Winner of the CNBC Battle of the Beer Labels
In the end, voters in CNBC's Battle of the Beer Labels were crazy for Koko Buni.
Clinching the win in a nail-biting final round, the label from Creature Comforts Brewing edged out Black Hog Brewing's Ginga Ninja by 75 votes, with a final tally of 3,306 to 3,231.
"It's meaningful for us to get recognition for the things we've put a lot of hard work into, and we have a lot of talented folks who worked really hard on our design," said David Stein, head brewer and cofounder of Athens, Georgia-based Creature Comforts.
For the brewer, the Koko Buni label represents an attention to detail that Stein and his partners have brought to the business since its founding in April 2014.
"The quality of our beer is obviously paramount but there is quality in everything we do, and that includes the packaging," Stein said. "We believe all of our beers are different and we want them to stand alone."
In addition to four year-round brews, Creature Comforts currently offers four seasonal beers.
Koko Buni, a milk porter brewed with toasted coconut, cocoa nibs, coffee and vanilla beans, is the brewery's winter seasonal. Creature Comforts partnered with local design firm Young Athenians and independent artist David Hale for the label.
"He really focuses on drawing nature and things like animals, plants, trees, and we've been a big fan of his work for many years," Stein said. "We wanted to depict and show the importance of these ingredients, which are from different parts of the world, and do it in an authentic way that translated to the packaging."
While he was hopeful Creature Comforts could prevail in the contest, Stein said he knew the brewery was up against stiff competition.
"The beer we were up against [was] probably one of my favorites from the beginning," he said. "I kind of joked that I hope we're not ever up against these guys because they would be a tough one. Clearly they care as much about their labels as we do."
Source: Black Hog Brewing
While it fell short in the final, Connecticut-based Black Hog Brewing and its Ginga Ninja label regularly beat out not only its direct competitor in each round, but the entire field. The label scored the most votes of any competitor in four of the first five rounds.
It's fitting that voters fell in love with the label since the beer — a red India pale ale brewed with fresh ginger — was created in 2011 by Black Hog cofounder and head brewer Tyler Jones as a wedding tribute to his now-wife Rachel, a redhead.
Ginga Ninja was born out of a wedding compromise: Jones, who at the time was head brewer at Portsmouth Brewing in New Hampshire, wanted to brew an IPA for the wedding reception. But his bride-to-be didn't like the style. So he promised to create something she would love.
After experimenting with fresh ginger and a malt that gave off a red hue, a wedding compromise was struck, and Ginga Ninja was born.
When it came time for the artwork for Ginga Ninja, Black Hog turned to local artist Max Toth, who has created the artwork for all of Black Hog's labels. Toth presented Black Hog with a painting of the image, which the owners took great strides to stay true to when it was time to digitally render it on a can.
"We had to go to Ball Corp. headquarters in Colorado, where the cans are printed, and sit in an office for two full days just having them bring us samples of this can," cofounder Jason Sobocinski said. "There are so many different colors and shades and we were adamant to get it right."
Sobocinski said the unique designs created by Toth help give the brewery an edge in a competitive and crowded craft beer landscape.
"It gives us a step up, which we really need, because we are tiny," he said. "Having this artwork on our cans lets us pop on the shelves, and if people see there is a work of art on the can maybe they give us a chance and take us home to check out the work of art that is in the can."
Creature Comforts' Stein shared a similar sentiment.
"The design is a big deal to me when I walk into a package store and I'm picking out my beer," he said. "I want that package to look good. I'm just personally passionate about it."