Things move quickly in the world of craft beer and if you ain’t innovatin’ you ain’t … Win-o-vatin’. That’s what they say, right? With an endless stream of novel beers hitting the shelves every week, new breweries opening on every street corner and underdogs like Superflux and Boombox rapidly evolving into alpha dogs, breweries can seemingly no longer rely on even the most appealing of core beer ranges if they want to compete.
One brewery taking up the gauntlet is Powell, a Vancouver favourite with a phenomenal, multi-award winning core range, who have come out of 2018’s starting gates absolutely screaming with a series of exceptional seasonal releases. Until recently Powell Brewery’s seasonal releases generally found their way into bottles, but this year the brewery has taken a solid two-footed leap onto the Canned Wagon, producing some visually stunning, pattern heavy, pressure sensitive beer labels that are every bit as appealing as the brilliant beers within.
It seems fitting that I get to gush about Powell’s labels at this particular point in time as it marks, almost to the day, a year of working in the world of cans. My second ever canning run was at Powell, canning their delicious Dive Bomb and Cheeky Session ale. A pair of slightly dented cans from that day still sit front and centre in my can display at home. I remember thinking how rad the cans were, particularly Dive Bomb, and being stoked to be a part of the process. But I also vividly remember spotting a can of their American Farmhouse IPA, a collaboration with Four Winds with an absolutely gorgeous label featuring a dreamy gradient and some faded geometry that evokes the phenomenal Pacific sunsets that paint the mountains pink on the regular... It ticked all the boxes for me back when I was fresh off the boat from England, and still does now.
Safe to say, I’m pretty gosh darn happy they’ve thrown themselves full force into the world of limited release cans again. Especially when they look this good.
I got in touch with David Bowkett, Owner/Brewer at Powell, and tried to keep my gushing to a minimum and find out a bit more. Read on for the interview!
Firstly, David, I'm a big fan of Powell's look as it is, but I'm definitely feeling the direction of these (presumably) limited release beers as I'm sure a lot of Vancouver is. What prompted you to veer so wildly from the Powell core aesthetic?
Our plan this year is to innovate and experiment a whole bunch. With this in mind we planned to release a new beer every two weeks. We’ll still have our core brands on the shelves, so deciding to choose a new aesthetic for these limited releases made sense. It gives the customer a clear visual difference between the two.
What or who inspires the patterns on your labels?
I take inspiration from a lot of sources. I’ll always try to use the beer or it’s origin to drive the label design. Our newest beer “Norwegian Sun” takes its colour and pattern from the Norwegian Flag in an abstract way. The labels for the “Lemonade Stand” and “Southern Belle” beers, being of similar style, use the fruit as the focus for the pattern.
Do you have any thoughts on the battle for shelf space with so many different approaches to can design coming from an ever-growing number of breweries?
It’s getting competitive out there, that’s why creating eye catching beer labels is so important. It draws people in and gets them looking and reading about the beers. Design can only go so far though, the product behind the beautiful label needs to be just as great.
How big a role do you think breweries have to play in the local creative community?
I think we play a big role. Often times we’re the beverage of choice at music events, art shows, and community gatherings. We make a delicious beverage that helps as a social lubricant. And, a lot of us in the beer industry come from the local creative community in one way or another, so it’s no doubt that we feel like we’re a big part of it.
Is there anyone out there who you think is really killing it right now in terms of beer branding/can design?
A lot of breweries have their branding on point, but there are a few that stand out from the rest. The obvious ones for cans are Twin Sails and Superflux, but others like Steel & Oak, Yellow Dog, Strange Fellows, and Four Winds all have strong brands and can designs.
Keep your eyes glued to the Powell Brewery Instagram and make sure you don't miss any of their new releases!
While you're waiting, why not check out some of the other beer brands that are absolutely crushing it?