By now you may have noticed the shiny new Ommegang bottles that hit the market early this fall, wrapped in the centuries-old art of silhouetted figures. Looking closely, you’ll notice the Ommegang lion still living on the bottle, but now streamlined as a stamp on every bottle’s neck–in addition to holding a new pint in its paw. “We wanted to reflect a nature of celebration,” Joseph Duffy, Jr., of Duffy and Partners, says of using the royal crest-like figure in a playful way.
The brand design company was faced with the task of balancing a contemporary American brewery with its hundreds of years of Belgian tradition, an image kept closely in line by the folks at Duvel.
“During the process, we talked about Ommegang as a second generation Belgian immigrant to the U.S.,” Duffy says. In its multi-cultural identity, Ommegang sustains a deep love for its monk family back home while romping out of the American gate with its own imaginative innovations, i.e. the many seasonals and varietals. “People were recognizing the individual beer brands, but not Ommegang. We really wanted to put more focus on the brewery itself,” Duffy says of the new silhouetted labels, a simple design architecture meant to remain flexible in its consistency. They wanted the design to be something that was easy to continue, not a “one-off” illustration.
Talking about that “done in the back room” design that permeates the craft industry, Duffy points to the worry that growing small brewers have of whether they’re becoming too ‘un-craft;’ “A lot of breweries do things one way when they start out with a few different beers. When they find success and growth, consistency becomes more important. Ommegang was in that crossroads, and wanted to maintain the fine balance.”
The silhouettes can change infinitely to tell various stories of Belgian brewing heritage. For instance, Rare Vos (Flemish for “sly fox”) is the name of a pub in Brussels made famous for bicycle and pigeon races. The label boasts a fox and pigeon doing what? Cheersing Rare Vos together, of course. The clean, yet quirky shadow figures are a way to tell of a long heritage in a simple visual way, traversing easily between each beer and story.
The labels also needed to represent the fine quality of the beer. As Duffy says, “Ommegang is not cheap. It’s meant for special occasions; you’re not going to sit down and drink one of these big bottles by yourself.” That inimitable fineness is reflected in the hand-drawn labels’ regal jewel tones, premium-looking diamond pattern, and robust finish via embossing and varnish. As a family, the labels achieve a quintessential American feel, while retaining that sophistication of a long line of Belgian brewing. Duffy refers to the new bottles as “jewels in the Ommegang crown.”