maine craft brewers have in-house artists who help come up with the style of beer and the name. Others let employees in other parts of the brewery come up with names or even some of the art. Some hire local artists while still others combine several methods.

Laura Bramley of Felina Design Co. in Portland – who uses the name Laura Felina for her artwork – has done more than 100 pieces of label art for Portland-based Definitive Brewing Co. over the past six or seven years. As a big music fan, she’s always admired album art and concert posters, and thinks beer label art is similar, since it helps tell a story and enhance the drinker’s (or listener’s) experience.

The label for Definitive Brewing Company’s Casual New England IPA, by Portland artist Laura Felina, was inspired by a song from the group Here We Go Magic. Photo courtesy of Felina Design Co.

Several Definitive beer names are from song titles, which meshed perfectly with Bramley’s sensibility. The brewery”s Casual New England IPA is based on the 2009 tune “Casual” by the indie rock band Here We Go Magic. The song and band have a hazy, psychedelic feel, so Bramley created a label that evokes the Grateful Dead and the 1960s, with bright colors and wavy, blurry shapes.


For a beer called Calzone Party – a play on a “Parks and Recreation” episode dissing calzones – she placed two halves of a calzone on each side of the Definitive logo with cheese stretching across it and colorful bits of confetti in the background.

“It’s a crowded market, the consumer won’t get to your beer if there’s not something compelling on the label,” said Katrina Matthews, marketing manager for Definitive.

Artist Allie Norman has created artwork for many Belleflower Brewing beers. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

When Allie Norman of Portland is given a beer to create art for, she starts with research. Norman, whose company is called Girl That Designs, has created nearly 40 labels for breweries over the past few years, including Belleflower Brewing Co. in Portland, though the brewery uses other artists as well. Norman, 30, has done research about the history of various beer styles as well as the colors that might have been used to decorate a stein or an European beer festival 300 years ago or more.

That’s why for several Belleflower beers – including the Crown of Flowers Hefeweizen – she used muted colors instead of shiny, bright ones, since natural dyes would have been used in German folk art when these beer types were first being enjoyed at Oktoberfests of old.

Crown of Flowers has a muted blue background covered with rows of alpine flowers – yellow, red and white. She also used muted tones for the Faerie Offering sour beer, and colored fruits and berries on the label’s vines to match the different fruit flavors in the beer, including blackberry, blueberry and cherry. Amid the vines is an A-shaped fairy house, with a purple door, a tiny window and a chimney.

Belleflower began operating in 2021. Katie Bonadies, one of the four owners, says that creativity is important in every phase of craft brewing for them, from the recipes to the names to the art on the label.


“We’ve had customers who  say they bought the beer for the label and the beer was great too, which is always nice to hear,” said Bonadies.

Laura Bramley flips through a sketchbook where she practiced drawing magpies for a beer label she was working on in studio at her home in Portland Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe


At Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, co-owner Craig Dilger does much of the art himself, though he’s also had labels designed by his sister, New Jersey-based artist Elise Dilger.

Craig Dilger went to school for photography and journalism at Rochester Institute of Technology and worked as a newspaper photographer before becoming a brewer and opening Foulmouthed in 2016. So he knows about the importance of images and words in conveying a story, including the story of a product.

The art on a beer can is important because it may get a customer not only to look at it, but to touch it.

“If a customer touches a product, they’re much more likely to buy it, so the art is really important,” said Dilger.


Foulmouthed is a brewpub and didn’t sell a lot of cans early on, but Dilger wanted art anyway, so he created posters for whatever beers were on tap. Once Foulmouthed started selling cans, label art was a natural component. Dilger, like other brewers and artists, likes to create art that is connected to the type of beer and the name.

Take, for example, its farmhouse-style ale, Hypnotizing Chickens. He picked the name because it was part of a lyric he liked in the 1970s Iggy Pop rock classic “Lust for Life,” in which love is compared to hypnotizing chickens. Since there were chickens in the name, it had to be a farmhouse-style ale, a grisette to be specific.

Hypnotizing Chickens by Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, designed by co-owner Craig Dilger. Photo courtesy of Craig Dilger. 

Dilger started by researching chicken breeds for physical traits he liked, then started sketching and picked the colors based on the beer, a sort of light, hazy straw color. And he made the chicken’s eyes piercing and haunting at the same time.

“Is the chicken being hypnotized or is the chicken doing the hypnotizing? That’s the question,” Dilger, 39, said of his art.

At Rising Tide Brewing in Portland, Partin is director of branding and art director, and so has a hand in both the look and concept of the beer. For the brand’s Oktoberfest, celebrating that German festival of all beer festivals, Partin basically dressed the gold and white can in lederhosen, with brown straps and buckles across the can. For Capsize, a ginger lime cream ale, Partin wanted a combination of images as “intense” as the flavors. The result was a giant purple sea creature wrestling a sailing ship against a murky green storm-swept sea. The Rising Tide logo – the silhouette of a man in a row boat – is floating calmly above the scene, oblivious to the terror on the lower label.

Rising Tide’s Chart Topper, with a beer can top shining like the sun, was designed by Kail Partin, the brewery’s in-house designer and illustrator. Photo courtesy of Rising Tide Brewing

For Chart Topper, a summer lager, four or five Rising Tide employees brainstormed names that might evoke summer in Maine. They came up with the idea of a nautical chart of the Maine coast, at sunset. In the finished artwork, a golden beer can top stands in for the sun. Partin used a purple background inspired by the bright colors used on some ’80s vinyl record albums, to reflect the musical meaning of “chart topper.”

“I love theater and art and storytelling. I feel like every can should tell its own story,” Partin said.

This story was updated to correct the state where artist Elise Digler lives.

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