Adding a little craft to the can.
When I called Pat Casey, director of marketing at Lancaster Brewing Company, he enlightened me to the fact that the Amish city was known in the early 1800s as the little Munich of the New World. Now the baby mecca of handcrafted rockers and gigantic pickles, Lancaster once put out the largest amount of beer per capita. So when LBC started, they knew that brewing was in their cultural bone structure and worked with an ad agency that flavored their labels with that historical taste. You can see it in the hairy hop hog and classic bovine, the fresh strawberry and serene country winter landscape, and the typeface that might have been lifted directly from a Main Street souvenir shoppe.
While their bottles have stayed the same, it’s their cans that have buzz. Kölsch and Rumspringa golden bock boast labels designed by graphic designer and LBC employee, Josh Weirich. The images and fonts are younger and more playful, much like Amish teenagers who pass through Rumspringa, that period during which they’re allowed to go out into the world and experiment with not being Amish or, as Casey exaggeratingly puts it, “snowboard, party and drink beer.” Rumspringa in Amish culture is kind of like craft beer in a macro culture–it’s the place and time when a little creativity is called for. Which is evident in the rebellious LBC cans. And when it comes to craft, it seems that an individual artist (especially one who drinks craft) can reflect the culture in a far more personal and inherent way than an ad agency that comes to craft from the outside in.
“When a big domestic brewer buys a craft company and tries to create that look, they over-design it,” Casey says. “They try to market into that look. But there’s sort of a counter-culture in craft, and if you make it too polished, people see through it.”
Casey speaks to the idea that you have to drink and love craft beer in order to illustrate it properly. You have to come to it from the inside out. And Weirich’s cans seemed to have achieved that wholly.
“A brand has to evolve over time,” Casey says of the LBC aesthetic. Maybe the rogue cans are just the beginning of that Rumspringa evolution.