Kirkstall Brewery was formed in 2010 by Steve Holt, a passionate advocate of craft beer. The opening of the brewery coincided with a period of deep economic recession, increasing beer tax and a record number of pub closures. In addition, there has been a boom in microbreweries and Kirkstall’s core regional market (Yorkshire) has more microbreweries than any other region.
The brief was to create a brand that has provenance and reinforces the craft and traditional brewing values of this regional brewery, as well as adding value and standing out in a very crowded and highly competitive market.
Creating a new craft brewery brand in this environment was particularly challenging, it had to stand out from the crowded market place in a credible way and build on the provenance of its name – inspired by Kirkstall Abbey and the brewing prowess of the Cistercian monks. In addition, the brand identity needed to add value at a time when the market has been flooded with microbreweries competing on price, and the price of a pint of beer has increased considerably.
The brand design takes its inspiration from the style of manuscripts that would have been produced by the Cistercian monks who inhabited the Kirkstall Abbey, near where the brewery is located. The K monogram is embellished with intertwined hops (a key ingredient in Kirkstall’s beers).
The designs for pump clips and bottle labels use a shield device that is inspired by the main entrance window of Kirkstall Abbey. Despite the brand’s historical references, the overall design is deliberately crisp and clean – the colour pallet for the brand logo is black and silver or black and white to retain a contemporary look and feel. The application is deliberately confident and fresh with the use of simple typography and supporting imagery, and strong colours – to add value and create stand out in what are generally very cluttered and busy pub environments.
The beer market is full of visually complicated brewery brands and one-off beer designs that lack brand integrity, this results in confusion for the consumer and a lack of equity, in terms of building brand reputation. The new branding for Kirkstall has been designed specifically to address this issue.
The key objectives of the design were to deliver provenance and build on the brewing heritage of the Kirkstall area, that was developed over the centuries. The brand is designed to deliver added value both at point of purchase and on branded merchandise. Also, budgets are limited and an important factor in the design was the ability to implement the brand cost effectively and enable range extensions to be economically applied.
Ultimately, the Kirkstall brand design is about credibility, clarity and craft – and creating presence on the pub bar and retail shelf. The brand has integrity across all its applications and is immediately recognisable, helping to build a following of loyal ale drinkers.
The new brand identity has delivered on all counts and has been fundamental to the brewery success. This has culminated in Kirkstall’s flagship beer (Dissolution Extra IPA) winning the Sainsbury’s Regional Ale award for design and quality – giving the brewery guaranteed distribution across Sainsbury’s regional stores.
Kirkstall Brewery saw a 166% increase in sales, 1,257% increase in profit, 320% increase in employees, 1,075% return on investment and outperformed the market by 4,154%. Increase in profit was due to the increase in consumer and trade demand, this coincided with the launch of the new brand.