I like Badger. I like what they do. Based in Blandford Forum, Dorset, Hall and Woodhouse produce a core range of beers with a simple selection of seasonals. Unlike most British breweries, Badger’s focus is more on their bottle range ahead of their cask selection (since 2000 the bottled beer market has increased 184% whereas cask has declined, only now seeing it level out and begin to increase). Their bottled beers are in supermarkets across the country, so they have a broad reach to beer drinkers (although you can only buy their cask beers in their tied pubs). For me, it’s their labelling which I like the most.
Through research into the beer market and branding (which they do very well) they found that most people thought the brewery was synonymous with the countryside, which is reflected in their labelling - earthy colours, outdoorsy, uncomplicated, that Badger peering around curiously. But it’s the back of the labels where I think they have the most success. An interesting blurb, simple and concise, with a little information and story about the beer which seamlessly blends into a suggested food pairing for the beer. It’s very much in the wine-style of label, just on a 500ml beer bottle – it’s ideal for the casual shopper to pick up, read and understand, while the food suggestion gives a handy point of reference as to what this might be like (even without any idea of the beer, if it says it works with spicy food then we get an expectation of flavour profile). Beneath this blurb are two visual representations of flavour: the Cyclops and the taste chart (like the one for Lemony Cricket, their summer seasonal, below). Cyclops is an industry-wide visualisation (although it’s fair to say that not everyone uses it) of sight, smell and taste suggested by the eye, nose and mouth symbols, which gives two or three descriptions for each. The taste chart is Badger’s own creation, something they added to their labels a number of years ago. This lists Bitter, Sweet, Hoppy, Fruity and Malty and ranks each out of five, offering a suggestion of the taste sensations to be expected, while introducing the concept of malt and hops as ingredients. The success of the labels is that they can encourage new drinkers by giving a number of different hints as to what the beer might be like, something which few others achieve in such a small window of space.
It’s no surprise that the Badger bottles sell well – they give the consumer information which others often don’t. They also work because they stand out well on the shelves, they are consistent, interesting, broad in their reach and flavours and they are largely unchallenging to their market. Their importance is that they are a great gateway brewery: they are good for people who don’t know much about the spectrum of beer flavours because they offer the clues of what they can expect and they present it in a neat way. Some may go no further than happily ferreting through the Badger range, while for others it may be the start of something more. I’m sure most people reading this would’ve had a Badger beer soon after they got the taste for ale and I’m sure there are readers who still have Badger beers in their fridge now (I’ve got some Blandford Fly and Golden Champion in mine).
Are they a good gateway brewery to introduce new drinkers to different flavours? Are the labels successful? Do you like these visual clues to beers? Should others follow the Badger lead with their labelling information?