How do you design a regional craft beer that draws in a broad audience?
The launch of Midland Brewery’s inaugural beer, Georgian Bay Beer, marked the coming of age of an old idea. The company founder had long dreamed of brewing a representative regional craft beer embodying the sensibility and culture of Georgian Bay. When the official Georgian Bay tartan design was created and officially approved by the Scottish Registry of Tartans, the timing was just right.
For the Georgian Bay Beer Can, we incorporated a toast to the Georgian Bay Tartan from the 2012 Bay Burns Supper launch at Thunder Beach, Georgian Bay on the side of the can, then simplified and vectorized the tartan design for the can printing process. The badge artwork is inspired by the unique rock granite beaches and wind-sculpted pines and exactly captures the feeling of summer at the cottage the region is famous for.
Georgian Bay Beer was an immediate success, launching in The Beer Store and LCBO across Ontario and developing a loyal following locally and across the province. The interest in the beer and evident loyalty spawned another idea, based in part on the success of the original product concept and in part on the personality behind it, Tom Smellie.
For years and over many, many meetings, Tom had held the team in thrall with his grasp of regional stories, history, and tall tales. We had always joked about putting out a sessional beer lineup based on a few of his best, and the market interest in Georgian Bay Beer presented an ideal opportunity to evolve the narrative, and bring enthusiasts closer to the culture behind the brewery and its craft.
Tom had always loved traditional beer packaging, so we worked with him to research and develop a visual theme for four local legends, producing custom illustrated label art for a one-colour thermographic imprint. Designing within the limitations of this rare and most simple of printing processes presented unique challenges, as it forced the fusion of artwork that felt rustic and primitive with the clean and almost mathematically precise nature of vector-based illustration. It did afford an interesting opportunity to work with negative space as the second of a two-colour palette, with visual details expressed in the space found between the ink lines. Each label was designed using a inverse image file —similar to a linocut—applying depth and shading to an otherwise ‘flat’ process. The challenge was solved through a lengthy two-step sketching and vector illustration process, producing complete illustrated versions of the art before scanning and rebuilding it into a vector illustration.
In each case, the original history or story was sourced, simplified, and written to a style that matched Tom’s inimitable and enigmatic charisma.
Ghosts of Hope Island
In 1884, the original 57-foot, Hope Island Lighthouse was built of wood, and, in 1891, John Hoar was appointed its light keeper, although a disgruntled one. With tense relations with the coast guard and former keeper, it was cautioned that Hope Island landings should only be attempted “outside of gunshot range”.
Legend has it that two fishermen, Francois Marchildon and William Lacourse, unaware of the warning, were murdered on the island and buried under the steps of the lighthouse for their nerve in trespassing. On his deathbed, Johnny Hoar famously admitted to killing the pair. In 1906, to put an end to the mystery, the steps were finally dug up, but no signs of the fishermen were found.
To this day, other than the snakes and the birds, Hope Island lays vacant. Locals refuse to stay on the island, telling stories of misty lights over the water, ship bells ringing in the distance, and voices in the night coming from the woods.
Can’t stock it fast enough. Each run of the Legends of the Bay series sold out in under three weeks across the province. And, if it means anything, only a few of the bottles have been returned for deposit.