February 10, 2012

Best and Worst Beer Art of the Week, Including the New Weyerbacher Logo!

Well, folks, it's been in the works for a while. And now it's here. The rebrand of the 15-year-old awesome Lehigh Valley brewery Weyerbacher has officially begun its public phase with the rollout of the new logo.

First, let's take a look at the old one:
Mostly a wordmark, not terribly interesting font but just fine. It is obviously from the 1990s, though. One of those things about brands and logos: They look dated fairly quickly, and this one's had some time.

The image most associated with Weyerbacher is probably the jester, though, most prominently displayed on the old art for their barleywine, Blithering Idiot:
You actually become this if you drink a growler of it.
That jester appears on much of their merchandise, and you may recall from my interview with Josh Lampe of SSM Creative (who handled the rebrand) that it was decided fairly early on that the jester wasn't going anywhere in some principle. You may also remember we saw him teasingly on the art for the Rapture:
So, anyway, now that you know the past of this particular brewery, here's the new logo:
First and most noticeably, the jester has gone from a side note on a beer or two to the face of the brand. The artist is Sean Clark of Red Hill, PA, and we can see he's dramatically heroized the jester. For one, it has changed from a 2-dimensional comedia-del-arte type to a far more realistic, smirking white face. The bells form a subtle W, which actually reminds me a bit of the Westinghouse logo, but that's my Pittsburgh roots speaking. The smirk is fairly warm and friendly (more on that in a second), and the arched eyebrow is more amused-at-your-antics than, say, super-villain.

The typeface is custom, and an interesting mix of traditional old blackletter fonts and some more modern, avant-garde influences that dominate the chaotic feel. They go to the trouble of connecting two terminal letters with an underline, and then promptly stab through it and extend feet below it on both sides. The bell-bottom effects of the R legs and the sharp-angled, blade-like curves of the Y and H bases that leave the logo feeling a touch more entropic than stable. Even the slanted crossbars of the A and H, the downward-pointing middle stroke of the e, and that bottom counter (typespeak for enclosed space) of the b, where the middle bar swings around far more zanily than one expects.

The color is an interesting red, something like a crimson with a dash more magenta in it. There is a very faint halo that helps to bring out the jester and font. If I have a grievance with the logo, it's that that much red, at least on a monitor, seems to take some zip away from the jester. Here's a quick (read: bad) photoshopped version of the image on grey:
Why so serious? 
Not great image manipulation on my part, but you get what I was trying to do. It's entirely possible the red will look very different when printed, but for the moment it looks better to me with a dark-neutral contrast background. I'm sure we'll get to see the logo on t-shirts, labels, and all manner of different color fields as it becomes an ubiquitous part of Weyerbacher's branding.

Overall, the decision to approach the logo this way is a bold one. Realistic faces, even of cartoonish characters, are rarely in logos - or really even prominently in branding images - because they can so easily put people off. Some people just hate to see eyes of any kind. I saw a version of the art where the smirk was a bit more menacing, and I think this softer one is an improvement, but the reality is Weyerbacher would be being disingenuous if they suddenly started trying to be really bland and approachable to everyone. They make interesting, complex, bold beers (this is why they are beloved by beer geeks like myself), and often they are in the "big beer" range of 9%+ abv. They have beers that I think are quite accessible, like the Merry Monks (a very drinkable 9%) and the Verboten (the name is a reference to a C&D letter, but the beer is very drinkable), but Weyerbacher is not Saranac. So the bold colors, the eye contact of the jester, and the strangely off-putting lettering are all totally in keeping with the brand for a brewery that prides itself on boldness and innovation.

I'll be curious to see not only how the logo is deployed in the coming months, but how the beer labels and identities shift to work with it. With the release today, the massive expansion in the works, and Colin being Mr. Craft Beer 2012, it's exciting times for Weyerbacher and those of us who root for it as an exceptional brewery we happen to have locally.

So what's the worst beer art of the week? Well it comes from Local Option, a Chicago-area gypsy brewer:
Stay classy, Chicago.
Here's a tip: If your beer name and art is based on humor most likely to amuse boys who are seven years too young to drink your beer, you've made a strategic error. Some of their art is actually pretty good, making this crass and garish piece all the more shameful. It was someone's job to say no to the part of their branding that included a poorly-drawn erection in boxers, and that person failed.


  1. There are those in the older demographics who are still amused by bodily humor. -Snags

  2. Weyerbacher fans: please let us know what you think about our new logo by visiting our page and viewing the article and commenting! (if this page allows a link, click here)
    Thanks, TPC!