Brewmeister reveal a new look. But how ‘new’ is it?

Brewmeister Brochure Inner

January isn’t even in the books yet, but already 2014 is shaping up to be a year when disputes, challenges, and general sniping become much more of an issue in the UK beer world. As the inexorable rise in the number of breweries continues, inevitably toes are stood on*, sabres are rattled, and the protagonists grumble at each other like so many elephant seals, all trying to occupy the same strip of froth-flecked beach. That’s a mighty generalisation, of course – the public’s increased appetite for beer, allied to the mantra ‘Beer People Are Good People’ means that trademark disputes make the news because they are still unusual. But for how long?

*Like Marti Pellow from Wet Wet Wet, who once stood on my foot in a bar in Stirling, and walked off without apologising (true, albeit boring, story)

At the end of last week, Scottish producer Brewmeister revealed their new branding and line-up of beers (pictured above), which is a fair step away from the look they had launched with, back in 2012. That’s not really surprising; breweries are no different to other businesses, evolving a brand over time as the focus changes tack, or as the protagonists develop as business-people. However, once the wraps had come off the new Brewmeister bottles, almost immediately people began pointing out how similar it was to a certain other Scottish brewery…

It’s not difficult to see why some people had made that connection…

Kaiserbrewdog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Brewmeister we’re talking about here, they of the ‘is it or isn’t it?’ Strongest Beer in the World, Armageddon (and now, an even mightier version; Snake Venom). Having gained considerable publicity from their high-abv escapades, Brew…meister have traded up in fairly spectacular style, from the beginnings of a £5,000 student loan to an investment of around £250,000. As a result, they have relocated recently from Kincardine O’Neil to a new facility on a station-side industrial estate in Keith, about thirty miles to the north. At the same time, new people have come on board, not least a new head brewer; David Beach, ex-of Purity and Batham’s. With all this going on, it makes sense to refresh the branding, and come up with some new recipes and soforth. Yet, did it have to be this similar to BrewDog? I emailed co-founder Lewis Shand, and asked him directly…

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“I was in the US a few months ago with John the other founder of BM on a bit of a beery pilgrimage and found that there are 100s of modern breweries with bright branding and edgy tasting beers. The problem in the UK is that we don’t have many of them, so the UK craft beer market just sees the style as belonging to Brewdog. The confusion does not derive from the whispers that Brewmeister style ourselves on Brewdog. The confusion lies in the fact that both Brewdog and Brewmeister style ourselves on the US craft beer revolution. We are trying to get the same excitement about good beer in the UK and persuade people to ditch crap lagers for something more exciting!”

 

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“There are a number of fundamental differences between us and Brewdog and when people get to know this they will realise we are not trying to copy them or anything like that. I LOVE Brewdog’s beers and think they have done a fantastic job, but they were luckier than us financially when they started. Other than financials, the nuts and bolts of the differences include 1) We bottle condition all of our beers because we think it allows the flavour characteristics to develop better 2) The malt we use is floor malt from Warminster Malting 3) We have staff of 13 people, they employ 100’s of staff 4) We can’t afford a sexy neon sign in our brewery!”

 

So, there you go. Not intended as a direct copy of BrewDog, merely reflecting the same influences that BrewDog had when they began, seven years ago. It should also be noted that Brewmeister didn’t sit round a flip chart themselves, they contracted out to branding agency CP and Co (although, of course, they then signed off on those designs). Whether you can see any similarities or not, I think it’s patently obvious that no one brewery owns the style that has become synonymous with ‘craft beer’. Comparing the likes of the Kernel, Magic Rock and Cromarty (to select three off the top of my head), brings you to three very different-looking conclusions.

It’s admirable that Brewmeister have decided to explore a change of image, ditching beers like Black Cock; “a big black bold one which goes well with a blonde…a Brewmeister blonde!”. Personally, I think there are fairly visible parallels between their new direction and the Ellon concern – but whether that’s merely through shared influences, who can say? At the end of the day, the two most important issues with regard to this are that firstly, as the numbers of breweries increases, crossover of this nature will inevitably occur (and for some, may end in a legal context). Secondly, and most importantly, what’s in the bottle is what really counts. And that, more than anything else, will determine how breweries like Brewmeister do when everything shakes out.



EDIT 27/01/14
One thing I overlooked in all of this, and that has subsequently been pointed out to me via Twitter, is the marketing release that accompanied Brewmeister’s re-brand. It suggested (see screen-grab below), that as their beers are ‘craft’, prospective stockists should consider them, as they would then be able to charge a premium for them.

This flows down the line of what many people already believe/know; that calling your product ‘craft’ entitles you to pitch it at a premium. I’m not an on- or off-trade buyer, I really don’t know if other producers are as full-frontal when it comes to stating the ‘benefits’ of being in the craft bracket. But Brewmeister are clearly, and looking at that release, blatantly, courting that market.



EDIT 28/01/14
Brewmeister issued an official response to the branding issue, and the pricing challenged by Chris from the Hanging Bat – read it here

14 thoughts on “Brewmeister reveal a new look. But how ‘new’ is it?”

  1. I agree with Brewmeister’s sentiments, but the similarities with Brewdog branding are so blatant, you can’t help but think they are at least jumping on their bandwagon. I Don’t want to say they are ‘ripping them off’ because I quite fancy sampling some of those beers in the poster (so I guess the campaign has worked). But when the advertising font is almost identical, let alone the sloganeering, what are people supposed to think?

  2. The main failing here is on the part of CP & Co in my opinion. As the ‘experts’ brought in to complete the brand work for Brewmeister they should have been stronger in their approach to the brief. Clearly Brewmister set out to create a similar marketing look and feel to Brewdog, and why not, their success shows it works. However there are many ways to be influenced and touch on the US craft beer revolution both visually and in terms of marketing message. Unfortunately this does neither any differently, this is so clearly based on the work that Hampton Associates do for Brewdog that it offers no unique brand equity to Brewmeister, it in fact has the opposite effect. If you are going to be influenced by an existing brand you must do something better, create your own unique twist on the work. Whether their beers are any good will remain to be seen but unfortunately I won’t be trying them based on this branding.

  3. Well done, Rich. Instead of just sniping at them, you actually went ahead and asked for their side of the story. Seriously, well done, it’s more than the rest of us bothered to do.

    Their argument of being ‘inspired by the same influences’ is a good effort. Definitely bollocks, but a good effort.

    A) having the same influences does not mean you will come to such similar conclusions, branding-wise. The Renaissance did not make everybody draw, paint, sculpt or design things in the same way. There are far, far too many breweries inspired by the same people BrewDog and Brewmeister are inspired by, with diversely different branding.

    B) The half-arsed rephrasing of the ‘revolution’ slogans. I mean, come on, it’s clearly the same. Embarrassingly, even BrewDog themselves are moving away from that language. After all, they were slinging that stuff around in 2007, for heaven’s sake.

    C) Generally speaking, no company wants their branding to be too similar to a competitor’s, unless they intend to trade off it. Brewmeister clearly do, and they have. They are aware of BrewDog. They know what they are doing.

    Finally, if *I* was the Brewmeister chap responding to your email, I would have said:
    “Hey, you know what? They are a bit similar. We aren’t the only people wanting to catch people’s attention with edgy branding, though. And besides, with the exception of that blue-labelled IPA, our beers are almost entirely German-influenced, which is something not many, if any, UK brewers are doing.” In that regard, I think they might be pretty unique. Never seen any of their beers anywhere yet, though. I’ll happily try them all before judging them as a brewer.

  4. The issue here is that they are blatantly saying you can rip customers off for craft. They are saying you can apply a larger profit margin, not price. I.E buy in bottles of peroni for £1, sell for £4, buy in brewmeister for £1 sell for £5, justify the extra £1 cash margin due to it being ‘crafter’

  5. my example wasn’t very clear due to the end price i state being higher. another example is buy in peroni for £1 and BM for 60p, but still sell both at £4

  6. Or you can just shorten this quote: “The confusion lies in the fact that both Brewdog and Brewmeister style ourselves on the US craft beer revolution.”

    To: “We’re both trying very hard to be Stone Brewing Co.”

    There we go, job done.

  7. I am surprised people are suggesting the term ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ is something that has come from Brewdog. At the same time, how ‘original’ were Brewdog? I think that is more generally Lewis’ point. We all know the shoutiness comes from Stone. The revolution fist could almost be considered to be something that is copied from Rogue. The parody of the Brewdog may be striking but, it is as much in line with US branding rather than specifically one case in the UK. The Brew Dogs of Colorado may also have a stake in the trademark. I would also point you to things like this: http://business.time.com/2014/01/08/the-competition-for-craft-beer-drinkers-takes-a-bitter-turn/ or this http://craftbrew.cirqlemedia.com/marketing-tips-from-some-of-the-hottest-designs-in-craft-beer/
    I am always amazed how original BD were: more like just the first to make it work in the UK.

    Been to a speakeasy bar recently?

  8. “100s of modern breweries with bright branding and edgy tasting beers. The problem in the UK is that we don’t have many of them, so the UK craft beer market just sees the style as belonging to Brewdog.”

    I call deflection & bullshit – 100s of bright & edgy breweries in the US does not justify the level of duplication seen in the Brew(dog)meister material. C’mon… if it was just a matter of bright colours I don’t think anyone would have batted an eyelid. But theme, faux-punkiness, font, even wording and beer names all come together to look a lot like this is a BrewDog parody. That’s what I thought this was on both 1st and 2nd take on finding this material on Twitter. (I didn’t recognise the name “Brewmeister” at all and didn’t know they were the mob responsible for Armageddon/etc.) Even the damn keg fonts are…. somewhat familiar.

    I wouldn’t call that the marketeers have quite got it wrong yet though, that remains to be seen. This mob ideally want to sell a lot of beer to the expanding market of modern craft beer drinkers… which as a buying category probably only includes us nerds who’d notice & care about this sort of thing as a small minority anyway. In fact, the actual bottle & keg-badge branding without the overall context we’ve seen isn’t all that mistakable for BrewDog.

    The bit that pissed me off a bit though is the text “Our prices [are the same] as commercial breweries but you can charge more per unit to the customer due to us being a craft brewery”. I see they have DELETED the pic-tweet that contained this text. Hur hur…

    Anyway, I will certainly try the beers if I see them. I’ve not had anything from Brewmeister yet… but worry that they’re trying to sell on branding rather than beer and that like a lot of shit US “craft beer” their stuff will be thin and a bit dull. (Fordham & Point are brands that have hit the UK in the last couple of years that I think illustrate this.)

  9. Chris – I had to look at the lineup photo twice before I realised that most of the beers were German-style. That tells you everything, I think (it doesn’t help that the dunkel is not dunkel)

  10. Never mind the rebrand. Has there been any sign of the lab report on the allegedly strongest beers in the world that they promised you a year ago?

  11. Yeh, ‘course they’re just influenced by the same American scene which is why they might look slightly similar. I wonder, do all US brewers call their MD “Captain” and count a dog as one of their employees?

    I honestly thought it was a parody. I’d never even heard of them before now.

    Seems to me like they’ve taken a big gamble – new brewery, complete rebrand etc – and they need the marketing to get going otherwise they are going to fail pretty dramatically.

  12. The apologists argument is that the Brewmeister rebrand is part of a wider series of trends affecting new (latecomers?) to an increasingly crowded market place in the UK. It is quite difficult to avoid naming and branding conflicts, although the clever and successful entrants are doing it and having enough uniqueness about themselves. I think they probably had two options on the table: go loud and Scot-Punk, or emphasise the German heritage. unfortunately they chose the former and ended up being close to BrewDog, the most visible and opinion-weighted brand on the UK scene, as opposed to perhaps gently stealing some of WEST’s thunder.

    As someone who has worked as a sales rep for craft beer, if a customer is concerned about higher outlay than on mainstream beers, we emphasise that higher prices can be charged for a quality product, but in line with usual margins. As policy I encouraged a lower margin, as you still make the same profit in actual monetary terms, and you have the less tangible benefits of greater choice/customer enjoyment etcetc. They have got their wording on this about 180 degrees wrong.

    They should have emphasised the heritage yeast and shut up a bit more. If they want to be a bit heavy metal or w/e they should have done Rammstein meets Oakham.

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