Talk to anyone about East Canada’s craft beer scene and it won’t be long before the name Bellwoods pops up. Every so often you come across one of those rare places that really exemplify what it means to be a craft brewery. Bellwoods is one of those breweries. Their beers are as delicious as they are ambitious and they seem to strike that perfect balance of not taking things too seriously while pushing craft beer to the next level with every release. From my vantage point way out here in the West, Bellwoods strikes me as Brassneck’s older, Eastern Canadian brother.
Anyone already familiar with Bellwoods will already know exactly why I’m talking about them here: Their branding and design work is some of the most consistently eye-catching out there on the shelves. I’ve actually wanted to feature Bellwoods for a long time now, having been stalking their Instagram since I first arrived in Canada, but only recently did they start consistently putting their beers in to cans adorned with the same pressure sensitive labels as their bottles, thereby giving me the perfect excuse to get them on this here blog. And here they are, finally, for your viewing pleasure.
I love Bellwoods’ branding because it just feels so…authentic, so understated, so effortless somehow. I guess in that sense it reflects the impression I get of the brewery itself. It feels like a perfect partnership between two parties that just… get it. And get each other. The artwork has that classic screen printed gig poster vibe that just fires off all the right signals in the design part of my brain. Like they’re drawing on and are part of a great design tradition. The artwork is just excellent- really, really excellent.
The brains behind these intensely collectable label designs are design studio Doublenaut, a talented trio consisting of Matt McCracken, Andrew McCracken and Ross Proulx. Here’s what they had to say about their work with Bellwoods Brewery.
How did your relationship with Bellwoods come to be?
Our office at the time was conveniently next door to them the year they opened, so a relationship naturally formed after going in a few times for beers and meeting the owners. They needed labels designed, so it was perfect timing. We’ve been working with them ever since.
What I love about your labels is that they’re essentially gig posters shrunk down and stuck to cans and bottles. Each beer style has its own personality – I almost feel like if each beer was a band, I could clearly imagine what kind of music they would play. They really have that classic screen print poster feel to them. Is that intentional?
Definitely. Our company got its start in design through the gig poster world. Bellwoods were a fan of the posters we had done in the past, and wanted to capture that feel on each bottle. Since beer labels are generally quite small and require a fair amount of information on them, keeping the design organized, simple and bold makes for a striking and readable design. Many of the labels end up being adapted to screen printed posters for sale, so people can collect their favourite label like a gig poster at a show.
How long have you been designing gig posters?
Doublenaut has been designing gig posters since 2004.
What do you guys regard as your greatest influences? What inspires you?
Our surroundings, really. We’re all into hiking, travel, live music, visiting art galleries and museums. The culmination of all of those definitely have an impact on our work.
What does your process look like?
Our process is pretty simple. After we're given a new beer name/style of beer, our ideas begin from research and sketching. Once we have a couple directions we’re happy with, we’ll present roughs to the client and turn those into a final design based on their feedback.
Do you have a favourite label you’ve designed?
Ross: Runes Matt: Wizard Wolf Andrew: Roman Candle
What do you think of the ever-growing connection between the art/beer scenes?
We're all for it. In addition to the recipe, great artwork catches people’s eye and gives the beer a unique identity. Beer labels were pretty boring to look at for a while, so it’s nice to see so many companies having fun with their art and expressing their creations in new and interesting ways.
I could stare at these all day. In fact, I basically have.
If, like me, you can't tear yourself away from these designs, what follows are a couple of options to help at least pry your gaze away from the LED box for a few short minutes:
- Head to your local private liquor store and hassle them until they hand over any Bellwoods beers they happen to have in their possession (whether for sale or not) then carefully peel off the label and stick it to the inside of a cheap pair of sunglasses so you can at least walk about a bit.
- Head either to Bellwoods' real life bricks and mortar brewpubs and purchase yourself some cans, bottles or even a screen printed poster, OR, get one from Doublenaut's own webshop as I intend to do. Then carry it around on a scroll like some kind of medieval messenger so you can gawk at it at will.
That's it, that's all. Those are your only viable options.
Like the pretty things? How about some more pretty things designed by Justin Longoz for Four Winds?
Like the tasty beers? Check out the aforementioned estranged BC-based step-sibling of Bellwoods, Brassneck. My words, not theirs.