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Beer Is Art, Art Is Beer – Part 1

We’ve already written about how important it is to find the right brand image for your brewery and your beers. This is true of almost any consumer product, be it beer, food, lawn gnomes, or anything in between. Some may argue that the quality of a product will speak for itself, but others will note that if the buyer isn’t attracted to the item to begin with then they may never discover that product’s quality. Here at Virginia Beer Co. we believe it’s a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. Especially in today’s ever-growing craft beer market, it’s important to have a logo that’s unique. And one that pops (that’s pops, not hops)! 

One of my favorite games when I’m at a bar is to scan the various tap handles lining the draft options. Even before I look at the beer menu, I like to see what handles jump out among the field. The same can be (and will be) done any time I wander into a bottle shop or grocery store. The shelves are lined with six packs and bombers from all over not only the States but the World. Sometimes I may go in with a specific shopping purpose, and sometimes I let my wandering eyes dictate the purchase. That’s not to say that branding and logos need to be neon in color or gigantic in size to attract (there’s a difference between attraction and distraction), but it is important to stand out; to create your own landscape; and in words and images, to reflect your brewery and your beers. No easy task, especially when you’re starting from scratch! 

When Chris and I embarked on our plan to open a new brewery, we considered a number of names for the venture. Once we decided upon The Virginia Beer Company and agreed that we would be opening said VBC in Williamsburg, next came a lengthy period of indagation to develop a brand identity. Outside of the facts that we had decided on a name and a location, it was going to be some time until we had any beer for public consumption…so we really needed that company crest to speak volumes for us until the building was in place and the pilot batches were fermenting. This was Summer 2012, and it would take us almost two years to come up with our final logo. 

We are a start-up company. Not everyone can be as fortunate as the Brooklyn Brewery to have a designer like Milton Glaser take a chance on you. So like any good entrepreneurs, we turned to friends to draft a few ideas on our behalf. We came up with a laundry list of logos and brands within the craft beer world that we really liked for numerous reasons (as noted in our earlier post about branding). So we handed out those pages upon pages upon pages of notes and beer “likes” to our friends who happened to have artistic talents. In addition, we spent a lot of time considering the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you take on a name like The Virginia Beer Company, you want to reflect some semblance of your namesake in your logo. We considered a lot of aspects of our new home state and put those to paper. And handed those pages to our artistic friends, in addition to the pages upon pages (upon pages) that we had already turned over. Low and behold:  we actually had one friend left who agreed to take us up on the challenge. 

One of the many great aspects of coming back to Williamsburg to start this business was reconnecting with The College of William & Mary, the alma mater of both me and Chris. In late 2012 we connected with a friend and current (at that time) W&M student who had both great interest and talent in graphic design. Below you can see our very first, third-party envisioned logo. 

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The benefit of having a student connection through the school was the free labor. The downside of the student connection was that, inevitably, they have classes to attend. Our young artist needed to focus his time on more important tasks, which we begrudgingly agreed was the right thing for him to do. But we had our first proposal and it gave us a lot of momentum to feed on as we continued working towards our company’s future visage. We had a heckuva starting point, and now we needed to find a professional artist who could dedicate more time to tweaking our next ideas into our perfect vision for Virginia Beer Co. 

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll discuss how we (unintentionally) dramatically increased the scope of our vision before we were able to finally narrow it down into what would become our primary logo. Same blog-time! Same blog-channel!