What is Nike without the swish? Target without the bullseye? Starbucks without the Siren? These are business logos that help shape a great, recognizable brand. In the same way, the craft brew industry has its own look, feel and undoubted taste that loyal beer drinkers recognize.
Craft breweries often have close ties to the local community. That independent feel is important because it’s also part of a branding strategy. According to the Associated Press, licensing records show two-thirds of all breweries in Minnesota opened in 2010 or later.
With so many microbreweries popping up, it’s important for brew makers to stand out, or rather “hop” out from the crowd in order to gain brand loyalty. Besides having quality beer and a catchy name, the recipe for branding craft beer also calls for a memorable logo design, beer labels and packaging design, which then need to be marketed on the web, social media, local media, etc.
After doing some research, we found that most Minnesota microbreweries are killing it with branding designs. Businesses don’t simply stick a logo on a beer can without a message behind it. So we reached out to four local breweries with some of the best craft beer branding designs and picked their brains on how their ideas came to be.
Bauhaus Brew Labs
Nestled in northeast Minneapolis, Bauhaus Brew Labs is a family brewery known for its German-inspired beer. Fun fact, Bauhaus’ brewery and taproom opened its doors in 2014 after launching a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $25,000. The money would go towards a taproom that comes with a stage, sound system, HD projector, games, art, year-round biergarten, a lab for making better beer, etc. It far exceeded that number. 369 backers pledged nearly $42,800 to bring the project into fruition. Nearly a year later, Bauhaus is recognized as “Best New Brewery,” “Best Taproom,” and even won the 2014 Communications Arts Design Annual Award for packaging design. Bauhaus is also among the newest additions to Minnesota Twins games at Target Field.
Meet the Designer:
Bauhaus Brew Labs’ logo was designed by Christian Helms and Lauren Dickens of Helms Workshop in Austin, Texas. Lydia Haines, vice president and director of operations of Bauhaus, said the design firm is small but mighty with innovative work in the craft beer industry.
Haines said the design started with the can, the thing that customers have the most intimate contact with. From there, a logo and other design ideas were born.
“At Bauhaus Brew Labs, we do our best to channel our namesake’s spirit of creativity, experimentation and playfulness in crafting a flavorful, imaginative and unique craft beer experience for our customers. The design was approached in a similar way, with an eye on creating a disruptive presence on the retail shelf. The bright, primary brand palette is unconventional for the craft beverage shelf,” said Haines.
Immediately, Bauhaus’ cans stand out. A bright yellow with a bold, colorful pallet. Haines said the design scheme reflects the three main aspects of Bauhaus’ brand: Playfulness, family and industry. The letters for “Bauhaus” are stacked against the clean lines of an arrow. The back of the can has a minimalist, infographic look with information on the beer. Quirky beer names like “Wonderstuff” were created by translating traditional names into German and back to English, which in turn adds more personality to the brand identity.
“Our play should become work; our work, a celebration; and our celebration, play.” –Johannes Itten, Cofounder of the Bauhaus School
Sociable Cider Werks
Drink hard ciders and be social. That’s what you’ll likely be doing when you visit the taproom at Sociable Cider Werks in Northeast Minneapolis. The business was started by Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson, friends and former roommates. The two first started brewing in the garage before developing the “Freewheeler.” Today, you’ll find light and crisp, hoppy and even bold, dark cider beers. The apples are sourced from an orchard in Lake City, Minnesota. Hard cider is the draft beer alternative, they say. As the weather starts to warm up, cider aficionados will make their way to Sociable’s 900-square-foot patio and bocce court. With a new canning line, some of Sociable’s favorite ciders has even made it to local store shelves.
Meet the Designer:
Sociable Cider Werks’ logo was designed by The Spirit Of… in Leeds, United Kingdom. The Spirit Of’s website says Sociable initially tasked them with designing a new corporate identity. This evolved into the branding development of Sociable’s first three cider selections. Watkins said Sociable chose an English design firm with a vision in mind.
“We wanted a firm that really understood how we feel cider should fit within the context of the beer market,” said Watkins. He said cider in the UK is 14 percent of the beer market. It’s a mere 0.5 percent in the U.S. Most producers in the U.S. make a sweet, alco-pop style product, much like wine coolers or Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
The word “sociable” has two meanings.
1. Inclined to associate with or be in the company of others
2. A bicycle that supports two riders side by side
Then it makes sense that the logo was inspired by a bike ride among friends. Watkins said he and Thompson were on a bike ride when the idea of starting a small cidery cropped up.
“From that conversation we stumbled across the side-by-side two seated bike known as a ‘sociable.’ That style of two-seater was really popular at the turn of the century when cider was the country’s most popular alcoholic beverage. Since it was period appropriate and also because the sociable side-by-side design is unique, interesting and frankly kind of strange, we thought it was perfect for our logo.”
It’s all about getting social and appreciating cider, which stands out from the average hard cider and craft by being “decidedly different.” Sociable Cider Werks has embraced the whole bicycle theme, born from the sociable bike. The logo features two English men enjoying a mug of cider while riding a sociable and being social. Watkins said both the logo and name fits because the adjective “sociable” captures the kind of culture the cidery has built around the brand and company. The cider names, “Freewheeler,” “Hop-A-Wheelie,” and “Spoke Wrench” also are in line with the bike theme.
“Decidedly Different, Delightfully Sociable.”
Steel Toe Brewing
Steel Toe Brewing is a family-run business that, like many craft breweries, started with home brew experiments. As the story goes, many sleepless nights, sampling of home brews, years of multiple brewing jobs, three months of intense beer schooling, a move to Minnesota, a really good business plan and basically ten years later, Jason and Hannah Schoneman opened the doors to their brewery in St. Louis Park. Today, they even have a taproom with pints, sampler trays and growlers for sale. Ultimately, it took a lot of hard work; the kind of hard work that might require the sturdiness and robustness of steel toe boots.
Meet the Designer:
STB’s logo, labels, website, gear and branded image was developed with the help of Chux Print and Design. The firm just so happens to be based out of St. Louis Park as well, which goes back to the idea of local businesses keeping it local by supporting and serving those in the community. Chux has done work for other craft beer companies as well, like Surly, Fulton and 612 Brew. They do screen printing, embroidery/tackle twill, design, web design and onsite screen printing for events.
So what’s with the steel toe boot? Jason Schoneman says he’s worn steel toe boots for the majority of his adult working life. Pay attention to the detail and you’ll see the sole of the boot is the symbol of hops, which is what Schoneman has dedicated his work life to.
For Steel Toe Brewing, its brand identity is an idea, a lifestyle. An excellent craft brew is the perfect reward after a long day of hard work. The steel toe represents good old fashioned hard work, the kind where you lift yourself up by the so-called “boot straps.”
According to Steel Toe Brewing’s website, “It’s not a colored-collar thing, it’s a hard work thing.” It doesn’t matter if you wear steel toe boots or Christian Louboutin stilettos. At the end of the day, hardworking people from all walks of life reap what they sow, perhaps in the form of a refreshing craft beer. You’ll also notice the beer names have a “steel toe boot” theme. If the boot fits and you like a hoppy IPA, “Size 7 IPA”may be for you.
“We don’t really have a motto but we believe in hard work and kicking back with a great beer at the end of the day.” –Jason Schoneman, Founder & Brewer, Steel Toe Brewing
Third Street Brewhouse
Third Street Brewhouse is a prime example of rebranding done right. The brewery is located in central Minnesota’s Cold Spring, about 25 minutes from St. Cloud. Before Third Street Brewhouse, there was Cold Spring Brewery, established in 1874. But after years of mediocre production and reputation, the company, under new ownership, decided it was time to invest in something new: the craft beer industry. After finding the right brewing experts, developing new recipes, developing a state-of-the-art brewing facility and a brand new name, Third Street Brewhouse has become Cold Spring’s pride and joy. The tap room comes with plenty of seating, a large patio scene and a guided tour of the brew house. Third Street Brewhouse has even played host to 10,000 country music fans and artist Jake Owen.
Meet the Designer:
Third Street Brewhouse got its look from St. Cloud based firm Gaslight Creative. The company has helped Third Street move away from the reputation Cold Spring Brewery once had with a new, authentic design. According to its website, Gaslight Creative says the logo reflects a modern brewery with historic roots. The logo is modern and yet each individual beer has its own old school print with earthy tones. Gaslight Creative even won the 2013 Best of Show American Advertising Award from Tap Handle.
Third Street’s logo was inspired by its name. Third St. runs between the brew house and its packaging facility. The logo turned into an unconventional street sign design, says Krista Amundson, PR and marketing coordinator for Third Street Brewhouse. The shape is a 3-D hexagon with a two-tone cream background which goes with the earthy, old-style tones of the beer labels.
“The logo represents a three dimensional street sign that is the cornerstone of the new brand,” said Amundson.
When you put Third Street’s logo next to the hand drawn characters and fonts on the beer labels, tap handles and packaging, you realize this brewery sets itself apart from others. Amundson said when the team of brewers were brainstorming ideas for each beer, they knew they wanted something different. Each beer now comes with a name that goes with a character and a story. For example, “Lost Trout” is a brown ale and legend has it, trout were aplenty in the brewery creek years ago. The design is a trout on a milk jug with the words “missing.”
“We could have simply called them Third Street Pale Ale or Third Street Black IPA, but instead, we wanted to create more of a visual and have a way for customers to relate to our brand with the stories and characters,” said Amundson.
“It’s all About the Beer!”