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Taking Murder Hornet To The Can Design Awards

Now in its second year, the GABS Beer Can Design Awards recognize the art of designing killer craft beer cans.
At last year’s opening ceremony, we made the finalist list with our limited release Moondancer Hazy IPA, where can designer Troy created a new character, affectionately known as the “Jumping Man,” dancing around a campfire under a full moon. 

Apparently, the design was so popular that it inspired more than just a few Jumpman tattoos and fireside beers! Moon Dancer ended up in seventh place.
Over 140 breweries entered the awards ceremony this year, and our 2021 entry was for our limited release Murderous Hornet Black IPA Can, for our BurLayTaPROM 4th Birthday Celebration by Dave Heavyside.
To narrow it down to the top ten finalists, the public can vote on their favorite canned art – check out this link to see how many amazing designs are in the works.

Once the votes were counted, we were in good shape to make the top ten again and make it to the finals for the second year in a row. From that mile a jury came up with the final ranking and we ended up in fifth place.
Dave is one of the best creative designers we’ve ever seen, and Murder Hornet was the first design we got him involved in. It was a bit of a change in direction for us, but Dave definitely delivered.

 In his words; “Keeping a good balance of complexity and simplicity was key to the success of this design and producing the impact we wanted it to have as the flagship beer for BH’s fourth birthday series.”
It was a bit of a back and forth process to land on the final version. Here’s the result.


Early Design Process

When we first commissioned Dave awards to do the job, we gave him the description of the beer to see what he could come up with.

“This is Murder Hornet, a 9.2% black Imperial Hornet IPA. infused with an opaque and black deep black foamy head, like a predator sneaking up on its prey; 

it stings you with the bitterness of 100 pounds of hops, exploding in layers of aromatic sensations that challenge even the most seasoned beer hunter. 

Powerful pine and resinous hops battle to rekindle heating up and filtering the alcohol, enlivening your senses with rich roasted coffee and dark awards cocoa. Finally, eager to kill, it ends you with a tremendously painful stay that takes you back to the nest …… for the swarm!”

So Dave went to work, locking in a minimalist, mysterious aesthetic, trying out a number of line drawings before choosing a minimalist wasp, stylized in bumblebee orange.

Landing with a more terrifying design

This initial design was solid, but it didn’t quite match awards the bold, angry taste of the beer and its menacing description – it needed to be scarier!
He came up with a bolder, more ominous design that was just terrifying. Here is his description of the creative process; “For Skeleton Bumblebee, I used an experimental process to find the right blend pattern for the effect I wanted, and a lot

 of trial and error with image placement and size to find the perfect balance to create the final design. I drew the 4 claw marks by hand and scanned them, then used some blending techniques to add color.

I then had to use a complex spreading and image manipulation process to create the final print-ready image file, while also keeping in mind that the stout hops wanted to use this file on the shirt and 

I needed to find a way to create a vector awards version without losing the details in the image that would be suitable for screen printing.”
When we saw the final design, we knew he had succeeded, so the Homicide Bumblebee can was released.

More can designs from Dave

Since the success of the Murder the Bumblebee design, we’ve continued to work closely with Dave on many different cans – over 30 in fact! In addition to Murder Bumblebee, he has designed four other birthday beers in the series; 

Zappy Birthday IPA (a tribute to musical maverick Frank Zappa) Vermonster Nitro Sundae IPA and Black Forest Birthday Cake Stout. If you’re awards interested in learning how he came up with these other birthday beer designs, check out his blog.


In addition to our birthday beers, some of Dave’s other dark hop designs include the striking Caribbean Mist and Neverland IIPA limited release cans, as well as our newest core series beer, East Coast Mist.
Related story: How East Coast Mist is spreading.

We also work awards with many other designers on dark hops, which is something we like to share. Next year, our goal is to be selected for the third year in a row with a different designer.
Related: The evolution of our beer design and packaging process.

Related: Our process for designing beer cans with hand-drawn full-package awards labels.
We hope you enjoy how we got on board with the design of Murder by Bumblebee. As always, if you have any ideas, please feel free to contact us in the comments below.