Brewery: Uiltje Brewing Co.

Origin: Haarlem, The Netherlands
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.5%

An oyster stout bedecked with the Dutch tricolour and a lively fella hauling one out of a bucket of oysters. It won’t surprise you to learn Uiltje translates as ‘owlet’ in Dutch and all their beers can be easily spotted with these wonderful owl characters; each by the same guy (I assume), each in the same style of comic strip humour. The copy may be a little too much, too laboured, but it certainly plays into the spirit of the brand so fair play to them. It’s a load of fun and a delicious beer to boot. 
Brewery: Hawkes

Origin: London 
Style: Cider
ABV: 4.5%

Hawkes, now part of the Brewdog stable have a range of ciders - all dressed in the ‘urban’ tattoo aesthetic. Part of me wants to completely slag this branding off - the desparation at wanting to fit so tightly into such a cliched visual trope but (grits teeth) the execution is lovely. The illustration of the skull morphing into an apple - it sounds ridicolous but it’s subtly executed to not look so. The pips, sparingly placed in the eye sockets is also a nice touch. 
Brewery: Bass / Anheuser-Busch

Origin: Burton-upon-Trent 
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.4%

One of the first global superstars of beer - making waves back in the 18th century when it was ubiquitous across the British Empire. Perhaps the original India Pale Ale. Bass is a lesson is brand, ownership and global conglomeration.

Trademarks came into law in 1875, and Bass were first in line to get their red triangle protected, after having profits dented by rivals copying the shape on their labels. Hence the ‘Trademark No.1’ line. It probably comes as no surprise that the first legitimate brand, and global brand at that, was a beer. This stuff was the go-to ale for Brits at home and across the far-flung empire. 

It was a dominance that continued into the 20th century, before being merged into larger companies and was finally swallowed up by American giants Anheuser-Busch in the late 90s. Despite this legacy it’s presence has faded from most drinker’s minds. You’ll rarely find it on cask, and it doesn’t appear to fly off shelves. The graphic design is inoffensive but half-hearted. It’s just there, hoping someone will but it. 

Compare this with Guiness with example, with people lapping up it’s carefully crafted heritage brand - from brewery tours, nostalgic merchandise and it’s popular resuscitated historical brews (see here and here). It makes you think, with the right leadership and passion Bass could rightfully reposition itself as the great-grandaddy of British booze. Instead it appears as more of a forgotton footnote. Shame.

For those wanting a little more meat on the bone check out Pete Brown’s great blog piece here, on a more recent rebrand of Bass. As Pete himself puts it: “a perfect case study in corporate bullshit being sprayed over something the corporation in question neither knows nor cares about.”
Brewery: Lucky Saint / Not Another Beer Co.
Design: Otherway

Origin: London / Germany
Style: Alcohol-free Lager
ABV: 0.5%

Oh the lovely little ladybird, the cute harmless little ladybird. Aaah.

Lucky Saint is a very good looking alcohol-free beer that’s been heavily promoted on social media and winning plaudits from all sorts within the industry. It’s beautiful piece of packaging, with a quirky sans (check the cross-bar on the A), and a trendy all-caps monospaced supporting font. There’s another two typefaces used sparingly here too - but despite all this it still feels a controlled, clean layout. The foil lines and ladybird monogram are lovely touches too, and apologies as this scan doesn’t really do them justice. 

It’s also worth noting the label sits on the bottle at 90°, a decision that strengthens the layout, the logotype and stamp being a subtle nod to it’s stubby bottle.

Although I’m not naturally a keen advocate of alcohol-free beer but you can’t help admire the thoughtfulness and skill that has been invested into this brand. It’s certainly a million miles away from the shame of being spotted with a Becks Blue back in the day, feeling like everyone’s poor cousin. I can see sober millenials and paunched dads quaffing this all over town.  A beautiful bit of design for a brand full of personality. Hats off. 

Brewery: Marston’s

Origin: Wolverhampton, England
Style: IPA
ABV: 5%

British supermarket Sainsburys, once King of the 90s suburban shop, now gasping for air against the rising Teutonic tide of twin giants Aldi and Lidl, finds itself jumping unashamedly on the craft beer wagon here with this ‘American Style’ IPA. Brewed in partnership with Marston’s, one of England’s big regional players, this beer is unremarkably ok. It won’t offend, but it won’t be remembered (aside from here sadsack readers).

I’m more interested in the label though. If you can for a moment divorce yourself from the sanitised shopping experience beloved of Burton-wearing, Vauxhall-driving, little-Englander middle class families across the UK, you’ll find something trying it’s best to not be Sainsburys PLC. Although the illustration bears all the hallmarks of corporate marketeers sticking their oars in ( “can we have ‘IPA’ written on the glass?”, “can we add a cowboy?” etc...) and the pointless ego-stroke of a footer (#brandpolice) the illustration is interesting enough. There’s lurching bearded bikers, bandana-decked skulls, wobbly cacti and a sun-baked desert floor in lurid magenta and blue. Perhaps these are just calculated ‘hipster’ visual tropes rolled out by a trendwatching corporate marcomms team, but I liked it nevertheless.

A project by Richard Heap
A graphic designer from Stockport, England