Gladstone Brewing Co – Killer Craft Beer Branding

Craft beer branding with Gladstone Brewing Co, BC. Incredible beer can design

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Craft beer branding – and, well, all branding really – is about storytelling. Last week I was using lots of words to tell you stories about telling stories with words. This week, I’m going to use some more words to illustrate how well-executed craft beer branding can tell you stories without words and we’re going to use Gladstone Brewing Co.’s phenomenal can designs to illustrate that.

Scroll back up and take another look at those beautiful cans. I don’t need to tell you anything about the brewery. You know their story already. It’s all there in the can design. Barkerville Brewing Co.’s can designs from last week’s post do a good job of visually implying their story, but you still have to read the copy on the can to really get the full hit, to really get sucked in. Gladstone Brewing Co.’s designs use under 20 words (and that’s including their logo, address and diagrams) to say everything they need to. I’m not saying one is better than the other here, I’m just saying… well done Gladstone.

If you’re playing along at home, please get out your felt tip pens and notepad now.

Question 1: In five lines or less, accurately describe the history of Gladstone Brewing Co. and the influence this has had on the brewery. Also, guess what the tap room might look like. (5 marks) [answers at the bottom]

Craft beer branding with Gladstone Brewing Co, BC. Incredible beer can design
Craft beer branding with Gladstone Brewing Co, BC. Incredible beer can design

You can tell that Gladstone’s design team have put in the legwork here. From the colour palette to the diagrams, the minimal design to the authentic fonts, everything here is clearly rooted in the early days of motoring. It evokes images of vintage tin cans; a classic illustrated advert of a hard-working young go-getter, his overalls covered in oil, sporting a strong moustache and possibly making a sexist remark as he clasps a wrench and sings the praises of Castrol motor oil. “If only my marriage were as frictionless as my engine” he proclaims with a sly wink. Classic.

But Gladstone’s exquisite use of mixed printing techniques brings the brand into 2018, effectively contrasting matte colour blocks against stripes of glossy black. The odometer diagrams display a little extra information about the beer and really seal the deal on the theme… “is this about cars? Oh yes, it’s definitely about cars”. This is beer branding at its finest.  They’re honestly some of my favourite cans out there.

Hopefully you’ve managed to scramble through my word forest to this point, or, rather sensibly, just hopped in your metaphorical motor car and taken the road right through it. Either way, your reward for making it this far is a much more concise, much less gushing explanation of the work that went into the Gladstone Brewing Co. branding process from Marissa Johnson, Gladstone’s marketing manager and co-designer. Enjoy!

Craft beer branding with Gladstone Brewing Co, BC. Incredible beer can design

The Gladstone Brewing Co. heritage building operated as the Seale and Thomson mechanics garage and dealership in the 1940s. With the influence of these roots, we opened the doors to our mechanic-inspired tasting room in 2015. Our hand-made tap handles are created from vintage mechanics tools, flights come on upcycled vintage license plates and the room is scattered with carefully curated 1940s oil cans, hubcaps and toolboxes. 

The inspiration of the can design was drawn from this heritage. Hence, the can design is rooted in the simple, impactful aesthetic of the time. From the items in the grocery store, to signage, to motor oil cans, the 1940s brought bold colours, and in-your-face graphics to everyday items. It was such a great time for design that seems to have endless inspiration for us.

The designs for our cans come from Alexandra Stephanson, who is the co-owner of the brewery, and we work together in-house to tweak them, with extreme focus on authenticity. (Before getting in to the brewing industry, both of us came from a visual background - she as a photojournalist and me as a graphic designer.) Rather than searching for retro fonts online, we scour old editions of Popular Mechanics. We spend hours researching, and even specifically narrow it to the year 1948 - which is when the garage originally opened. There's even a font we use that Alexandra created based on her grandfather's handwriting, which involved hours of compiling and scanning. It's a labor of love, and as a designer it's been so great to be working with such clear creative direction.

Craft beer branding with Gladstone Brewing Co, BC. Incredible beer can design

It's safe to say their efforts have paid off. Gladstone have one of the most effective, recognisable craft beer brands on the shelves right now and I can't wait to see where they take it in future. In the meantime, I'm gonna go take our beaten up Jetta to the workshop and get that poor thing painted up real nice in Gladstone Belgian Single blue and cream. If Gladstone decide to go into the Demolition Derby game, they can count on me to bring the Jetta. I'm in.


Prefer your brand stories with words? Well, alrighty, take a peek at Barkerville Brewing Co. or Strangefellows!

Less words, more pictures! How's about a look at Scott. A. Ford's amazing craft beer branding for Zero Issue Brewing in Alberta?