For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m into my real ales, especially coming from Scotland I loved the odd pint of ‘Heavy’ (A Scottish term for the English equivalent called Bitter. Usually dark brown in colour, smooth with a good bubbly or creamy head, pretty flat with little to no gas/bubbles) on a night out.
Last year my wife got me possibly one of the greatest birthday presents ever! A home brew beer making kit! It didn’t take me long to set everything up and get cracking with my first brew.
It’s remarkably easy to do once you have the basic equipment and all of which is completely re-usable, ready for the next batch.
For my first few experimentations I bought pre-made beer kits from a local store. All the ingredients are premixed together and come in a one litre tin can, which when emptied looks like a dark sticky gooey molasses.
Thankfully there isn’t much technical or chemistry ability required. Basically all you need to do is pour the ingredients into a large 25 litre plastic bucket, add one kilo of sugar, three litres of boiling water, followed by about 19 litres of cold water. Sprinkle the magic ingredient yeast over the top, give it a good stir, take an initial reading with a hydrometer, whack the lid on and leave it in a cosy dark spot for about 7-10 days until it reaches a specific gravity (alcohol content). Once this process is complete it’s then onto step two and the bottling. Syphoning out the beer into either bottles or barrels. I like to do a bit of both so I’ll pour about half of the contents into 500ml bottles and the rest will go into a pressurised keg. Bottles and keg are left in a warm environment for a further three days before being transferred out to the garage for stage three – the maturing part of the process. The bottles and keg are stored in a cool, dark place for at least another three weeks so the sediment can settle and the beer can clear ready for drinking. Part four, the easy part – drink!
The Wonky Woo Wa
The other great part about making your own beer is having the opportunity to create beer labels to show off your home brewing skill.
The initial label I designed was for my first home brew, a cheeky dark bitter of around 4% ABV, it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt! I asked my son to name the inaugural brew and he came up with ‘Wonky Woo Wa’ which I thought was a cracking name for a beer.
So now I had a name for the beer all I had to do was design, create and produce a label. I wanted to create something unique, eye-catching, something a wee bit different that had an independent crafty and artisan look to it. Not only did I want it to look good, I also wanted to come up with an unusual way to affix the label to the bottle and make it visually and tacitly attractive.
After trying out numerous options I came up with a typographical treatment only design. I chose hand drawn fonts for the Wonky Woo Wa name and logo type as well as a font for the details of the beer. I limited the colours to just two, red and black for maximum visual impact. I chose a heavy kraft card to print on for an authentic ‘crafty independent artisan’ look. I didn’t want to glue the label to the bottles so I came up with the idea of using rubber bands and thin bamboo kebab skewers cut down as the fastener to hold the labels in place securely around the bottle. I punched holes through the card, folded the edges over for more strength and security before binding multi-coloured rivets into the card to help prevent tearing when the rubber bands were threaded through and attached to the bamboo sticks. Finally I hand stamped a limited edition of 18 bottles with a unique reference number just to give it an extra level of detail, authenticity and uniqueness.
Spring has sprung beer label
So the Wonky Woo Wa was last years winter beer and in March this year I decided to do an Easter special. I followed the exact preparation and brewing process as before and then started to think of an appropriate name so I could start to design and create the next beer label. It didn’t take me long to come up with a seasonal name for the beer. It was obvious really, it had to be called ‘Spring’, well, I slightly changed it through the design process to ‘Spring has sprung”.
I wanted to stay clear of the obvious visuals such as Daffodils, Bluebells and snowdrops. I was after something a bit more tongue in cheek. However I really liked the green and yellows of the daffodils, the purples of the bluebells and the crisp white of a snowdrop and decided to incorporate these colours into my design. I wanted to have fun with the name and incorporate that into the label so I came up with the idea to use a metal spring within the logo. I chose the same fonts as the previous beer label as I wanted to create that home-brew, artisan crafty style I was still after. I wanted the the label to also have an eye catching element so I designed a small tab to pop out from the side. This was coloured bright orange with the image of the spring down the centre and gave a real uniqueness and stand out appeal to the bottle.
Again I did a mix of bottles and keg to store the beer in. So was it any good? Did the beer taste as great as the label looked? Yes it did!
I really enjoyed my first home brew experience and the creation of the label. It motivates me to keep brewing, coming up with unusual names and create visually appealing beer labels – its a win win situation for me.