Written by Jim Murphy | Photos by Anthony Harden
When Stephen Becker and Jerry Sewell assumed ownership of Asheville’s Big Bridge Design, they didn’t realize that they would soon become an integral force in the booming Western North Carolina alcohol industry.
This is not your father’s Bud.
The surge in craft breweries and the creativity of brewmasters has created a plethora of brands offering an overflow of flavors. Bryan Smith, manager of the Tasty Beverage Co. in Asheville, estimates his store carries about 300 brands, with no fewer than 800 flavors. Call it the beer shelf bottleneck.
All that variety leaves the shopper with a luxurious array of options—and a bewildering mass of choices. So, many shoppers simply make their buying decisions based on the beer’s label. As anyone who has recently perused the beer selection at their local shop or grocery store, those labels offer an amazing variety of colors, graphics, and themes. Compared to the Budweiser, Schlitz, and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans of yore, it’s like the difference between black-and-white television and color, or music recorded in monophonic versus stereo.
Are beer labels that important? A young woman, visiting from Richmond and shopping at Tasty Beverage, suppressed a giggle as she admitted, “Always.” Her preferred graphics? “Animals.” She began to turn red as she summed up, “I don’t think it’s smart; it’s just what works for me.”
A man from Fayetteville was more positive about his label choices. “Absolutely,” he said, with absolute conviction. And did it ever turn out to be a disaster? “Hey, we’re not talkin’ about buyin’ a car, we’re talkin’ about a beer. What the hell!”
Yes, the labels are important.
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