BrewDog evolves its packaging12 January 2016
Last year, Scottish craft brewer BrewDog announced that due to arriving at a new stage as a company it would update and evolve its packaging, which has remained largely the same since the brand was born in 2007. Beverage Packaging Innovation speaks with key members of the team to understand more about the impact of the new packaging and developments in 2015.
Being a craft brewer means the authentic ingredients and passion used to make your product must shine through in the packaging. So, having gone through a process of improving its product since its launch in 2007, Scottish business BrewDog felt it was time to alter its packaging to ensure the look and feel of its bottles continued to match the craft and passion inside them.
"When we changed our packaging in 2014, we had one aim in mind: to create packaging that better reflected the beer we make," explains BrewDog's resident 'beer bandito' Jonathan Moran. "That meant focusing ruthlessly on quality and craft. We've done that by stripping the design process back to basics; by going to one of the UK's few remaining letterpress studios to hand-print our designs using 100-year-old metal and wood letter blocks; by moving to a thick, uncoated paper; and by applying layers of ink with as much personality and character as the beer inside the bottle."
To keep some of that tactile feel that is common with letterpressing, the labels feature embossing and spot varnishing to further enhance the raised effect. Coupled with well-executed typography and layout, the new BrewDog packaging is leaps and bounds better than the old.
In addition to the new packaging, the company continues to develop new flavours, courtesy of one of the original employees and current head brewer, Stewart Bowman. When asked about where he sees the future of craft beer, he responds: "I know it will be a very bright future, but it is so fast moving and changing, I could not even guess where we will end up.
"Short term, we will see a lot of new breweries and beers. With new bars starting to step up to the plate and provide a much better selection of beer, community and geo-specific branding will continue to grow in relevance - people want something handmade, locally made and using the best possible ingredients."
He continues: "The new bars allow a platform where new things can be tried and a community can grow. A personal goal of mine is to get as many restaurants [as possible] to carry a decent beer menu. And the only way to do this is by hosting beer dinners, explaining to people that beer is just as good (if not better) for pairing with food as wine."
As the craft beer revolution continues to gather momentum, demand for aluminum cans as the packaging format of choice for brewers is on the rise in the UK and throughout Europe. The need to accommodate the requirements of craft producers outside the mainstream has been recognised and embraced by Crown Bevcan Europe & Middle East, a business unit of Crown Holdings, which has partnered with BrewDog to develop a new 400cpm filling line in the company's Aberdeen production centre.
The new packaging line allows BrewDog's premium branded beer Punk IPA to be packaged in 33cl and 50cl cans, as well as allowing its three main brands Dead Pony Club, This. Is. Lager., and Jack Hammer to be canned in the 33cl format. It has the capacity to include further brands in the future.
The can is great for craft brewers as it affords a wider range of options compared with other packaging formats. The protection cans offer from light and oxygen is also crucial, as it ensures that the beer reaches drinkers in the same condition in which the brewer intended - something that is of paramount importance to BrewDog.
A 360° canvas
Craft brewers are also increasingly turning to metal packaging as a means to better differentiate their brands on store shelves, making full use of the 360° billboard a can offers.
BrewDog selected Crown as a partner for its ability to offer cutting-edge pre-press and print technologies, and excellent technical expertise. The partners are working to create innovative and striking packaging design concepts and quickly bring them to market. New cans will be developed with Crown's soft-touch varnish finish - a tactile effect that reduces the reflectivity of metal over the whole surface of the can, giving the product a premium look and feel while reflecting the uniqueness of the ingredients within. All design creation, pre-press and proofing activities for BrewDog will take place at Crown's European Design Studio in Leicester.
A perfect match
Martin Dempster, director of special operations at, BrewDog, says: "We see cans as the ideal packaging for craft beer. The ability to keep beer fresh and to retain its unique flavour is what attracted us to the format, and the team at Crown has made it possible for us to move forward with this very quickly. Within the wider drinks industry, we are a relatively small player, but Crown's technical service team tailored training and support for us, and made the whole process feel like a partnership from start to finish, in the same way it would for a global brewer. It is this bespoke treatment, and its obvious passion for the can and the industry, that put Crown ahead of its competitors for us."
Crown has also offered flexibility with order sizes and facilitated line support. Historically, minimum order sizes made it difficult for craft brewers to justify packaging in cans, but Crown has diversified in order to accommodate the needs of the craft brewers in this area. Other services offered to BrewDog include a total review of its operations, from security analysis to package integrity, helping to maintain filling lines at optimum speeds with minimum downtime. In addition, Crown's comprehensive training for operatives and engineers gave BrewDog the necessary tools to carry out changeovers itself, quickly and efficiently.
"We have an excellent relationship with BrewDog," says Matt Twiss, marketing and business development director at Crown Bevcan Europe & Middle East. "BrewDog chose to work with us following a series of discussions, throughout which their team was able to see that our approach is one that echoes its own views - that the can is the obvious and sustainable choice for packaging craft beer.
"Crown has a legacy of leadership in the craft brewing sector and is strongly passionate about this fast-moving, innovative industry. We love being a part of such a rapidly expanding, exciting sector, and our work with BrewDog will help it to expand its operations and support the next level of growth."
Craft beer has seen extensive growth in the US in recent years, which has driven its popularity around the world. More than 500 craft brewers are in operation across the US, and numbers continue to rise at a phenomenal rate. It is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down and the UK is already beginning to follow in these footsteps.
US brewers such as Sly Fox, Upslope Brewing and Dagger Falls, to name a few, have all taken advantage of Crown's dedicated service when it comes to moving their products successfully into cans. Now, across the pond, BrewDog is seeking to emulate their successes and expand its horizons in the same way.