Four Winds Fresh Hop & Blackberry Jam

Fresh to Death

Well, those fine folks over at Four Winds just keep on giving don’t they? Off the back of their summer success with the Notus series, they’re flying into fall with a couple more stunners, the Fresh Hop Wild Ale and their newest release, “Blackberry Jam”.

Fresh Hop sticks with the clean, minimal vibe we saw in the Notus series but shifts things away from the abstract realm to shine the spotlight on the star of the show, fresh BC hops. Rich, 70’s lawn tennis club greens evoke a real earthy freshness, perfect for a green hop beer.

Likewise, deep, sticky jam purples contrast an array of soft greens to give Blackberry Jam that bramble bush feel. Just looking at the label you know how this beer is going to taste. I feel like I want to lick the can.

Here’s what Justin Longoz, Four Winds’ resident designer, had to say:

Photo provided by Four Winds Brewing Co.

Blackberry Jam

The Blackberry Jam can is one of my favourite designs. The design itself is actually just “jam” drops of various sizes laid over the top of one another. I re-coloured the cross-sections where the drops overlapped with colours that popped and said “Blackberry” to me, generating this pattern. From there, I wanted to push the design a bit further and laid out 3 drops for the printers to cut out from the label before putting the gloss finishing layer over the whole label. The cut-outs reveal the aluminum can under the label giving an added shimmer to the glossy finish.

Photo provided by Four Winds Brewing Co.

Fresh Hop Wild Ale

With the Fresh Hop Wild Ale can I wanted to keep the focus on the hops and their nice lush, green colour. I used these two elements as the backbone for the design. The rising hop box puts the spotlight directly on the hop. Past that I didn’t want anything else distracting from the hop design, which is why we pushed all of the copy to either side of the label. Then I put a box around the rising hop to sort of say “this is the most important part of this beer”. The thing I like the most about this design is that it has a sort of 70’s/80’s TV company logo animation with an upward fluttering sound, like the retro PBS animations or the classic TVS animation. I know it sounds weird. But I had those fluttery computer sounds running through my head when I made this label.

 

Like what you see? You'll love our interview with Justin about the Four Winds Notus Series cans!

After more great Vancouver breweries? Meet Christine Moulson of Strange Fellows Brewing!

Yellowhead Brewery – Pete Nguyen

Remlar Pale Ale illustration by Pete Nguyen, Photography by Adrien Veczan

The ‘Berta Beer Boom is on! Provincial brewing restrictions were eased back in 2013 leading to a 100% increase in the number of craft breweries in Alberta between 2014 and 2016 and the craft bug is clearly catching - another 20 Albertan brewpubs or breweries are slated to be opening in 2017 alone. And for all those playing along at home: what do new breweries mean? PRI- … NEW CANS!

But today we ain’t talkin’ bout no new brewery but an old(er – at least in craft beer terms) brewery that opened up in Edmonton in 2010. Everyone in Edmonton has heard of Yellowhead Brewery and, by extension, their flagship Yellowhead lager. For years they existed as a one-beer brewery designed specifically to cater to a pre-craft-boom beer scene so when the seas changed (or whatever the North Saskatchewan river equivalent is) and demand rose for “not-lager” beers, they found themselves severely limited by the turnover time of lagers and their limited tank space. They literally couldn’t brew any different beers, no matter how much they wanted to. Thankfully, they found the money for some extra tanks and gave their brand image one hell of a refresh and are currently crushing it.

Now, having only sampled their Pale ale somewhere deep into Canada 150 celebrations, I don’t really feel adequately placed to talk about the quality of the beer, though I remember it being tasty. But those cans – oh, those cans are a thing of beauty. If memory serves, I first encountered Remlar (the Sturgeon King) gazing deep into the viscous, hazy waters of a mostly melted ice bucket. Sharp lime green shimmered from the depths, inviting me in. Submerging my hand into the alcoholic’s plunge pool I swat away icy cold, now-desperate Heinekens and cans of Coors, hunting for the elusive source of the piercing green. Fingers wrapped tightly around the prize I tear it from the arctic abyss to be greeted by Remlar’s grumpy little sturgeon face. It’s a gorgeous can. That vivid lime explodes off a murky teal highlighting the features of an artfully designed swamp creature. Yellowhead’s new look lager shows a similar mastery of colour selection. A semi-transparent electric yellow hijacks the aluminium shine of the can and starkly contrasts the rich matte black linework of a half-wolf-half-hawk. And they're both pretty metal.

Yellowhead Lager, illustration by Pete Nguyen, Photography by Adrien Veczan

It’s a far cry from their old branding and a welcome change of direction for the brewery. Needless to say, I wanted to find out more. So I did! Pete Nguyen is an Edmonton based illustrator and art director and here’s what he had to say about his work with Yellowhead:

 

Hi Pete, I’m a huge fan of these illustrations! What inspired you to go down the 'mythological' route?

Thank you! The mythological approach was a concept that we came up with as a team (Yellowhead guys and me). We wanted to showcase a mascot for the brand, but everything came up a little dull so we decided to make up our own or riff off of Alberta myths. The Premium Lager showcases an Albertan take on a griffin, the Remlar Pale Ale is a movie monster version of the infamous sturgeon king of the north Saskatchewan river, and the Saison Tete Jaune is a take on the myth that your hair still grows when you’re dead, in this case, the dead is alive and the hair is monstrously long…and blonde.

How involved were Yellowhead? Did they have a solid idea of what they wanted or were you given free reign?

The team at Yellowhead were great. They wanted to do something different, and were extremely open and helpful in brainstorming ideas. We worked together creatively, and once we got the initial concept everything else came quickly.

Do you think there's an Alberta Aesthetic? We find we can usually guess a 'Berta brewery from the style of artwork on the can.

There’s a very ‘no fuss’ way about Alberta. Previously, there was no reason to have forward pushing design/art on beer, it’s all about the taste and the price, but it’s changing. There are some amazing local breweries and distilleries that are really putting resources into their labels to stand out more and people are noticing.

As an art director you're presumably kept pretty busy - do you have any personal projects outside of all this that you're excited about?

As an Art Director, I usually source illustrators to get the job done, but I started off as an illustrator so I try to do as much illustration as I can on my free time to keep my skills up. I've done a few more things for Yellowhead for their tasting room and merchandise. I also got to do a huge mural of a samurai and noodle dragon at an Edmonton Ramen shop last summer, and I continually work with bands doing merchandise and album artwork.

Yellowhead Tasting Room illustration by Pete Nguyen
Yellowhead Brewing Growler by Pete Nguyen

What are your thoughts on the idea of the "can as a canvas" // the growing interconnectedness of craft beer and the art/design world?

I think it’s great! Sometimes art only reaches people who seek it out, but put some creative work on a can and you have people who never thought twice about art get really excited about it. The craft beer community understands that really well. They go through sort of the same obstacles to get noticed and be considered above the larger brewers. Also in Edmonton they get the scene, they want to support art, music and each other and it really shows in how they approach marketing their beers.

Thanks Pete!

 

It only takes a brief scroll of their YellowHead Certified Programm page to see that Yellowhead really do put in the leg work when it comes to supporting the arts. It’s another example of the growing power of breweries to be an integral part of the local community and an amplifier for local creatives looking for support and exposure. It’s a topic that we’ll definitely be delving into a little deeper in the future and there’s plenty to chew on... so for now, kick your feet up, crack open a can of Remlar and have a little peruse of Pete Nguyen’s other work.

And while you're at it why not check out some of our previous articles like last week's look at Brassneck's new cans or our interview with Justin Longoz of Four Winds Brewing! Or y'know... just head to our archive for the full list of features. The choice is yours! "oooooo!"

Brewery:

Yellowhead Brewery, Edmonton, AB

Featured artists:

Pete Nguyen

Phenomenal product photography by Adrien Veczan

Brassneck, Oh Beautiful Brassneck

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We’ve all seen them – bands of seismologists hanging around at stations and street corners in their shoddy labcoats, holding their seismometers aloft and proselytizing about “The Big One” – the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that could hit the Pacific Northwest at any time. Well just a couple of weeks ago, Vancouverites living in the Mount Pleasant area could have been forgiven for grabbing their emergency coolers and taking refuge in their underground parkades as a gentle rumble built to a wall-shaking tremor and a 5-6 foot wave of drooling craft beer enthusiasts flooded the streets. Soaked through with sweat, they blindly fought their way through the blistering hot, smoke-filled streets in search of Brassneck, navigating by muscle memory alone as they waved their wallets in the air chanting “cans, cans, cans”.

Brassneck is consistently rated as one of the best breweries in Vancouver but their beers rarely make it further than their tasting room and when they do they only reach a few select taps around the city.  It should come as no surprise then that the announcement that they had started canning their beer was greeted with such fervor.

Brassneck has a particularly strong identity and a very unique aesthetic - an impressive feat for a brewery that doesn’t really package their product for off sales other than in growlers. The brewery’s identity was originally designed by Alex Nelson & Beau House of Post Projects, with whom they partnered once more for this their first foray into the world of cans. Teaming up with photographer Vishal Marapon they produced an exquisite run of digitally printed pressure sensitive labels. Few pressure sensitive labels manage to escape the “sticker-on-a-can” look, no matter what you put on them. These, however, really do. Metallic inks expertly matched to the silver of the can commandeer the metal as part of the design, while high contrast shots taken around the brewery and tap room by Vishal Marapon are paired up at random with bright daubs of colour that act as the backdrop for the name of the beer.

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We got in touch with Alex Nelson at Post Projects to find out a bit more about the design process and the concept behind these cans:

 

Hi Alex! I’m enamoured with the new cans. Could you tell us a bit about your design process and the concept behind them? Did you face any challenges designing for such a prolific brewery?

Our client, Brassneck Brewery founders Nigel Springthorpe and Conrad Gmoser, wanted to develop a series of cans that would evoke and reference the brewery space and tasting room. The final concept that we landed on involved collaborating with photographer Vishal Marapon to develop a series of high contrast black and white images which showcase the space and its myriad textures and surfaces.

The next challenge in the process was to find a way to develop a design system that would account for the huge (and constantly evolving) range of beers that Brassneck offers—32 of these beer styles were included in the first print run alone. A key factor in executing the cans was leveraging the latest in printing technology to maintain the quality and flexibility required for a project like this. Working with the team at Summit Print, the cans were run on HP digital printers and made use of a technology called database printing. This allowed us to use a group of base templates and run a series of 16 different photographs on the back of the label. To accommodate the beer style variations, we developed a ‘chalk smear’ design element which is then applied to each roll of labels.

Brassneck is always creating new beers. It’s a key part of their brand and who they are. Since opening in 2013, they’ve brewed and released over 80 different styles. It was critical to the project that they have a label design system that can be updated and executed as quickly as they make new beers.

 

brassneck2

I'm really into the idea of the "can as canvas". Do you have any thoughts on the interconnectedness of the art/design and beer worlds at the moment?

For better or worse, design and beer are indeed becoming bedfellows these days. Our design decisions are mostly focused with producing something that's on-brand rather than trying to make a can a piece of art.

One interesting thing to note is that, due to the rise of smaller craft beer producers, you’re seeing a need for alternative modes of printing and packaging, such as shrink wrapping and pressure labels that can satisfy the smaller batches that these breweries produce. With the smaller runs, there seems to be a sense of decreased risk that leads to more experimentation in label design.

It’s safe to say these cans could not be more Brassneck if they tried. Post Projects absolutely knocked it out of the park in terms of producing something on-brand and in doing so created a can that acts as a canvas for Vishal Marapon’s stunning photography. Brassneck has always stood well apart from the noise of the craft beer market, in my opinion. By only serving their beer through their own tap room and trusted partners they aren’t forced to dilute their essence or make any compromises. No doubt, the beer wouldn't have made it anywhere near a can if they were going to be anything less than perfect and, of course, they don’t have to jostle for shelf space and risk getting lost in a sea of brands because they’re only sold in one fridge. The one at Brassneck.

Red Collar Brewing – Impeachment & Alternative Facts

Red Collar impeachment & Alternative facts can design by Frank Luca
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Every so often a can comes through the warehouse that ticks all my personal can design boxes. That checklist is, admittedly, incredibly fluid and changes on a whim, but recently a stunning pair of cans came through that really tickled my fancy. Red Collar Brewing Company’s can designs are bright and bold with a colour scheme that sits slap bang in the centre of my preferred colour palette. Impeachment’s can glows an irradiated peach colour, tempered and softened by a turquoise leaning teal that soothes the eyes, while Alternative Facts’ otherwise calming, pale green crashes through your eye sockets like a perma-tanned bull in a political china store, supercharged as it is by contrasting black bands and bold all-caps type. Well executed tongue-in-cheek copy tops it all off, confirming every suspicion you might have had that these beers might be poking fun at a certain someone or something.

Copy

With a fresh’n’fruity can of Impeachment in hand and another few in the fridge, I got in touch with Frank Luca, Red Collar’s in-house designer, to see if I could dig up some actual facts about the can design process and the story behind these beautiful beers.

Red Collar Brewing Impeachment Can Design by Frank Luca

Hey Frank! This is Red Collar’s first foray into the world of canning and you’ve absolutely crushed it first time round.

Thanks! We'd had it on our radar that we wanted to be putting a product in cans for a while. We figured it would also be a great opportunity to release two brand new beers as well. We knew we wanted to do our take on a hazy IPA so our goal was to release a coinciding product that complemented it but would also be easy drinking enough to be considered a summer beer. The result was this slightly sour wheat ale.

Red Collar Brewing Alternative Facts Can Design by Frank Luca

Easy drinking is right! It’s fairly clear who these beers are referencing, but the names are inspired. What’s the story here?

We thought the name Alternative Facts was just too good not to use so we had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas for the copy and the image for that one. We did think about putting our Apricot Sour Ale in the cans but felt that product should just remain in bottles so when thinking about what other flavours we could incorporate into a sour beer, the idea of a peach came up and I believe it was my colleague Lara Beardsell, who co-wrote the copy for both, that jumped in and said we could try calling it Impeachment. Obviously, all of us loved the idea so we ran with it.

Impeachment_Artwork-01

Thank God you did! I love these can designs – was the aesthetic influenced by anything or anyone in particular? Other than the tangerine overlord himself, of course…

I wanted something that was a bit of a departure from our regular line-up, so my thought was to keep it simple, which is generally the mantra I try to follow when designing something, but also to keep it fun and loose. My vision was to have a bit of a "comic" like look to the cans which I feel comes across in the end.

Cheers Frank!

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The comic book style definitely feels appropriate with everything that’s going down at the moment and whilst we don’t advocate self-medication here at CraftCans.Ca, sometimes the best way to preserve your sanity is to grab your buddies, head to the lake or beach and crack open a cold one or two and just enjoy yourself. These crushable summer brews are superb sunny day beers so sit back, take a sip and forget about everything else. It’s gonna be great. Huge. Trust me.

Red Collar Brewing Company:

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Frank Luca:

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Cool Hand Cuke & Mr Fungi

Barnstorm Creative / Hearthstone Brewery Mr Fungi Craft Can design
Barnstorm Creative / Hearthstone Brewery Cool Hand Cuke Craft Can design

Hearthstone Brewery on Vancouver’s North Shore is one of those places that seems - quite literally – to have creativity on tap. Head Brewer George Woods, formerly of BrewDog, and Brewery manager Darren Hollet cook up the craft beers “you don’t know you love yet”. Whether it’s a sweet, comforting Graham Cracker Ale, a velvety smooth Chocolate Milk Stout or their refreshing cucumber sour, these beers are anything but ordinary. Unique beers such as these demand design work that sets them apart from the crowd. Naturally, they looked to Barnstorm Creative to design some craft beer cans that turn heads. Lets take a look at two of my favourite Canadian craft can designs to date: Cool Hand Cuke, the aforementioned cucumber sour and Mr Fungi, a chaga mushroom black lager.

Cool Hand Cuke

Barnstorm Creative / Hearthstone Brewery Cool Hand Cuke Craft Can design

Originally brewed in collaboration with West Coast Canning (my can-design-addiction-enablers) for their Can City 2016 event, a celebration of canned craft beer, this refreshing, worryingly chuggable brew has to be one of my favourite cans in Canada. I caught up with Ron Fiedler of Barnstorm Creative, the mastermind behind this magnificent craft can, to find out more about the thinking behind this crushable summer refresher.

“Since it was a collab with WCC I felt it needed to be a bit separate from Hearthstone’s main brands, more elaborate, fun and celebratory. I wanted to showcase something that would stand out!

I guess when we landed on the name “Cool Hand Cuke” the design evolved from there. In true Hearthstone fashion, we went with the big blown out graphic, Big, Bold, Cool, essentially a Big Cuke with Cool hands, and Shades because… he’s cool! He was designed like a mascot: a bit “Justin Timberlake from SNL”, a bit “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”, a bit “60’s Drive-In movie Intermission” character. I’ve been told he has a California Raisin vibe, which really follows along the same design inspiration.”

I’d say he nailed the brief, wouldn’t you?

Mr Fungi - Chaga Black Lager

Barnstorm Creative / Hearthstone Brewery Mr Fungi Craft Can design

Taking cues from their environment, both natural and cultural, the brewers at Hearthstone recently created a black rice lager infused with a thick chaga mushroom tea and called it, rather appropriately, Mr Fungi. This crisp lager has earthy coffee notes and has a little fun with Vancouver’s well documented love of trendy ‘superfoods’.

After the success of Cool Hand Cuke Ron Fiedler jumped at the chance to add another member to the Hearthstone family:

“When we had the chance to create another character for Mr. Fungi, the “Peaced-Out” hippie mushroom was a natural fit! We may be adding more to the family in the future, it really depends what new creations the guys in the brewery come up with! I’m looking forward to the challenge of whatever brews they bring my way!”

 

Rest assured we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled, our ears to the ground and our tongue to the tap to keep you posted on any new arrivals!

Brewery:

Hearthstone Brewery

Instagram: @Hearthstonebeer
Twitter: @Hearthstonebeer
Facebook: /Hearthstonebeer

Designer:

Ron Fiedler @ Barnstorm Creative Group

Instagram: @Ronbarnstorm
Twitter: @Barn_Storm
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