Local breweries spill the secrets behind their logo designs

Published: Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 - 12:00 am

A bear on a bike. A dog that is a bike. A landmark bridge. A smiling sun. An old-timey boxer. A kid-looking character chomping a cigar.

Have you ever been sitting at a Sacramento-area brewery, enjoying a pint, and suddenly found yourself wondering: “What’s the story behind that logo?”

Most brand designs share certain fundamental elements; they’re meant to be interesting, emblematic and instantly recognizable. But more than just marketing tools, these pieces of practical art also can illustrate the values, emotions and aspirations of proprietors and tipplers alike.

With that in mind, The Bee asked a dozen local brewers to spill a little about their logos. With some, the symbolic inspiration is obvious; others use more oblique imagery. But all make for good conversation over a couple of cold ones.

Bike Dog Brewing Co.

If you ever forget the name of Bike Dog Brewing Co., a quick glance at its logo should jog your memory.

“It’s definitely an extension of the three things that we like most in life: dogs, bikes and beer,” said Sage Smith, owner of Bike Dog Brewing Co. who also works in graphic design. “With those three things, you can be happy in life.”

While the logo is a literal interpretation of the brewery’s name, its style is meant to reflect the hardworking culture of West Sacramento, where the brewery is located.

“We wanted to have a mark and logo type that would fit next to a union hall’s signage and not feel out of place,” Smith said. “We definitely wanted to give a nod to what’s around us.”

(2534 Industrial Blvd., #110, West Sacramento; 916-572-0788; www.bikedogbrewing.com)

Hoppy Brewing Co.

The smiling sun has come under scrutiny from other brewers at beer festivals for being too silly or too cute, but for Hoppy Brewing Co., the logo does exactly what it’s meant to do.

The hops-loving brewery’s unusual logo (at least in beer circles) was meant to do little more than inspire smiles and a feeling of well-being. Troy Paski, Hoppy’s owner, said he made the logo to ease tension between former co-workers at a barbecue.

“One year, I ended up making a batch of beer and I called it Beach Beer Amber Ale,” Paski said. “(The logo) grew and evolved from there.”

The spirit of the logo remained with the company, Paski said, and the sun has distinguished Hoppy Brewing from a rapidly expanding number of local craft beers.

“Almost everyone who sees our logo will remember it,” Paski said. “And it isn’t location specific, so that made it easy for us when we were changing locations.”

(6300 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; 916-451-4677; www.hoppy.com)

GoatHouse Brewing Co.

The swirl around the goat’s horns in GoatHouse Brewing Co.’s logo forms a “G” and an “H,” a feature that can be hard to see. But once you notice it, it becomes obvious.

GoatHouse grows its own hops just outside their tap room, and the goat head logo brings home their connection with agriculture and the rural area where they brew.

“We wanted (the logo) to be like a brand, a cattle brand,” said Cathy Johnson, co-owner of GoatHouse and the logo’s designer. “We wanted the logo to be able to stand alone at some point, after we have enough recognition.”

GoatHouse opened about 10 months ago, and its three-barrel brewery pumps out small batches of beer created by many of the home-grown ingredients.

“We wanted (the logo) to be kind of gritty, based in agriculture,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of a gritty cattle brand.”

(600 Wise Road, Lincoln; 916-740-9100; www.goathousebrewing.com)

Jackrabbit Brewing Co.

The logo’s long-eared creature is meant to symbolize Sacramento and the brewery’s beer selection, which runs in a different direction than the usual IPA-heavy offerings found at other West Coast breweries.

“The jackrabbit is one of those animals that you can’t live in the Sacramento area without seeing,” said Chris Powell, co-owner of Jackrabbit Brewing Co.

Jackrabbits are unique in that they land somewhere between cute, fluffy animal and vermin, Powell said. Similarly, his brewery doesn’t check the usual boxes, with its focus on German and Belgian beers.

“We thought (the jackrabbit) would be a good fit for our brand because what we’re doing is a little bit different than the other breweries around here,” Powell said.

The company doesn’t have a tap room, but it plans to open one in West Sacramento by the end of 2014.

( www.jackrabbitbrewingcompany.com)

Loomis Basin Brewing Co.

The founders of Loomis Basin Brewing have longstanding family ties to Loomis, and their logo is a tribute to their hometown and its fruit packing industry.

“We wanted to showcase, along with the beers, the town, and kind of pay homage to area, the small town that supports me,” said Ken Gowan, brewer at Loomis Brewing. “Loomis has been a great asset and partner.”

Many of the company’s designs are modeled after the logos of fruit-packing companies, an industry that the Gowan family was part of before it began brewing beer.

“This area (is known) especially for the fruit, the citrus,” Gowan said. “(The logo) is our way of paying homage to our area and the history of the area.”

(3277 Swetzer Road, Loomis; 916-259-2739; www.loomisbasinbrewing.com)

Mraz Brewing Co.

The Mraz Brewing Co. logo represents, in part, the brewery’s connection with Belgian beer tradition.

“I like their dedication to the craft and what they do,” said Mike Mraz, owner and head brewer at Mraz Brewing.

The wings pay homage to the Belgian churches and monks, he explained. The sword represents the brewery’s attitude toward the status quo of beer making. In other words, they are ready to do battle with business as usual.

“We want to push the envelope on the style of beers we make,” Mraz said. “The sword represents being aggressive, trying new things.”

(2222 Francisco Drive #510, El Dorado Hills; 916-934-0744; mrazbrewingcompany.com)

New Helvetia Brewing Co.

New Helvetia Brewing’s logo makes it obvious where the company brews its beer.

“The image was choosing something that clearly screams Sacramento that wasn’t the state Capitol,” said Dave Gull, New Helvetia’s chief financial officer. “The state Capitol is not inspiring, but a bridge is.”

A bridge connects people, and so does beer, Gull said. It seemed like a natural fit for the company, and no other brewery had snagged the Tower Bridge as its identifying mark.

“(The Tower Bridge) is an icon, a symbol of Sacramento,” Gull said. “And we love the idea that a bridge connects people.”

(1730 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-469-9889; newhelvetiabrew.com)

Rubicon Brewing Co.

The Rubicon man could pass for a businessman, a gangster or even a film-noir detective. But this fedora-sporting sipper of suds, tucked in the “o” of Rubicon, clearly is someone who knows good beer and will settle for nothing less.

“We like to think that he’s kind of an urban man,” said Glynn Phillips, Rubicon owner. “Some people call him Indiana Jones, some people call him a mafioso.”

The symbol has proved to be recognizable and thought-provoking, Phillips said. But the Rubicon man would mean nothing without the beer he represents. “It’s about what’s in the bottle, not what’s on the bottle,” he said. “The only way your beer is ever going to sell is if you put quality beer in the bottle.”

(2004 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; 916-448-7032; www.rubiconbrewing.com)

Ruhstaller Beer

The mysterious face of the Ruhstaller logo, a cigar-chomping stencil called “Jimmy,” is meant to give people a sense of the brewery’s hardworking personality.

“We work hard, we play hard,” said J-E Paino, owner of Ruhstaller, who declined to discuss the character’s youthful looks and fondness for cigars. “Jimmy embodies the spirit, the attitude (of Ruhstaller).”

But Jimmy isn’t meant to just represent the brewery – he also showcases the hardscrabble spirit of Sacramento.

“We’re kind of the workhorse (city) of the state,” Paino said. “When people look at (Jimmy) … they see themselves in him. For me, he fires me up.”

(630 K St., Sacramento; 916-447-1881; ruhstallerbeer.com)

Sudwerk Restaurant & Brewery

Sudwerk Brewery put this logo into use about a year ago to give people a new and more accurate image of the brewery’s personality.

“The bike is meant to represent Davis and the bear is for California,” said Caleb Weeks, office manager at Sudwerk. “The idea was to better update the logo with something that better represents our brand.”

While the brewery has maintained its German traditions, the company wanted to have a logo that spoke to the college town it calls home.

“The new logo will hopefully more identify with what we are as a company, which is a West Coast brewery with German roots and German brewing tradition,” Weeks said. “We found that our product with the old logo was sort of put on with import beers.”

(2001 Second St., Davis; 530-758-8700; www.sudwerk.com)

Track 7 Brewing Co.

Track 7’s logo is simple, easy to identify and looks nice at the top of a tap handle.

The phrase “Track 7” was a colloquialism used among railroad workers. Supposedly, when they received poor treatment from their boss, they were said to be “put on track 7.”

Brewmaster and logo-designer Ryan Graham wanted to pay homage to the railroad industry with the logo and the brewery, which sits just across Sutterville Road from a railyard.

“We were looking for a mark that would be able to stand alone,” Graham said. “(We wanted) something where people could see it and know what it means without any words.”

(3747 West Pacific Ave. #F, Sacramento; 916-520-4677; track7brewing.com)

Twelve Rounds Brewing

This bare-knuckle boxer honors the Irish and the father of Daniel Murphy, owner and brewer at Twelve Rounds Brewing.

“Well, first of all, I’m Irish,” Murphy said. “So we wanted something Irish.”

Bare-knuckle boxing seemed like a good way to commemorate the Irish and Murphy’s dad, who attempted to join a boxing organization in Oakland at the age of 13, even though you had to be 18 to join.

“Our whole brewery is boxing-themed,” Murphy said. “But (the logo) is kind of a tribute to my dad.”

(866 57th St., Sacramento; 916-500-1059; www.twelveroundsbrewing.com)

Read more articles by Will Wright



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