Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

How the Other Guys Do It: BrewDog’s Punk IPA

If you want to figure out what’s happening — or not happening — with Czech beer, it might help to look at how some of the other guys do it. Take, for example, the Punk IPA from Scotland’s BrewDog.

But I don’t mean the beer itself. I just mean the packaging.

In contrast to most Czech beer labels, the Punk IPA label goes almost all the way around the 330-ml bottle, and as such it has room for a lot of information. (Also in contrast to most Czech beer labels: it contains a lot of information.)

Some of this will sound familiar to those who remember the thoughts on Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf post which disappeared down the server wormhole. Indeed, many aspects of the BrewDog packaging are similar to Kocour’s, such as the use of a logo — “a symbol or small design adopted by an organization to identify its products” — beyond the brewery’s name. In Kocour’s case, it’s a stylized K that looks like a tomcat.

Similarly, BrewDog has its howling dog.

I can’t recall any Czech craft brewer beyond Kocour that has a functioning logo. Avar, maybe? (By contrast, think of Heineken. A certain shade of green and a red star, right?)

Another point from the Kocour post was “never miss a chance to talk about your beer.” Even the Punk IPA’s crown cap makes use of available space — you’ve got the brand name and the logo on top, with phrase “Aberdeenshire’s Mega Microbrewery” written around the side.

Other parts of the label tell us the brewers, Martin Dickie and James Watt, as well as “the BrewDog Promise,” which includes putting “no preservatives, additives or other junk in your beer.” This is a lot of information, and it represents a concept that is completely absent in Czech beer marketing: start a conversation with your consumers. This label even suggests that such communication could possibly go both ways: “Let us know what you think of Punk IPA:”

However, there are two suggestions from the Kocour post that the Punk IPA packaging doesn’t follow. The first is to tell consumers more about the ingredients and how you used them. We don’t know what kind of hops were used in the Punk IPA (Fuggles? Kent Goldings? Styrian Goldings?) and we aren’t told what kind of malt (Maris Otter? Weyermann?). Nor do most Czech brewers do this, though they certainly should.

The second aspect from the Kocour post that is missing here: don’t bullshit us. In fact, the BrewDog label contains a massive shovelful of BS, though in this case the bull comes off as the kind of funny and harmless joshing between good friends: “It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.” (Really? Try me, ace.)

The overall impression, though, is really positive: the design, like it or hate it, is not an afterthought, as it often seems with most Czech beer packaging. Much like the Kocour typeface, BrewDog’s stencil-like block caps suggests street smarts and punk rock, not a bad image for an upstart brewery, and perfectly in line with a beer BrewDog calls “aggressive” and “post modern.” If this beer were made by a Czech brewer, it would probably have a dead baroness on the label and a name written out in some kind of ridiculous Baroque script.

And for the beer itself: it’s really very good, quite hoppy, nicely bitter in the finish, though not nearly as aggressive as it claims. N’est pas gourmand qui veut, as the man said, and the same holds true for punks.

This post marks Beer Culture’s return to regular publishing after the wormhole incident and is part of a joint project with Fuggled and Pivní Filosof on the same subject. Go read their posts now.


Hey, What Does This “Wormhole” Thingy Do?


Some Thoughts on the New Czech Brewery Kocour


  1. Hey, I want to taste those beers in the future too:)
    I will “trade it” for samples I have from my trips. You will not regret:)

    I am also working on beer – cuisine project. Samples of different beer styles and looking for matching food. How about that?

  2. The scary thing about the mass of the Czech beer industry is that it is only 150 years ago that they were innovators and mould breakers.


    Will bear that in mind next time I am abroad in the world.

  3. I knew you would have a go at the marketing thing. Good comments you have about it. Didn’t like the rant on the label either, and I think that is what put me off a bit. Even my wife, who doesn’t like very bitter beers too much didn’t think this one was too agressive. Probably they should learn to shut up.
    BTW, the ingredients include barley, not malt. That confused me, and I agree that they could have used the extra space to tell us a bit more abut how the beer was brewed.

    Your project looks really interesting!

  4. I thought the label was hilarious! Along the same lines as Wychwood’s “What are you afraid of lager boy? Scared you might taste something?” tag that they used with Hobgoblin.

  5. I love their labels, though the Punk IPA is probably not quite as mean as they claim to. I think you should put it in context – other British IPAs tend to be very bland, the Greene King IPA is a good excample of that.
    You should go for their Paradox series of Stouts aged in whisky barrels next, each one of them with a character soaked up form the ghost of the whisky that used to be in the barrels.
    I actually got a few bottles from the brewery yesterday. Maybe a review should mark my return to the land of the beer bloggers? We’ll see..

  6. “though in this case the bull comes off as the kind of funny and harmless joshing between good friends”

    Actually, my reaction was that the first sentence is more-or-less directly copied from the Arrogant Bastard Ale bottles. It’s not a big deal, but I was kind of disappointed that they couldn’t have hidden their inspiration a bit better.

  7. “I can’t recall any Czech craft brewer beyond Kocour that has a functioning logo. Avar, maybe? ” There are, problem is that most of them won’t bottle their products. Sv. Norbert has a pretty fine logo and I like the labels on X33 and Oldgott, just to mention two. Of the rest, most tend to be of the old fashioned or, if you want it, classic type, Purkmistr with the camel is a good example.

  8. Purkmistr’s camel is a logo, yes, as is Avar’s mustachioed Avar. But no, I don’t believe Sv. Norbert has a logo as such, not in the sense of “a symbol or small design adopted by an organization to identify its products.” Neither does U Medvídků, for that matter. They may have nice labels, but no, they do not appear to have logos. (Or if I’m missing out on Sv. Norbert’s symbol, please tell me what it is.)

    Hi Lars, excellent point. However I wonder if the target audience for Punk IPA is even aware of Stone’s beers. In any case, the text is ridiculously similar: it looks like a cut-and-paste job. To the lawyers!

  9. Punk IPA was one of the first beers from BrewDog, and while their aspirations were probably there, I don’t think they envisaged golbal distribution when they wrote the label!

  10. Sv. Norbert does have a logo, and nice one at that. here you can see it
    Also does U Medvídku, but it is actually the same as the restaurant, pension, etc and I they don’t use it on the bottles, at least not that I remember of.
    Come to think of it, most craft brewers have logos, have a look at, the thing is that many, if not most, are pretty dodgy and they can only be seen at the brewpub, since they don’t bottle their beers.

  11. I’m sorry, Max, but you’re wrong. That is not a logo. A logo is something like the Heineken red star, the Michelin Man, or the Nike swoosh. A logo is a symbol. Not words.

    Something that says “Svatý Norbert Special Beer” in a specific typeface is a different element of marketing. It’s called a logotype.

    Logos and logotypes are not the same thing.

    The difference between logo and logotype has been described quite clearly at Yahoo answers:

    “A logo is a graphical element, (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign).”

    “A logotype is a uniquely set and arranged typeface.”

    So Svatý Norbert clearly doesn’t have a logo, unless you mean the woodcarving of the hop cone. That still doesn’t fit my definition of a functioning logo — it’s too complicated and intricate to work as a symbol or design used to identify products. Moreover (and more to the point), it’s nothing like BrewDog’s howling dog or Kocour’s tomcat.


  12. I do mean the carving. Yes, it is complicated, but it works pretty well as the symbol of the brewery, IMO.

    To me a logo is something that identfies a company, or a brand, and it should have a lot to do with the image the company wants to give. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something streamlined like a red star to do the job. There are countless companies out there, breweries of all sizes included, that have what might be called complicated logos that still do the job very well. Kocour’s, which is a bit in the style of brewdog, if you ask me, works very well for a brewery of its kind, its style wouldn’t be appropriate for one called Sv. Norbert.

  13. What a interesting discussion:)
    I think you are both right. Evan with description of what logo and logo type is. Pivero with idea, that even the type of writing can regognizable for a company, here for the brewery. There could be also a face associated with brand, which would be difficult to “re=write” into logo or logotype.

    And yes, our “tomcat” style logo is no good for Svaty Norbert. When they put themself into a history and few centuries old story, they need something related to it…

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