Dave Stone, head honcho at Wylam Brewery has lots of opinions, many of which we agree with (see above). For him, beer was a logical move from his previous career in the music industry, but once you’ve got music in your bones, there’s no getting away from it. As part of the research for Beer by Design, we asked for the story behind Searching For The Joys Again and he sent a YouTube link to a track by Shack (see below) and said ‘The lead singer was a massive smack head and it’s a song about searching for heroin on the streets of Kensington. The artwork depicts how people often bury their heads rather than seek joy.’ Which was so brilliant, we wanted to know more.
Dave, music is integral to everything you brew. Can you explain? “Music certainly weaves a very important thread through our beers. Our head brewer Ben was in bands and put gigs on previously and I also came from music into beer. I used to put on festivals and co-owned a couple of nightclubs. Over a decade or so ago it became apparent that the internet was breaking the route to market for music. I have no problem with the technology in principle but unfortunately thanks to peer-to-peer sites such as Limewire and the like people were simply stealing music and in the process it was being devalued. So myself and my business partner had a wild night on the piss one night and thought about what we could do moving forward that we loved equally as much as music. Several pints in we managed to work out you can’t download beer from the internet and the rest as they say is history.”
How does this translate to the design of the cans? “It’s certainly an big influence, alongside what’s happening in the world… which is all a bit nuts at the moment isn’t it! A beer name like Searching For The Joys Again is inspired by the band Shack whereby Sleepwalking Into Dystopia is inspired by the current state of affairs. Tallboy cans are wonderful image carriers, there is space to express our ethos on the label alongside the liquid that is inside the can.”
What’s your overall design ethos? “We have some core brand guidelines which we predominantly stick to. The centre bar with the beer name and logo on is important. In a good independent beer shop these days the fridges are amass with bold, beautiful, vibrant designs and for us the centre bar is an important constant that identifies the beer as a Wylam Beer. Design is of course a mode of persuasion that attracts the potential purchaser and our design ethos is centred around the personality of the beer and the folk that brew it. We work closely with Sally Linsdell who is what would be referred to these days as a ‘digital nomad’. She’s from here in the North East but lives in Bali where she runs Real Eyes her design agency. There is a definite benefit to the fact that she’s so disconnected from the goings on here plus it’s not too shabby when I have to go to her office for a meeting.”
Any particular favourites? “Ah that’s a bit like asking me which of my children is my favourite (the answer to that by the way is neither as I prefer my dog hahaha). I couldn’t really pick one design out as it’s ever evolving. For me the real joy is in the finessing, where you start with an idea and a rough directional and then coax it on till the final proof marries up to what you had in your mind’s eye. Also, due to the fact that the modern beer drinker rarely wants to try the same beer twice (which for me is one of the biggest negatives in beer currently) we are releasing at least three never-to-be-repeated beers and corresponding designs a month so it’s the body of work that becomes favourite rather than each individual design.”
Apart from your own beers, whose are you currently enjoying? “For hop forward stuff the holy trinity of Deya, Verdant and Cloudwater always make their mark. The Kernel do things right on every level and there is a beautiful honesty to their beers. Burning Sky are true masters of their craft and never disappoint however it feels a bit unfair to just mention these breweries. Let’s face it there are so many brilliant UK independents out there right now that I could go on all day listing them. I feel that whilst the initial wave of excitement around modern beer may have peaked the standards in British Independent brewing is still going up. It’s a good time to drink beer regardless of all this pandemic bollocks.”
What’s your most listened-to album of 2020? “I think it’s a dead heat between ‘Untitled (Black Is)’ by Sault and ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ by Bob Dylan. Sault [Guardian review here by Alexis Petridis] are a must listen for those who haven’t found them yet and the new Dylan album is, in my opinion, the best thing he’s done for decades.”
What are you looking forward to in 2021? “That’s the simplest question to answer that you’ve asked me so far and can be answered in just two words… The Pub.”
We’re with you there. Cheers Dave.