Beer: Picture this

It’s all about the branding for craft beers trying to get noticed in a crowded marketplace. Shay Waterworth gets under the skin of funky designs


ONE OF THE BIGGEST news stories to come out of the beer industry this summer is the part-acquisition of Beavertown brewery by Heineken for £40m. Avoiding the conversation on craft brands selling out to brewery giants, let’s look at how the brand got itself into this position.

The most standout feature for Beavertown is its wild artwork, which was groundbreaking for the craft beer scene when it launched in 2011. It’s clear to see that some bottle or can designs are more successful than others and, believe it or not, there are trends among label designs. At the Boutique Beers event in London in July, craft beer brands from around the world gathered under one roof to show off their brands and there was a variety of different branding styles.


The visuals of any brand are what draw a consumer in, no big news there. But the route each company takes to inventing a look is often different.

Design agency Kingdom & Sparrow has worked with beer brands to either build or rebrand a brewery’s identity. Having collaborated with both local and international brands, from startups to brewing giants such as AB-Inbev, the company is well in-tune with the process of making beer cool.

Daniel Gradwell, managing director at Kingdom & Sparrow, says: “Before we do any work on a brand’s appearance or packaging we have to look at the market the beer sits in and collaborate with the brewery to find out what its targets are. Market research comes before any work with the design or appearance.

“It’s also important to understand the brand before trying to represent it. We need to have exactly the same vision for a design because it can mean everything to the people who are brewing the beer.”

Design agencies have played a bigger role than you might think in shaping the modern look of the craft beer movement and increasing the diversity among beer designs around the world.

Gradwell says: “There are definitely trends within the different designs of beer brands, and these trends evolve quickly. Independent brands change what the mainstream does in terms of design and Beavertown was revolutionary in the young, punk look which really captured the imagination of consumers.”

Drygate Brewery in Glasgow has a wild cartoon design, similar in many ways to Beavertown, and this style has attracted a lot of hipsters in the US and UK specifically. However, these funky designs weren’t the product of a professional design agency, but one of the van drivers at the brewery. John Felix worked as a delivery man at Drygate before art turned from a hobby into a profession. After invoicing the brewery for some of his artwork that now covers its core range of beers, including Disco Forklift Truck, Felix has become a full-time artist and still collaborates with the brand today.