Merry Monks by Weyerbacher

Label Approval by | May 2012 | Issue #64

The mischievous monks of Weyerbacher have been fixtures in craft beer’s cast of characters since 2003—and they were starting to show their age.

“The old label has a cartoon quality and also the sense that it was done digitally, since the line work is all the same thickness with colored fills,” explains Sean Clark, who illustrated the new Merry Monks label, which is due for release in mid-June. Clark’s redesign hones in on the gestures that are the pith of the scene: “the finger to the lips and the tapping of the ale,” he says.

That scene—“a clandestine mission by a handful of rogue monks to sample the fruits of their labor,” as Clark describes it—captures the mischief that in part defines Weyerbacher as a brand. “Clearly, the monks are being quiet and cautious, but is it because they don’t want to be caught, or is it because this special brew requires respect and admiration? Both, I think,” Clark says.

The new label is part of a major overhaul of Weyerbacher’s branding. Customers agreed with the brewery team: Even though Merry Monks is one of the highest-reviewed US-brewed Belgian-style Tripels, “Quality in the beers … wasn’t necessarily represented in the packaging,” says Josh Lampe, from SSM Creative, the marketing firm that worked on the project. The most glaring offense? That italic Comic Sans logo. (It’s since been replaced.)  Another easy decision was keeping Weyerbacher’s trademark jester—Clark just added detail and made him more puckish.

Then it was on to the labels, and Merry Monks was first up. After a few throw-away concepts—like a monk sleeping it off on top of a barrel—Clark was struck by the idea to close-crop the main monk. “It’s like a frame out of a movie scene rather than just a bunch of monks occupying the same space, the same distance from the viewer,” he explains. “Another addition was to turn the casks on their sides so we get those rounded shapes that are also echoed in the doorways and the monk’s round head.”

After seven months of work, the team achieved their goal—getting the quality of the beer to match the quality of the packaging, while staying true to what’s made Weyerbacher a pillar of the industry all these years. “There’s a lot of emotional connection to an original work,” Clark says. “The story is the same, but they couldn’t be more different.”