May 15, 2012

The Weyerbacher Rebrand

So I've written a bit about the extensive rebrand of my local Weyerbacher Brewing Company. Since I've last had a chance to blog (I know!), they've released a bunch of labels that give us a much more full view of the new Weyerbacher.

Let's start with the closest thing Weyerbacher has to a flagship, Merry Monks:
Weyerbacher Merry Monks label
So, first thing: We are clearly sticking with the logo's penchant for staring the audience right in the face. The monk is up close and personal, if smiling warmly. There are some issues with the perspective, but the soft strokes make it more impressionistic than realistic, anyway. The new wordmark looks good on the red brick. Not totally sure why "ALE" is capitalized, but generally a nice label.

The old one:
So the subject matter stayed fairly consistent, down to the monk shushing us. So we're seeing an effort to stay with the established brand while also transitioning to a new style.

Their second best-selling beer most years is the Imperial Pumpkin, a seasonal that dominates for a few months. First, here's the old label:
Old Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin label
Looks kind of like a Magic: The Gathering card from back in the day. The disembodied hand and legion of tiny goblin pumpkins are a little strange. Now let's look at the new label:
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin label
Again, a big effort to maintain consistency while evolving. Now the king pumpkin is a bit less cartoonish and a little more menacing. His minions are not in any way personified, just a group of pumpkins beneath his throne. Scepter is pretty badass, and his viney hand is a nice touch. The yellowish text is running into some issues with light colored backgrounds, especially with the small text required by the statement of process on the left. Still, the wordmark looks good and matches the color palette nicely.

The Old Heathen Imperial Stout label is a bit more of a departure. The old label was mostly a silhouette:
Old Weyerbacher Old Heathen Label

The new one, by contrast, is much more personal:
Weyerbacher Old Heathen Label
He's not looking right at us, but the old heathen is up in front of our faces, along with his pet crow. It's different compositionally and in tone, but again many elements are retained, like the moon and the text over the sky. That yellow looks like it may be hard to read against the moon, but it might work a bit better in real life.

Of all the beers Weyerbacher produces, none delight beer geeks more than their Double Simcoe Imperial IPA. The big, piney DIPA uses a ton of additions of just one hop and delivers a fantastic beer. Unfortunately, the label always seemed a bit lacking:
Old Weyerbacher Double Simcoe Label

Not bad, but hardly worthy of a great beer. So I was excited to see the new label. Here it is:
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe Label
This is so far the most lackluster label of the new group. It's not that it's bad. It's perfectly well-executed; the wood has texture, the hop plants are lush, the color works (I love the green of the wordmark). But it does seem just a bit rote. It's a crate of hops. Okay, I get it. Lots of labels do something like this, yeah, but the real troublesome element is that this gives no sense of how distinctive and incredible this beer is. This label could be the straight IPA from any number of mediocre breweries in the country, when it's instead one of the most innovative and interesting DIPAs around.

Speaking of innovative Weyerbacher beers with ho-hum labels, here's the old label for the Verboten (nee Zotten, before a C-and-D from some guys in Belgium):
Old Weyerbacher Verboten Label

Yeah, okay. Needs an update:
Weyerbacher Verboten Label
See, now that's what I'm talking about. That is a gorgeous label. I love the pencil-drawn look, the use of the jester head logo as the keyhole. The classic script font is a nice improvement, and hints at something we'll see a bit later. The lock gets across the idea of something being forbidden but isn't foreboding to a viewer. Great piece.

Lastly, the beer that gave Weyerbacher its logo, the Blithering Idiot barleywine. Here's the old label:
Old Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot Label
Not bad, certainly, but dated.

The new:
Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot Label
Once again, we have a figure staring right at us. It's a different jester from the logo, but similar look and smirk. Same soft touch as the others (I believe the art is all by Sean Clark), and the brand that's emerging has some pretty clear and consistent characteristics.

Weyerbacher's new art and style is adult, confrontational and bold. It's sophisticated while staying playful. This is a brand of beers that has no desire to compete with, say, Sierra Nevada or New Belgium. It's closer to competing with old Belgian beers, like Dupont, or maybe some of the more innovative-complex stuff of Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Lost Abbey. From a beer perspective, this makes perfect sense to me; Weyerbacher's beers are different and interesting, with tons of character and reliably different spins on what the rest of the craft beer world does. We'll see how it plays out nationally, of course, but that's some pretty good company to strive for.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice informative lable review Greg! All I can say is some I like more than others. I wish them well, maybe I'll go out and buy a case. I thought the Jester would appear somewhere on all the lables. I like the new Jester but actually am tired of seeing demonic charictors glorified. Hope all is well. Maybe see you at PBW!