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Arrowhead Ales Brewing honored for Best Can Design
New Lenox

Arrowhead Ales Brewing honored for Best Can Design

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 You could say Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company, in New Lenox, "crushed" it.

The craft brewery took home a "Crushie" for Best Can Design in the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards. It was one of five Illinois breweries so honored.

The “Crushies,” a global competition that recognizes the artwork, design and retail marketing efforts behind craft beer, were announced via a live virtual ceremony from New York . A total of 196 awards in 33 categories were presented to brewers, designers and marketing agencies around the world.

Arrowhead Ales, a brewery and full service restaurant, just celebrated its 5th anniversary. Co-owner Mike Bacon had been home brewing for years before the brewery opened and has had success with its novel brews and 35-item seasonal menu.

The labels that took the Best Can Design title were a movie-themed series created by Matt Sharp, art director/graphic designer/illustrator for the brewing company since 2018. The Joliet native has been a designer since 2002 and has worked in the craft beer arena since 2012. He now lives outside Cincinnati. 

When he learned about the competition last year, the entry deadline had passed. “I followed The Craft Beer Marketing Awards on all social platforms in order to stay in the loop. When entries were allowed for this year, I began to look through our archives of work that I felt was our strongest,” said Sharp.

“Mike Bacon and I work hand in hand. In general, he will come up with a style and ask me for a name/concept or vice versa," Sharp said. "Sometimes, I have a concept that I really feel strongly about, and we build off of that. We trust each other. He knows beer; I know visuals. We back one another up when needed, but, in general, we will stay in our own lanes because we trust the other's decisions/choices.

“As for the set of labels that won, the concept was really born from our love of films/TV/literature and wanting to glorify the antagonist. I entered six labels under the umbrella of the ‘Villains Series.’ ”

Release of most of the beers in the series were times to a theatrical release or DVD release or other significant date. “The different beers would drop at moments where we felt the timing was important or significant to the beer itself,” said Sharp.

Sharp described the accomplishment as “beyond incredible.”

“Not that it ‘validates’ you, but it helps to fortify your career and acknowledges the years of hard work that has been put in. Craft beer and graphic design are fun jobs at times, but it's still a job at the end of the day. The consumer gets to see the final product, but in our case, there is a ton of work that goes in on the back end. I feel like a competition like the CBAMs allow for designers to get the credit that is owed to them,” he said.

“Brewers have The Great American Beer Festival in order to get judged by a jury of their peers," Sharp continued. "I'm really glad we have something like this that can highlight the talent in our industry. At the end of the day, if nobody knows your brewery and you are on a shelf with hundreds of options, how does the consumer choose a beer? The label! We are the visual gateway drug for your eyeballs. Perhaps an extreme example, but I believe it to be true.”

Arrowhead offers everything from lagers to sours to porters on its 12 taps. Customer favorites include the Entry Level Snob (American West Coast IPA), Union Dues (American Light Lager) and Imperial Coconut Killjoy (Imperial Porter with marshmallow.)

Those have helped it rack up a number of awards at the annual Pints and Pork Competition in Manhattan, which raises money for St. Jude School. Most recently, it was recognized for Best Burger in New Lenox. A new hand-crafted Burger of the Week is featured each Tuesday through Sunday.

“The building itself has a large open air dining room and large bar area,” said Bacon. “The brewery is located on site in a separate room to the east. On the west side of the building, we have a large open air covered patio, which has 14 tables and two small lounge areas.”


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