Showing posts with label labelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labelling. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's In Your Beer?

I am nearly at the end of the my case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and the few bottles of Saint Terese's Pale Ale from Highland Brewing that I bought with me. To head off any potential beer shortage, when we went to the nearest Publix I grabbed a couple of six packs of Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale. When we were back from the shop, Mrs V bimbled on down to the pool to enjoy a drink in the gathering gloom of night, and I was surprised to find that Dale's Pale Ale was much sweeter than I expected. Further research was required, and not of the liquid kind, but rather a quest for information online.

One of my bugbears with the vast majority of beers over here is the complete absence of key, decision making information on the label. I bought Dale's mainly because it was in cans and the name would suggest it is a regular American style pale ale, yet at 6.5% and 65 IBUs it is more in the American IPA ball park. When I am sitting by the pool (when you grow up on a small island in the Hebrides in the North Atlantic, sand and beaches really hold very little fascination) I really don't want to be drinking beers too far north of 5% - call me a wimp or a dilenttante if you wish. Admittedly with Dale's the alcohol content is listed on the side of the can, but other than that there is nothing to tell me what I might expect, like what hops are involved. With SNPA and Saint Terese's Pale Ale, you need to check their websites to learn about the alcohol content, IBUs, hop varieties and malts involved.

Is it really so difficult for brewers, or their designers, to actually find space on the labels to tell us what is in their beer? At a bare minimum there should be a list of malts and hops as well as the alcohol content. To completely misappropriate Ricoeur's hermeneutics of suspicion, what are they trying to hide by giving us just waffly bollocks about being a "completely natural ale", utter tosh since beer does not occur in nature, or that the beer in the bottle is "just a wee bit different". Sure you can argue that I can just look it up on the internet, but when in a shop and without owning a smart phone, yes there are still those of us out here who believe the telephone is for talking to people, you are effectively relying on producers of any foodstuffs to tell you what they use. In the case of the Dale's Pale Ale, checking out the website for meaningful information about the beer is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I am not entirely sure if there are legal reasons for an absence of useful information on beer labels, but if not then could brewers please start telling their consumers at least the alcohol content, malts and hop varieties in a beer?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Take Time for Design

Today I am unemployed, though come Monday I will be employed again. Yesterday was my last day working for Convoy, a graphic design company here in Charlottesville, Monday will be my first day at Silverchair, a software company about 2 blocks up the street from Convoy.

No longer working in the graphic design world means I can finally talk about design for breweries without having to declare a vested interest. It was a couple of years ago that I wrote about the abysmal state of many a brewery's website, and design assets in general, as well as posting about those that get it right.

Have things improved in the 25 months since that pair of posts? In some respects yes, but I still wonder how many breweries and brewpubs out there are neglecting their website and other design elements such as logos, labels and the like?

Clearly the bigger "craft" breweries generally do a good job, Samuel Adams redesigned their website last year sometime. I think it is much improved on the previous iteration, particularly for finding details of their beers and the fact that they are not using Flash anywhere on the site. The same can not be said of Sierra Nevada though, the basic structure and design of the site has not changed since we moved to the States in 2009, though thankfully Flash is also a thing of the past on their website.

Unfortunately there are still too many breweries with websites which are nothing more than a riot of colour, fonts that look like they fell straight off Jimmy Carter's desk just after legalising homebrewing and information which is haphazardly "organised".

Recently I got my hands on the business start up plan for a brewery startup here in Virginia and whilst going through the numbers, one thing jumped out at me, there was no planning whatsoever for brand design, whether logo, labels or website. Perhaps I am being crazy here, but who in their right mind commits potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to creating a brewery but not a penny to creating their brand and making their beers stand out on the retail shelf, whether physical or virtual?

Yes, good design is expensive but how much more expensive is it in the long run to have your beer ignored on the shelves because of amateurish design?

* all the pictures are examples of beer related design that I like, and that last one was done by my friend Rob of Opta Design in Prague for my LimeLight homebrew.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Tuesdays and Thursdays are quiet nights in the Velkyal household these days. Mrs Velkyal has re-started her rowing, as in boats not mudslinging, and so myself and the dog just kind of potter around our little flat. Sometimes I'll watch some old British TV on Netflix, I am currently going through All Creatures Great and Small. Sometimes I'll sit on t'internet and read Wikipedia, other beer blogs or I'll get a book and sit, listening to music and just lose myself. I don't often drink, because I generally drink only at weekends.

Last night though, I got round to labelling my growing collection of homebrew. I am no artist and so it is highly unlikely that you would ever see my labels entered into the Brew Your Own label competition, however when faced with a bank of amber bottles each with a golden cap, it gets tiring trying to remember what you put where. I tried using a system of coloured dots on the cap, but that kind of fizzled because I couldn't remember what the dots meant. Yes I made a note of it, but that's seems to have been tidied up at some point and thus lost to the ether.

The answer then, at least for me, has been shipping labels. Simple, printable shipping labels. Download the template and away you go, remembering of course not to label the bottles you are keeping to one side for competition purposes. Although I am as artistic as a "cluster of colour blind hedgehogs, in a bag", I do like words (I know few other people who find it interesting that "center" is the older spelling variant and dates from medieval England). Words, at least in their printed form, need fonts, and so I love to play with fonts to get the right look for the label. Here are a couple of my favourites.

As you can see, I like simplicity - just beer name, style, hops, ABV and the pet name I have given my homebrew "operation" (ahem, cough, splutter). The font, the apparently much overused Algerian font, made me think of journeys during the ages of discovery, which ties in with this beer being in some ways, hopefully, similar to the porters that were shipped from London to India - you know the type, extra hops and that kind of thing.

On Monday evening, admittedly a day late, I bottles my version of the International Homebrew Project Milk Stout - a recreation of the 1933 Milk Stout brewed by Barclay Perkins. Again, keeping it simple is my motto, and the first creation of this label was black text on a white background, but it just didn't work. I liked the font because it bought to mind the styles of the 1930s, but what to do about the look and feel of it? I tried changing the colour of the text, but to no avail, then taking inspiration from the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster, I inverted the black and white and hey presto.

Ok, they are not the most creative labels on the planet, but I like them - probably mainly because I no longer have to play mental gymnastics every time I fancy a homebrew. I do wonder though sometimes if I think far too much about my beer and brewing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

American Labels

Ok my readers in the States, I need some information. Why oh why are there no ingredients listed on bottles of beer?

Perhaps I am just a sad git who likes to know what hops and malt and other stuff go into my beer, so why aren't the labels telling me?

I have it down to a few possibilities:
  1. brewers don't want to admit the ingredients (highly unlikely I think)
  2. the government forbids it (which makes me ask, if so why?)
  3. lack of interest on the part of the consumer (here assuming not everyone is sad like me)
Any pointers gratefully received.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Missed Opportunities.

I am starting to think that "Missed Opportunities" should be the credo of the marketing departments for most independent Czech breweries, come to think of it, most Czech breweries in general. Evan has commented several times about how poor our local breweries are here when it comes to using labels creatively.

Take the beer in these pictures as an example. Named in honour of an Austrian author and poet, who also wrote in Czech. How did I discover this, having not known it before? Yes, I had to look it up on Wikipedia. Going back to the label, it just left me asking questions, and probably annoying Mrs Velkyal into the bargain. It is possible to deduce that the beer is named after a guy called Klostermann who lived from 1848 to 1923, but that's where the information finishes. These were the questions that went through my head:
  1. Why are there 4 city crests on the label? What cities are they?
  2. What is Klostermann's connection to Strakonice?
  3. What did Klostermann do?
  4. Why is "Lager Bier" on the label in German instead of Czech?

It was only when I read his wiki entry that it became clear, and I had checked the back label, to be told the ingredients of the beer and the best before date.

But grumbling without suggesting an alternative is pointless, so here is what I would do:

  1. Use a complete wrap around label, rather than the more usual front and back efforts
  2. Leave the front section largely as it is
  3. On the back section, put the smallest possible barcode on it, and have it horizontal rather than vertical, decrease the size of the font for the ingredients and then give a potted biography of Karel Klostermann.

The potted biography could be something like this:

"Born in 1848 in Haag am Hausruck, Karel Klostermann was an author in both the Czech and German languages. His later writings are based in the ?umava region under the title "In the Heart of ?umava". Klostermann died in 1923 in ?těkeň, a village near Strakonice."

Oh, and if you want to look at the brewery website for more information about the beer, don't bother - it isn't even listed in their "assortment" section.
As for the beer, it was alright, not an amber lager up there with the likes of Primátor's excellent 13° amber, but certainly a decent enough drink.

Friday, March 27, 2009

LimeLight Label

For some reason I like to mess about and create labels for the beers I brew, and here are a couple of ideas for LimeLight, let me know what you think.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...