02 November 2016
When Eric and I started Wild Heaven in 2010, our specific vision was to help elevate beer culture in the South. Eric’s long homebrew history eschewed historically popular lighter American beers and even more popular craft styles, like IPA. We launched with two 8%+ ABV beers, Invocation, a Belgian-style Golden Ale, and Ode To Mercy, an imperial brown ale with coffee. To this day, we haven’t heard of another brewery launching with such a strange pair of beers. You’d think our third beer would have been a pale, or an IPA or something more sessionable. Instead, in 2011, we launched our all-malt Belgian-style Quadruple Ale, Eschaton, to rave reviews including a Gold audience award at Hotoberfest.
Our logo, built around a classic tulip goblet, an ideal vessel for Belgian-style beers, was designed to signal that we were making higher-end beers. We asked designer Adam Houston of Bridge Creative to illustrate heaven, knowing that might be impossible. The resulting winged glass icon was (and is) great. We’ve loved it and have kept is as the central branding element, even as it’s evolved (see below).
We named ourselves Wild Heaven Craft Beers for pretty specific reasons, too. The “craft” to identify with the growing craft beer movement and to signal that we care how this beer is made. “Beers” as opposed to “brewing company” or “brewery” to acknowledge that at the time, we did not own or operate a brewing facility (we were contract brewed by our friends at Thomas Creek Brewery).
Today we change all that, for a number of reasons.
The first reason has to do with the phenomenon you’ve probably experienced where you buy a certain car and suddenly you notice that same car is everywhere. That’s what happened to us with winged logos of various sorts. Not only are there a ton of them, many of them kind of suck.
Then this little thing called Emergency Drinking Beer happened. And a year later, Wise Blood IPA. All of a sudden our top two beers comprising nearly two-thirds of our volume are beers you don’t serve in a tulip goblet. Nothing wrong with that, but it made our logo a bit discordant.
The final piece of the puzzle revolves around the idea of “craft”. The beer world here in the U.S. is changing at light speed. Every day we hear some sort of big news, be it an acquisition, a merger, a hot new style, and lately, some bad news like layoffs at larger breweries. One change that’s hard to avoid is what the very idea of “craft” means. The Brewers Association, of which we are a member, has a very clear and useful definition of a craft brewer (which we applaud and support). Craft breweries are small (under 6 million barrels), traditional (making primarily all-grain beer) and independent (not more than 25% owned by a company that is not themselves a craft brewer).
In 2015, the U.S. District Court in San Diego threw out a lawsuit brought against MillerCoors that marketing Blue Moon as a “craft beer” constituted a deceptive marketing practice saying that there is no commonly accepted definition of craft beer among American consumers (the non-binding BA definition notwithstanding). So on some official or legal level, the word is meaningless. But it goes deeper. We all want consumers to believe in our beer because it’s made with care and love, the traditional way, and in many cases, local to the ultimate drinker. We care a lot about all that. It’s a big part of who we are.
But as beer culture continues to grow up in the United States and as more breweries change their ownership structures, countless more will use terms like “artisanal” or even “origin beer,” and the word craft will mean less and less. Our vision in the craft beer world is and will continue to be to break down the hegemony of the oligopoly we not-so-affectionately refer to as “BMC”—Bud, Miller, Coors. Our goal is for our independent breweries to become the dominant producers, in the aggregate, of American beer. We work toward this every day and the data says we’re getting there. One day “craft” will be redundant.
So here at Wild Heaven Beer, we’re just assuming that future. We’re going to get there. We know you want better beer, and we know that most people who don’t yet drink better beer, just haven’t been properly exposed to it. We’ll add them to the family tomorrow, with your help. For now, we raise a glass of beer to you, and to our 4400+ fellow American craft brewers, as we work to get better at our craft.
Nick Purdy for Eric & the Wild Heaven Beer Team