All of our bottles from last year have now been sold and today we’re about to do some more which should be ready in time for the start of February. So we thought we’d take a moment just to talk about what we’ve done so far and where we’re heading to in the future.
When we very first started brewing back in 2010 we always had in mind that it would become a business selling cask ale and as such we didn’t invest a great deal of time into bottling beer much beyond it being an easy way of transporting beer to people to get an opinion from them.
Then in 2012, when we started brewing commercially, we had so little beer available (just 4 firkins a brew) that bottling it seemed uneconomical as it was easier just to sell the cask to a pub. As time went by we appreciated that there was a demand for our beer in packaging that could be taken home, so, we experimented with bottling but were never entirely satisfied with the result when compared to the same beer served from the cask.
During 2014 we bottled on several occasions for events like the British Beard Championships in Bath and eventually had a system in place for bottling that produced good results and had drinkers asking for more.
But it’s not just what’s on the inside of the bottle that counts. The stories and illustrations are a big part of what we do here at our Dwarfen brewery and incorporating that into the label was a real challenge.
Should we just reproduce the pump clip? Well that would be so small on a bottle as to be almost unnoticeable.
Do we break up the pump clip into it’s constituent parts and rearrange to suit the new context? We then had something that looked incomplete.
Do we use 330ml, 500ml or even bigger bottles? Did the bottle need to be a unique shape? We settled on a slightly shorter 500ml bottle as it helped to identify the product amongst it’s bottle conditioned ale peers.
After many mockups and researching branding techniques we arrived at the current design. Because we are Brewers of Epic Tales, with all our ales having stories written to go with them, we took our inspiration from book covers.
There is a uniformity to the design, with all the bottles having a similar appearance when lined up on a shelf, like those of book spines from a series.
When you pick the bottle up you are then able to rotate to the ‘front cover’ where you’ll find the artwork, or to the ‘back’ where you’ll find the ‘blurb’, telling you a little about what to expect inside.
As with any quality publication the bottles are hand ‘bound’ and individually numbered by the ‘author’ and have an ‘edition’ number. To top it off we’ve completed the dust jacket appearance by using a metallic material for the label with a satin finish varnish. Lots of the detailing is subtly hidden and only apparent once the bottle is picked up and being handled, adding to the effect by sticking to the age old adage that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. What from a distance may have seemed plain has hidden depths and deserves exploring further.
Since launching the bottles in November we’ve had them on sale behind the bar at the Wheatsheaf in Walsall where they quickly became very popular with the regulars and we’ve been back to re-supply many times over. Just before Christmas, Stirchley Wines in Birmingham took one case of each beer and they were restocked a week into the new year. Since then we’ve gone on to supply Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham and Moonshine and Fuggles in Ironbridge.
The bottled range will permanently include Frost Hammer and King Korvak’s Saga, with seasonal and occasional beers being rotated through the months. In the case of the seasonal porters and special beers like Goat Rider and Leviathan, numbers will be limited to around 144 bottles of each.
The second batch of bottles is currently conditioning and will be arriving at an off licence near you in February.