By Matt Canter, Certified Cicerone® and member of the Anchor Marketing team.
2015 is well underway, and with a new year comes new year’s resolutions, new goals, new hope, and new promise for the months ahead. And if you’re one of the 3,000+ craft breweries in the U.S., the new year means a chance to flex your creative muscles to create, test, and brew some fun new beers that—with any luck—folks outside the brewery will enjoy as much as you do.
For our own 2015, we have a lot of delicious new brews on the schedule. Our first new offering, of what will undoubtedly be a very exciting year, is the Anchor Argonaut Collection. It is a limited edition of uniquely Anchor brews—some old favorites revisited along with some brand new brewhouse creations.
Our first release in the Anchor Argonaut Collection is Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout™, a brewery favorite that made its debut in January 2013 as Zymaster #3. It will be available in March 2015 in newly designed 4-packs as well as on draught. It’s an export stout (7.4 % ABV) made with English Maris Otter malt, two black malts, flaked barley and Golding hops. It has a deep, dark chocolate maltiness and a dry finish, as you would expect from a Dublin-style brew. We blew through our employees-only test keg in one day, so it definitely has the Anchor seal of approval.
The image of a ship on our bottle label (not in our bottle—still working on that) is from an old and rare newspaper in our brewery historian’s collection, from all the way back in 1851. It depicts the Flying Cloud ship in New York as it’s loading for the first of its 6 voyages to San Francisco.
The neck label image has its own story. The woman whose trumpet toots “89 DAYS”—the NY to SF record that the Flying Cloud set on its first voyage—is from a clipper card, in fact, the only surviving Flying Cloud clipper card from the Gold Rush. If you look very closely at the bow of the Flying Cloud on our label, you’ll see that this woman is actually the ship’s figurehead.
Clipper cards are a piece of history all unto themselves. During the Gold Rush, clipper ships would have little cards to advertise the speed with which they could transport eager argonauts and their cargo to San Francisco. The Flying Cloud’s record stood until 1989!
The design of our labels, like the creation of our brews, starts with a strong concept. The Argonaut/Flying Cloud design is a collaboration between our packaging & design expert/brewery historian Dave Burkhart and our longtime artwork crafter, Jim Stitt.
Typically, Dave describes the story of the beer and his vision for the label to Jim as they sit next to each other on Jim’s boat—the idea, the background, anything to help convey the concept. From there, the two friends sketch a little (one a lot more precise and artistic than the other!), chat, and imagine together, after which Jim will get to work on the actual illustration. A few meetings later, the artwork is ready to be prepped for the digital world, thanks to a wonderful, local scanner, designer, and photographer. Finally, if all goes according to plan, the work is share-worthy and shared with with other Anchor team members for their feedback.
Jim hand-drew the magnificent garlands of hops and barley that frame the ship on the label as well as the Argonaut 4-pack’s fanciful corner artwork with the little anchors (like photo corners for a scrapbook, as Dave described them to Jim). On the 4-pack, the period typography of the word Argonaut is inspired by an original stock certificate in Dave’s collection, which came from an old California gold-mining company.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the design process here at Anchor is that it’s a concept that is born, evolved, tweaked, fermented (?), and finally created by Dave and Jim together, with a little help from their friends, as the old song goes. It’s not sales driven, marketing driven, management driven, nor trendy-design-firm driven either. Rather, it’s a brewery-centric process that keeps our labels as uniquely Anchor as our beers.
The fact that this offering will be in 4-packs of bottles might seem brand new for Anchor, but it’s not. In 1971, for Anchor’s first modern-day bottling, then-owner Fritz Maytag had the clever idea to use 4-packs to differentiate our beer from the 6-packs of mass-produced, store-dominated, American beers so prevalent in the 70s. The 4-pack, as it turned put, was way ahead of its time, so we converted to 6-packs. But, once every 44 years or so, as we say at Anchor, the 4-pack is back!
Our new collection of beers got its strong name from an earlier consideration of the word Argonaut. During the creation of our Anchor IPA, a lot—and we mean a lot—of names were floated (no pun intended). In the end, Anchor IPA was the favorite, which gives both “Anchor” and “IPA” equal weight in the name and on the label. Out of that process came the name Argonaut, as well as a handful of very cool names that just might make an appearance on an Anchor brew someday.
We’re glad we held the Argonaut name back, because once it took its place on a jet-black 4-pack (complete with ghost ship, anchor corners, and a stunning Flying Cloud label), the Anchor Argonaut Collection was truly ready for its maiden voyage.
At Anchor, we believe that a label is like a little poster, which grabs your attention from afar and holds your attention up close. Ultimately, though, it’s the beer’s job to fulfill the expectation and anticipation that the label creates. And the successful synergy of label and beer—outside the bottle and inside the bottle—creates a unique product that resonates with those who appreciate the craft in craft beer.
Expect to find the Anchor Argonaut Collection at the same retail establishments where you currently find Anchor beers. Have you tried our Anchor Beer Finder?