Muskoka Brewery’s Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout Label Personifies Winter in Ontario

Label Approval by | Jan 2017 | Issue #120

Jason Dawes and Jeff Harrison are understated guys—from their description of winter in Ontario (“Usually there’s a good amount of cold with a healthy amount of snow”), to their packaging design. Take Winter Beard—the character who personifies one of Muskoka Brewery’s winter seasonals, a Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout.

“We went through a number of rounds of pencil sketches in order to find the perfect character to represent the beer,” says Harrison, founder and creative director of design collective One Twenty Three West. “The character represents that outdoor, rugged guy who grows his beard in the winter simply to keep warm. [And] the cranberries stuck to his beard represent the ingredients used in the product.”

In fact, the character has taken on a life of its own, inspiring look-alike and beard-growing contests. “We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” says Harrison.

The healthy beard covers not just the 750-milliliter bottle, but also the box it comes in, which won a gold medal at the 2015 PAC packaging design awards. “It definitely lets you know that this is a premium product, but it’s not unapproachable. And that’s very much who we are,” says Dawes, pointing out that if you visit, you can likely chat with owner and founder Gary McMullen and find locals staffing the brewery.

Harrison has collaborated with the brewery for more than 10 years, and his designs conjure the ambience of its hometown, Bracebridge, and the Muskoka area. For the winter seasonal label, they considered ice fishing, ice logging, and ice skating … but nothing seemed to capture winter in Muskoka quite like beard-growing.

“The design is a subtle reminder that both drinking the beer and growing your beard will definitely warm you this winter,” says Harrison.

Muskoka is as much a state of mind as it is a place, says Dawes. “You can have that experience no matter where you are. And it also entices people to go on that beer journey and discover something that’s a little bit different.”