Sites of Note - Vol.7: Austin Beerworks
It's often been said that Texas is not to be messed with. If the website for Austin-based brewery Austin Beerworks is any indication, Texans sure know how to wrangle up a quality brewski, and a great website to match.
As a self-professed lover of all things typographical on the web, I'm immediately drawn to the the large decorative lettering used as display type on the homepage. While this particular example is not the result of some CSS @font-face wizardry (they're all images), the headlines are crisp, energetic and expertly rendered. What's more, despite being set in several styles the text not only maintains a sense of harmony but enhances the voice, personality and character of the content it communicates. Fortunately this motif is maintained in the interior pages, with section headings appearing in a similar three-dimensional typeface.
Refreshingly, the color palette throughout the site is bold and whimsical, with consistent shades of red and blue recalling a sense of classic americana. Many of the site photos appear in a style that also brings to mind a time-tested trope of the printing industry, the duotone, which helps subtly reinforce the hand-crafted feel. The images themselves range from long, abstract shots of the beer-production process, to macro shots of bubbles, foam and other beery goodness.
In terms of functionality, the "Beer" page is particularly slick. Proud of their flagship products, AB puts them front center at near-actual size and lets users learn more about each variety simply and directly with a small horizontal scroller below the content. The navigational structure and user interface is straightforward and even fun, I'd hazard to say. Also, the "Brewery" page features a terrific (and informative!) graphic illustration demonstrating the wonders of beer production from start to finish. Advancing through the illustration moves the user from "hot" to "cold" to "packaging", with a crafty implementation of parallax scrolling added in to the mix to provide a sense of depth and dimensionality. Aesthetically, the illustration is just casual and quirky enough without being juvenile, evoking similarites to the editorial infographics found in the pages of GOOD magazine. Not a bad thing by any means.
While I'd certainly like to get a six-pack of Fire Eagle for an in-office sampling of the real deal, Austin Beerworks proves that a great 'virtual' experience can go a long way for your product online. After all, a great website is something to celebrate, and the guys at AB should certainly be proud of theirs. Fortunately great beer is also worth celebrating. Cheers to Helms Workshop and Source Interactive for doing a bang-up job.