Friday, 07 October 2016 10:52

New Look, Same Great Mouthfeel! Why your favorite brew is getting a makeover

Written by  Troy Reimink
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Before and after packaging for Saugatuck Brewing Co.'s Bonfire Brown Ale Before and after packaging for Saugatuck Brewing Co.'s Bonfire Brown Ale

The movies don’t lie: A makeover can change everything. 

Whether it’s drastic (Robin Williams, “Mrs. Doubtfire”), practical (Julia Roberts, “Pretty Woman”) or painful (Steve Carrell’s chest hair, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), a new look is often a ticket to new frontiers.

This year, a handful of West Michigan’s top breweries have gone the “She’s All That” route — recognizing that a few minor tweaks can turn a nerd into the prom queen. (Even if the nerd was just fine the way she was. All she did was take off her glasses!) Anyway, what we’re saying is: Change is hard, but sometimes necessary.

Saugatuck Brewing Company recently refreshed the looks of its logo and several top brews, employing the design work of Muskegon firm Revel Marketing. Why? To stand out among the absolutely overflowing shelves of craft beer providers.

“We wanted our brands to all have a consistent look,” said SBC Marketing Coordinator Megan Pruim. “We wanted you to be able to look at them all on a shelf and know they are all the same brand and stick out from the rest of the beers out there.”

The popular Oval Beach Blonde has received several redesigns in its lifetime, the most recent of which had the colorful depiction of a blonde woman on a beach replaced with a more fanciful vision involving a sea of blonde hair, which newly emphasizes the “blonde” aspect.

Saugatuck’s ESB Amber Ale got a full rebranding as well. To correct the novice drinker’s misperception that Extra Special Bitter-style beers are overly bitter, SBC renamed it “Third Bear,” a play on the Goldilocks story. It’s “not too hoppy, not too sweet, just right.”

The brewery’s Bonfire Brown imagery was also updated to emphasize the communal idea of gathering around a fire, plus a hidden Bigfoot-related Easter egg. The label on its Singapore IPA, named for a famous nearby lumber ghost town, was updated to more accurately reflect the town’s history.

“We actually went back and discovered how many buildings the legend says were in the lumber town of Singapore, and we depicted all of these buildings within the artwork of the carrier,” Pruim said.

Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo has redesigned its logo, labels and packaging for all of its beers. The subtly tweaked brewery logo now resides on the neck of the bottles, providing a bigger canvas for the artwork that has become iconic in branding some of Bell’s most popular brews — a common theme across these redesigns. The big two are the Two Hearted Ale brook trout and the brightly colored, vaguely psychedelic Oberon sun. These new labels also contain more specific information about a beer’s bottling date and anticipated shelf life.

All of the year-round beers have already made the change and the seasonal beers will (slowly) too.

New Holland Brewing repolished its labels this year as well, coming right out and announcing their goal to stand out more in stores. To that end, bright orange is now a key element across all packaging, and the brewery’s beloved characters (like the Hatters) are in the spotlight. On top of that, some espresso-fueled editor took an axe to all the text, leaving only the most essential information.

Over at the orchards, Uncle John’s Hard Cider flipped its design entirely on its head this year, going from homey and cartoony to modern and minimalistic. The new branding stands out and shows that the cidery is willing to keep up with the times, while maintaining its classic, tried-and-true recipes. 

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