A smarter man than I once said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That man, Mr Tulliver, uttered these wise words in George Elliot’s 1860 novel The Mill on the Floss in reference to a beautifully bound book, which held dark tales of the devil within its pages. Despite the popular idiom being coined by a make believe character in a book written over 150 years ago, the phrase is still commonly used today, but does it ring true when we are buying a beer or purchasing a pint? Does the artwork on a label or a pump clip ultimately sway us when presented with multiple beers down your local or when shopping?
In a recent poll conducted by the blog, a whopping 92% of beer drinkers agreed that they do in fact judge a bottle by its label and I for one am not ashamed to admit that I have based my decision to buy one IPA over another solely on the fact that one had UFOs on the label, hovering suspiciously around the Illuminati’s all-seeing-eye.
Despite the fact that one beer may have better tasting notes over its competitors, for the majority, the deciding factor all knuckles down to a beer’s presentation, either because it is eye catching or because we associate a higher quality product with better quality packaging.
With that in mind, and building upon the article I wrote for Grill & Barrel magazine on the subject, I have created a new section on the blog exploring the various beer artworks that adorn our favourite beer bottles and pump clips and to delve passed the labels to see what inspires them. Here’s a few to get you going!
Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.
“The inspiration for the branding simply comes from things we are interested in and like the look of,” said co-founder Brad Cummings. Take for example their IPA, Hadouken, which is dedicated to the finishing move of classic video game Street Fighter. Any keen gamer will recognize that the arrows on the front of the bottle correspond with what your thumbs tap into the controller in order to produce a blue surge of all consuming power which ultimately finishes your opponent.
As well as nods to retro gaming culture, the duo pay homage to classic film, notably Star Wars, with a version of Darth Vader stamped on their Vader Shuffle pump clip.
Brad and Gazz, owners of the brewery, came across Tamsin when browsing online for artwork to decorate their business cards. One image that struck them was of a dead rabbit in front of a city landscape, created by the Canadian artist. This image, albeit with a bear instead of a rabbit, has become synonymous with the brewery’s branding.
“Although we take our beer very seriously, the drinking side is very chilled out,” Brad continued, “We don’t take ourselves very seriously and the designs are a way of expressing ourselves.”
In 1916, during the peak of The Great War, the HMS Duke of Albany was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Orkney by an enemy submarine. Despite the Royal Navy losing 24 brave men that day, 11 officers and 76 sailors were saved. One of the lucky souls to be saved was a young Welsh seaman named Idris Parry.
Idris, along with his younger, cockle picking sister Blodwen, have been immortalized in Tomos Watkin’s bottled beer range. Not only do they appear on the labels, they also lend their names to their respective beers.
“We have commemorated members of our family with our beers,” Connie Parry, CEO of the brewery, explained. “Cwrw Idris for example is named after our Grand Father, Idris Parry. He was torpedoed twice during World War 1 and despite the best efforts of the Kaiser, he survived and founded the Hurns Mineral Water Company,” she continued.
Brewing beer out of an old school house in Pembrokeshire, Chris Bannister of Caffle Brewery, pays homage to his roots by naming not only the microbrewery after a popular Pembrokeshire phrase, but also his beers after them. Caffle typically means to get yourself into a bit of a tangle and their classic pale ale, Drop Squint, is an alternative swear word used by his dear old Gran.
Caffle’s clean design is far from a Caffle however, although the scribbles somewhat resemble a bit of a tangle.
The branding and design, is all done in-house and Chris utilizes his own home-grown talent. “Our daughter, who is a designer, worked with this and came up with the logo we have now,” he explained. “It lends itself to diverse colour options, which is what we decided to use for the different ales we produce,” he continued.
Through the use of Pembrokeshire dialect and distinctive branding, Caffle’s beer labels aren’t your average run of the mill bottles. So unique is there design that they have been entered into a national design competition.
What’s your favourite beer label? Tweet the blog @thegrillbarrel and I’ll investigate! Stay tuned for more soon.