Name, logo, visuals. All are important when forming a company – it becomes your identity much more than whatever aspirations you hold when starting out. People can’t associate with the finer points of your ethos unless you are able to talk to each customer individually, so instead you have the natural extension that is your brand. Brewing is an industry with long associations in this regard – right from the days of the Bass red triangle (the first trademark ever filed) beermakers have focused attention on what’s on the front of the bottle as well as what’s inside. Having that individuality of character is how people tell you apart, after all.
Last night, one of Scotland’s most respected breweries began a transition from one identity to another. Re-branding can be a tricky business – at risk is the entire momentum of the company if people fail to get on board or recognise the new look. From subtle alterations to football teams changing colours, there have been recent examples of this going wrong – but Orkney’s Highland Brewing Company are the latest in a long line of companies to realise that they needed to update things a little and undergo what ponytailed marketeers would no doubt refer to as a ‘brand refresh’.
The new guise is more than that, however – Highland have gone all-in and changed the name of the brewery. Rob Hill and sons have thought long and hard about how to make their beer more synonymous with their home – Lewis Hill confirming what I have wondered for a while, which is that as Orkney isn’t actually in the Highlands they felt the name lacked connection. They can’t have picked a new name that was more apt – the brewery sits near the Swannay burn that feeds the freshwater Loch of the same name, on the northern tip of the mainland of Orkney. They are very definitely the Swannay Brewery.
Aside from the name change, there’s a new nautical-inspired twisted rope logo, and the pump clips feature similarly marine-esque designs. It all looks really rather good, and solves a recent problem Highland found for themselves – the adoption of a second line of beers spearheaded by Lewis. Bringing both into a similar vein (the recent arrivals and the older classics favoured by Rob) gives everything a flow to it as they move away from the old image.
I’ve said before that Highland are one of my favourite breweries – they are consistently fantastic in their output (last night confirmed this even more), so it’s interesting to see this new look as they stride out with a unified identity that, far more than in their old days, represents what the Swannay brewery are really all about.