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Craft Beer Marketing Awards: Who Crushed the Crushies in 2021

Craft Beer Marketing Awards: Who Crushed the Crushies in 2021

The Craft Beer Marketing Awards represent the best that craft beer has to offer in terms of marketing, and the winners of the 2021 competition were announced over the summer. Who took the top honors, and what brands stood out among the judges? Read on to find out!

Craft beer, and beer in general, is sometimes best remembered through its marketing. Why do you think the big boys of beer always drop mammoth sums to advertise their brands during each year’s Super Bowl? They know that word-of-mouth and blanketing television, radio and physical media with their imagery is an extremely effective to stay “top of the mind” among beer drinkers and fans.

As a CBMA judge myself, I was able to toss my two cents into the fountain of opinion and saw many scintillating designs while perusing the submissions. This story serves as a look at the competition as well as the winners in each category.

Check the full list of Crushie winners at the Craft Beer Marketing Awards via the 2021 Winners Gallery.

According to the competition site, “the Craft Beer Marketing Awards launched in 2020 featuring over 30 categories celebrating the very best of beer marketing and design, and the teams and individuals behind them. Breweries, their artists, designers, branders, and marketers are invited to enter their top work.” The categories can be found below.

cbma category list

In 2021, the CBMAs expanded to include entries from all over the world in categories beyond simply craft beer, including hard seltzer, mead and cider. In the competition, the actual physical award statuettes are called “Crushies,” similar to how Oscars are shorthand for the Academy Award statuettes themselves.

The Platinum Crushies are the highest honor that the Craft Beer Marketing Awards can bestow, and each regional segment can have at least one Platinum Crushie in each specific category. Regions also are awarded Gold Crushies in notable categories.

The full list of winners, along with corresponding imagery, can be found on the Craft Beer Marketing Awards website at the 2021 Winners Gallery.

As you can see from perusing these winners, there is a veritable feast for the eyes of terrific designs on bottles and cans both large and small – including some interesting artwork for seltzers, ciders and meads – beyond the normal volume of craft beer offerings.

Some of the tightest competition was in the following category: Best Can Design / 16 - 20 Oz. (473 - 592 mL)


Sally Morrow Creative
Mountains Walking Seasonal Beer Packaging
Portland, OR, USA

Mountains Walking Seasonal Beer Packaging

As you can see, the winner was Mountains Walking Brewery out of Bozeman, Montana. That brewery is known for its raucously hopped-up IPA creations, as well as an assortment of heavily fruited sours and some well-made hard seltzers.

The sleek design of Mountain Walking’s 16-ounce cans, however, is what lifted them to the Platinum Crushie in this category. The geometric, postmodern and textured design certainly employs some eye-catching colors – which are sure to catch the eye of any prospective purchaser.

Seeing as most craft brewers are now focusing on canning beers as opposed to bottling them, the Best Can Design / 8 - 15 Oz. (237 - 444 mL) category was also hotly contested:


Brick Solid Brands
West Side Brewing Braille Ale by Brick Solid Brands
Cincinnati, OH, USA

West Side Brewing Braille Ale by Brick Solid Brands

Brooklyn Brewery Pulp Art by Thirst Craft
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Brooklyn Brewery Pulp Art by Thirst Craft

Once again, the winners in this category were innovative in their own ways. West Side Brewing in Cincinnati, Ohio took home a Platinum Crushie for their Braille Ale Raspberry Gose, which was among the first-ever beers in the U.S. to feature raised braille.

All proceeds from the beer went to Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), showing that packaging and design innovations can lead to the betterment of communities – let alone to good stories and solid sales.

Another Platinum Crushie was awarded to Brooklyn Brewery in this category for its gorgeous artwork for Pulp Art Hazy IPA. Inspired by both comic-style design and branding assets as well as famed pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, this joyously colorful can definitely deserved its spot at the top in this category.

In terms of Best Bottle Design / 7 - 21 Oz. (207 - 622 mL), Gnarly Barley Brewing Co. of Hammond, Louisiana (our reigning Brewery of the Year for 2020) took home a Platinum Crushie for its Imperial Porter Rican brew alongside Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland with its Dark Spot Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout.

Gnarly Barley’s Imperial Porter Rican features the brewery’s usually impressive use of color combined with some psychedelic, trippy visuals – in this case, the beer’s name is enveloped by a bright pink frog’s tongue. Inspired!


Gnarly Barley Brewing Co. Imperial Porter Rican

The minimalistic design of a (fittingly) dark spot on a field of compacted horizontal lines on Union’s Dark Spot serves as a counterpoint to the strikingly colorful one by Gnarly Barley; this contrast shows that good design is good design – no matter if it’s jam-packed with neon coloration or a monochrome minimal template.

In a rare feat for the Craft Beer Marketing Awards, Crux Fermentation Project nabbed a solo Platinum Crushie in the Best Bottle Design / 22 - 26 Oz. (651 - 769 mL) category for its Project Gypsy Coolship Series.

While the folksy cartoonish style and earthy color palette clearly had its fans, my vote in this category went for Rogue Ales & Spirits’ delightful work on Santa’s Private Reserve 2020. Having an attractive sea foam green-colored bottle on a Christmas was an inspired choice, and I think it should’ve been given more of a chance in the final voting. Perhaps being a Christmas beer in a competition voted on in the spring/summer did it no favors.


Santa’s Private Reserve 2020 rogue ales & spirits

The Craft Beer Marketing Awards are a true showcase for the brilliant originality and creativity that breweries and design agencies are collaborating on around the world on a daily basis.

The vivid colors, striking logos, delightful designs and excellent illustrations that festoon all of the entrants in the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards should be applauded. Once again, for the full list of winners, check out the 2021 Winners Gallery here.

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