At brunch over a decade ago in Portland, Oregon, Zookeeper founder Dave Waite met fellow native New Yorker Dan Malech and his wife watching a New York Jets game. Misery loves company and being a Jets fan means years of collective suffering. We bonded quickly and stayed in touch over the years.
Dan called us a couple of years ago and said he and his partner Rob, who was also a Jets fan, were getting serious about a new venture, a craft brewery to be located somewhere in Portland. He asked if we’d like to collaborate on naming and branding the brewery.
Brewing a tasty beer is essential in starting a brewery, but a compelling marketing strategy is crucial to attracting customers and getting them in the door. First and foremost, the brewery needed a name. And Portland is an exceptionally competitive town for breweries and bars so the name needed to be catchy and stick like glue in the mind.
Sometimes brainstorming, or name-storming as some call it, takes days and weeks to come up with the perfect name. For this project, it came to us quickly. Back in the late 1990s, Dave read a novel called ‘Night Dogs’ by Kent Anderson about police officers in Portland that contained a passage that referenced Mt. Hood, always a looming symbol as the tallest peak in the area. The natives called Hood “Wy’east” and were always fearful of the 11,250-foot volcanic mountain as it literally split storms in half. This was the only reference we could ever remember seeing to the name “Stormbreaker.” It was the perfect moniker and the client quickly agreed. The book cover and passage are now framed at the brewery.
With the name decided, it was time to start sketching. We love to brainstorm and the evocative name helped us fill pages and pages of our sketchbooks. Three clear concepts began to emerge.
Our identity design process typically consists of four rounds with three black-and-white sketch options for Round 1. In Portland, Hood and hops go hand-in-hand. The first concept was traditional if not unexpected, designed to be crisp and bold, with illustrated hops growing from the sides and Mt. Hood towering behind, along with imminent flanking clouds. The second idea evolved into a tribal totem slamming down on a looming cloudbank, splitting it in half. The crushed clouds would be spit out, making the totem appear to have arms. All typography for these concepts would be handcrafted.
While we are always comfortable going forward with any of the concepts we present, a clear favorite emerged for us, that of a mythical figure wielding an ominous pickaxe-like tool/weapon that rips clouds in half. In Portland, it rains. A lot. (So much so that it made us relocate to sunny L.A. back in 2007.) Instead of Mt. Hood breaking storms in half, the mysterious figure would become a superhero battling against the weather.
As we finalized the form and moved to full color, we next needed to craft StormBreaker’s logotype. We hand-drew the letters to be custom and weathered…and completely unique to the brewing company. It’s a process that takes an extreme amount of time but we feel it’s exceptionally important in designing a look and feel that no other brand has. We eschew the generic, font-out-of-a-box approach to logo design.
We finalized the identity, providing color options for Round 3. But there was little doubt green would be one of the primary colors in the logo with both owners being Jets fans. We delivered final logo files and the brewing company shortly thereafter signed a lease. Time to put the logo into action.
When customers visit StormBreaker, they’re greeted with a total brand experience. From glassware to signage to coasters, the beermaker’s character design and custom logotype are everywhere. With good company, the stage is set for many a memorable evening.
Outside of the brewery, the brand has recently made a big impression around town with its can’t-be-missed truck sporting the identity wrapped from bumper to bumper. The Incredible Hulk is shown in front of this truck to give a sense of scale and to frighten children.
StormBreaker apparel has proven to be a hot seller, with the identity appearing on T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and more. They regularly sell through the favorites both at the brewery and on-line. Apparel has become a significant source of income for the brand.
The brand has truly taken on a life of its own. The beer sells out and so does the apparel. The brewery has become a beacon in its North Portland neighborhood, always filled with thirsty customers. The owners are constantly on the lookout for space to expand. We’re excited to see how the brand grows, flourishes and expands in the years to come.
-Dan Malech, StormBreaker Brewing