Am I full of it?

By that do I mean, delicious beer? Yes. My love affair with import and micro-brewed beer has been around since I started underage drinking at 17. I have a reasonably good pallet and conception of what tastes good and I always go for flavour over [lower] price every time.  I’m also looking outside the bottle to analyze and appreciate the branding, labeling and creative aspects of the beer I consume. The look of the beer is the first impression we get from a good beer, and often compels us to buy it. Since I don’t consider myself anything more than an amateur (I use that word very strongly) connoisseur, this is not a review centred around the liquid itself. I’d like to focus more on the marketing and advertising aspects of the brand. Having said all that, read on to find out why I think Broadhead is the best local craft beer in Ottawa.

Here’s how I found out about Broadhead.

Broadhead’s Dark Horse Stout.

My first encounter with Broadhead Brewing Company was at The Beer Store. I was standing in the middle of the walk-in, slowly rotating while scanning the shelves around me. Nestled amongst the technicoloured mishmash of microbrews, the Dark Horse Stout caught my eye. The can is a dark brown with orange text and a large logo. It’s almost unassuming when compared with others on the market. It was clearly visible though, and I could easily identify it at a glance. It was enough to make me pick it up. What I saw next really surprised me. While turning the can to read the label I saw the brew notes. Nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary, but as I continued to turn the can, there was a very clever little layout titled, THE BROADHEAD “construction Plan”. It was a very simple little story about the brand that gave me a good chuckle. I knew that I had to buy this beer. It turns out that it tastes supremely delicious. An added bonus is that the brewery is about 5 minutes from my house, and they run tours!

I’ve only encountered a few beer brands that use humourous labeling and branding, and this is definitely one of them. My first introduction to clever labeling was with another brew from the States called Arrogant Bastard Ale. It really personalizes these brands for me. I like supporting small businesses and local economies over large corporations, so enjoying a product that looks like it was made just for me, feels really good.

Three things that make a great craft beer:

1. Label design
Will it be noticeable from across the room? With dozens of choices for micro-brewed beer, it’s no surprise that it’s like looking at a rainbow wall of insanity when you go to your local retailer. Many are such a mishmash of images, colours and stylized text that it seems counter-productive to subject the consumers to an unsolicited acid trip every time they get thirsty. What really catches my eye is good contrast between colour, logo and copy. If you look at the Broadhead cans, their layouts are really quite simple, and the use of colour, text and their logo makes for a pleasing image to behold.

2. Cheeky Copy
Far from “I am Canadian”, or “If I wanted water, I’d just ask for water”, I think smaller brands are most successful when they don’t take themselves too seriously. Self-deprecatory advertising copy can go a long way. That’s why Volkswagen, Orbach’s and Avis were so successful under the keen creative insights of Bill Bernbach. These smaller brands know they can’t compete with the most popular ones, and with limited budgets, this is a great way to align with consumers. In the case of Broadhead, they don’t just stop at the can. Take a look at the Broadhead Brewing Company’s website and you’ll see they have all sorts of interesting and amusing copy.

Here are the labels from the three varieties for your enjoyment. Click each one to view full size.

3. Take a risk with your flavours
Don’t be boring. Don’t just make more IPAs. Don’t brew mildly-flavoured water. Be different. Take calculated risks, and explore uncharted territory. While Amber ale and Stout are pretty common, what really stood out for me was the Blue Print. That’s a refreshing blonde ale with the amazing flavour of blueberries. To be honest, other than orange in Belgian white beer or lime in Corona, I don’t like fruit-infused beer. Please don’t ever offer me a radler. I was blown away at how well blueberries and beer went together. Well done, brewmaster. Coming up with new flavours that are not widely considered could be a good way to position your beer brand with the more adventurous consumers. If you can develop an offering using unexpected ingredients and do it well, then it can open up the doors to new target consumers and stimulate interest through word of mouth. I personally introduced three people that I know to this beer, and they all loved it.

Now, it’s time for a drink.

I hope that by now you can appreciate this brand as much as I do for their clever marketing. At the very least a decent take away is that it never hurts to look a little closer at labels because insightful humour and entertainment can come from anywhere, even the best local craft beer in Ottawa. Now that I’ve immersed myself a bit more in this brand, I can’t wait to go for a tour.

I’d love to learn about other cleverly marketed craft beer brands. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments.



Note: I was not paid or provided any compensation in exchange for my feedback and review of this brand or its products.

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