(links and images still need to prettify’d, but the text is set)
You don’t come to EP for new release information. There are other outlets for that information, two of which I mention below. No sir/mam, you’re here for some in-depth analysis shit. Or some trivially superficial breakdowns (http://endlesspint.com/2017-01-12-kicked-kegs-nye-2017/) . You never know, though I would bet on the superficial.
Speaking of superficial we take a quick tour of calendars put out for 2017 below. Images and links are provided for further review but if you want to peak at even more calendars go to either Vinepair (http://vinepair.com/articles/brewery-release-calendars-2017/) or PorchDrinking (https://www.porchdrinking.com/articles/2017/01/18/2017-beer-release-calendar-roundup/) (PD), both of which do a good job of aggregating several dozen calendars. I would start with the former to get a taste and then switch over to PD, which is more exhaustive (and exhausting).
This is going to be superficial on several levels, most importantly at what we are breaking down: the visual effectiveness of these calendars in getting across the intended beer release information. What’s there to tell? Beer, next month, done. Sure, but there are better and less inspired ways of doing this. We are speaking of beer so let’s not take ourselves too seriously. At the same time these calendars are a form of visual data representation and it bears noting what works and what falls flat.
I’d like to start off with two different but equally successful approaches. The use of blocks, bars, and icons will surface again and again. Looking at two clean implementations should be instructive in seeing who also does it well and who may need to revisit their approach for 2018.
http://www.allagash.com/download/2017-release-calendar/?ao_confirm Allagash (http://www.allagash.com/download/2017-release-calendar/?ao_confirm)
- Year round releases consolidated into one row of blocks. Each block clearly labeled as to the beer.
- Specialty & limited releases broken out across 12-month calendar.
- Empty months included, which helps with easy intake and recall as to part of year (the physical spacing of the blocks serving as a temporal metaphor).
- Distinguishing marks:
- Different year-round lines colored (approximately) by beer type.
- Legend provided to explain associated beer packaging
- An improvement over 2016 (http://www.allagash.com/download/2017-release-calendar/?ao_confirm) : o Specialty beers spread across full 12-month time-frame, allowing for gaps and clear mental representation of time of year. o Removal of unnecessary text and images. o Added legend.
- Are the limited releases only made available for month shown? It can be read as Allagash doing an one month release and that’s it.
https://www.bellsbeer.com/sites/default/files/2017Bells_Beer_RELEASE_Calendar.pdf Bell’s (https://www.bellsbeer.com/sites/default/files/2017Bells_Beer_RELEASE_Calendar.pdf)
- Seasonal & specialty broken out across 12-month calendar
- Sorted in chronological order; a natural way of reading time dependent information.
- What’s an alternative? Alphabetical order which would jumble up the beers, lose the time flow of releases, and “break” information related to flavor-related/season-themed beers.
- Year round grouped together at bottom
- All months colored
- Sorted in alphabetical order
- Distinguishing marks:
- Year round group placed at bottom, drawing attention to limited releases. A simple idea but one that is typically reversed on other calendars. Why? We don’t need a calendar for year round beers. The entire point is to know when limited releases are, wait for it, released. That being the case, dropping the year round group to the bottom makes complete sense.
- The two groups, limited and year round, have different color markers (yellow & blue respectively) for the available months but consistent within the groups.
- Helping further with the chunking is the added blue background color for the year round group.
- Are the limited releases only made available for month shown? (Same as with Allagash)
Boulevard (https://boulevard.com/beers/2017-release-calendar/) Smuttynose (https://smuttynose.com/beers/release-schedule/)
- Whoa, a lot going on here but one does it better. Can you see the difference?
- Smutty, I like
- the pastels (someone has seen Color Brewer (http://colorbrewer2.org/) ),
- half month fills, and
- the fading bars (these last two help break with the rigid binary structure of available/not available for a month; a lot more human if you ask me).
- could have done away with the background color, unneccary according to Tufte (https://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/) but I’m just nitpicking now.
- Boulevard comes across a little rough:
- lots of colors without discernible meaning
- Other clean examples:
- Dogfish (https://www.dogfish.com/brewery/2017-release-calendar) , clean and simple; almost boring but extremely effective. PorchDrinking (https://www.porchdrinking.com/articles/2017/01/18/2017-beer-release-calendar-roundup/) has a more jazzed up version but I would argue it is no more effective in providing the relevant info, though it is more beer appealing to view the labels perhaps (a good marketing tie-in, no doubt).
- Founders (https://foundersbrewing.com/latest-news/2016/2017-update-full-availability-calendar/) , though black background makes the colors a bit severe.
- Surly (http://surlybrewing.com/news/surly-brand-calendar-2017/) , also black background but limited to red and white otherwise; very White Stripes (https://youtu.be/0J2QdDbelmY)
Odd13 (http://odd13brewing.com/img/release-calendar-2017.pdf) Terrapin (http://terrapinbeer.com/2017/01/2017-brew-schedule/)
- Odd13 is all text, but tables count!
- Ironic though when you consider their comic book/graphic novel theme. Where’s the artistic inspiration here?
- Different groups clearly stated
- Distinguishing marks (Odd13):
- Shelf life! Nice touch.
- Terrapin is all images of cans, with a little indication of time by way of horizontal lines with months listed, a sort of timeline if we’re being generous.
Rogue (http://www.rogue.com/beer-release-calendar) Maui (http://mauibrewingco.com/) (via PorchDrinking (https://www.porchdrinking.com/articles/2017/01/18/2017-beer-release-calendar-roundup/) )
- Hot mess v. reductionist
- The cool, laid-back air of the Hawaii approach. All one color and meant to represent a brush stroke.
- Meanwhile Rogue is all over the place, literally.
- The year rounds are clumped together in a way that can make it appear as if they too come in specific months.
- The seasonal releases are stacked together like a Tetris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris) game. There appears to be no rhyme or reason, hop types, sours, etc, to the placement of the seasonals other than fitting it into the space provided.
- Very busy with respect to colors and crowding.
- Difficult to get a handle as to release flow.
Left Hand (http://lefthandbrewing.com/blog/2016/12/left-hands-2017-beer-line/) Sierra Nevada (http://www.sierranevada.com/release-dates)
- Left Hand:
- Do I need ABV listed? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps a simple color or icon to distinguish between low, med, and high octane beers? Just a thought.
- Can’t I tell the bottle size by the image used? See Allagash icons above as an example.
- A lot of bottles for the amount of space. Perhaps the calendar would have been better served without the bottles being present (sorry marketing dept!).
- Sierra Nevada:
- A cleaner look by way of less text and explicit detail.
** Photo/Video: YouTube