When the pandemic forced Trevor Livingstone of Franklin’s Livingstone Brewing to close his tasting room, he switched to canning and distributing his brews practically overnight. This pivot brought about another major challenge: ensuring his brand would stand out in the supercharged visual environment of a beer fridge.
Livingstone quickly called on graphic designer David Drummond, who had crafted the farm brewery’s look from the beginning. A specialist in book cover design, Drummond happily agreed to partake and plunged head-on into the complex but refreshing world of beer labels.
The pair began working with stock photos for the first few designs, but quickly changed course with the revelation that Livingstone had a stash of old family photos. “We thought it would be really neat if we could connect it all to Covey Hill,” says Drummond, especially considering the brewery is established in the Livingstone family’s century-old barn which is nestled at the crest of the Valley’s iconic peak. As a brewer, Livingstone is known for incorporating ingredients grown on his family’s farm, as well as from area growers, in his concoctions. Adding some local flavour to the labels seemed like a perfect fit.
Rooted in local culture
Drummond admits it took some time to orient the brewery’s brand. He began working with Livingstone in 2016 to develop ideas, signage, and a logo. “Those two hammers [in the logo] – it is all about stone masonry,” says Drummond, referring to the Livingstone family trade. “Using historical photographs [for the labels] … it’s telling his story.”
Concerning the labels, he explains that “The challenge then was that we couldn’t just use some random family photos. They had to be captivating as well.” With colour added to the chosen black-and-white images, “They had to stand out, but they also had to say something about the brewery.”
Livingstone is well aware of the complex task he set for Drummond in finding the perfect recipe for his labels. “I’m asking David to encompass a whole culture in one can,” he says, with a laugh. “He does a fantastic job of getting across what I am trying to do here,” he adds, suggesting the labels have helped set the brewery apart in a very competitive industry.
An evolving process
Drummond says the central idea behind the designs has continued to evolve with each batch of beer. For example, when Livingstone Brewing introduced its marquee Covey Hill Lager this past year, the label represented a slight departure from the world of photography into cartography. “There is a vernacular out here that we are all aware of,” says Drummond, referring to the highway numbers and place names that make up Franklin’s geography.
To mark the brewery’s third anniversary this month, Livingstone has released a savoury new beer each week. These include an Italian Pilsner, Saura, which is a farmhouse beer inspired by traditional brewing methods and ingredients from Chuvashia in eastern Europe, as well as a smoked maple porter.
All the labels, while strikingly different, continue to express a connection with farming and family. The porter label features a photograph of James Watt and his son Melvin, who is Livingstone’s grandfather, collecting maple sap on Covey Hill near where the brewery now stands.
Drummond says the photography concept, while consistent in theme, has also been broadened to reflect the origins and ingredients in the different beers. The label for the Pomme Waller blonde released last fall features a black-and-white photograph of apple crates from Waller’s orchard in Franklin. Another example is the soon-to-be-released Elgin Scottish Brown ale, which features an image of proud Elginite and leader of the Elgin and District Pipes and Drums band, Wanda Goundrey, playing her pipes in the company of a sheep.
This beer and its label are just the latest in a line of locally inspired masterpieces by a brewer and designer at the top of their game.