Brewery profile: Exale

When we were researching the book, our mate Dan, who was fixing up Exale’s taproom, said ‘They’d be great in the book’ and sometimes it’s as easy as that. We liked the story of how the name came about (when they left Tottenham Hale they wanted to be Exhale (geddit?) but had to drop the H on the advice of lawyers (kerching), we loved the striking design on the core range of cans and the approach they take to working with local designers, so we had a chat with co-founder Mark Hislop. We’d have written the interview up in a strong Glaswegian accent if we could…but you’re very welcome to read it in one.

Hi Mark. What’s your overall design ethos for Exale? “Eh, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of a design ethos before. We’ve done everything quite organically; basically we meet an artist, we like their work, have a few beers and something comes out of it. That’s what happened with Adam Brazier who did our logo and initial branding. We’ve also worked a lot with Wood Street Walls and the collective of artists they represent. So I guess our ethos is meet nice artists, get them a bit drunk and see what comes out. We’ve been fairly lucky with that approach this far haha.”

What do you want the design to say about Exale? “It varies beer to beer. I think we normally choose an artist style that works with the idea, so the Grissette Holler (below) by Jessie Richards is a riff on those old worldly Belgian bottles with drawings of farms and monasteries on them, with the West Coast it was surf themed. With Tropi the artist Darren John actually used a pineapple to apply textured paint to the design. So the artwork should give a visual cue to what you can expect from the flavours in the can, whether that’s because the artwork depicts flavours or whether it fits a style associated with certain beer styles. it should be the first clue to what people can expect from the beer.”

Artist Jesse Richards


How do you work with the illustrator / designer etc? “I sit down with the artist and explain what the beer style is and what it’s going to taste like and I normally leave it at that. Sometimes there’s a little more reference as with Holler, but with things like Deep Dark by Jez Dobson or Tropi (below) with Darren John it’s 100% their idea, Actually in Darren’s case it made me think, OK I better put more pineapple in now he’s painted the label with one so sometimes the art can change the beers!”

Who else’s design do you admire? “There are so many for different reasons but if i had to pick 3:
The Kernel – I love everything about that brewery, the simplicity and balance and nuance of the beers they make are incredible and I think their branding reflects that too. I’ve never spoken to Evin about

Who else’s design do you admire? “There are so many for different reasons but if i had to pick 3:
The Kernel – I love everything about that brewery, the simplicity and balance and nuance of the beers they make are incredible and I think their branding reflects that too. I’ve never spoken to Evin about that but I wonder if they put much thought into it or it was just something that happened [You really should read Beer By Design, Mark]. Either way I think it reflects the ethos of the brewery perfectly.
Left Handed Giant –  I think the artistic director there is incredible. I know Bruce very well from our time at Brewdog and he has an eye for finding talent and giving them freedom to develop. They have a uniformed style across all the beer but also an incredible collection of art. It’s something that’s very hard to do well and they have smashed it.
Beavertown – same concept as LHG but a bit ahead of the game. I know Logan and Nick pretty well from the early days and I love how organically it came together, Nick just working the restaurant and doing a random design and now he’s artistic director of a huge brand and probably the most recognised artist in the beer world. Beavertown was always destined to be pretty cool but Nick’s artwork took the brand to the next level and gave it an identity that made it instantly stand out.”

Apart from your own beers, whose are you currently enjoying? “There are a lot of good beers around at the moment. I’ve been particularly enjoying Deya. A lot of the big murky hop bombs lack balance and drinkability but these guys do it the best I think. The Hackney Brewery beers have been great recently and they are moving round the corner so looking forward to drinking more of those. I also had a Newbarns pilsner with callista dry hop the other day and it was a thing of beauty, well balanced crisp and refreshing and all just slightly elevated by the use of a subtle dry hop. Top work.”

A thing of beauty indeed.

What’s your most listened-to album of 2020? “I’ve got 2 young kids so Spotify tells me it’s Ugly Dolls and The Greatest Showman. I’ve been revisiting albums and listening to classics from track one all the way through: Led Zeppelin 3, Television Marquee Moon & NWA Straight Outta Compton have been great to revisit and all stand the test of time.”

Reading / watching anything interesting? “Honestly my reading is super dull. My mrs caught me reading about the chemical composition of field maple trees the other day.  I’m a bit of a geek and like to research A LOT. Watching wise i’ve seen some good stuff recently, watched Parks and Recreation for the first time, it’s great. The Watchmen and The Boys have been highlights of the year and The Dead Don’t Lie was my favourite movie. Zombies and Bill Murray: what else do you need?”

What are you looking forward to in 2021? “Everything haha. Looking forward to going to the pub like everyone else. I really just want to have a whole day in Newcastle drinking in the Free Trade Inn with all my Geordie mates. That pub is my spiritual home. I also really want to go to a footy match. I’m a Rangers fan and we won our first title in 10 years so it would be good to get back to a packed Ibrox for a champions league match in 2021. Oh and having a brewery that can sell beer to pubs, that would be a real upgrade on 2020.”

The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle.

Cats or dogs? “Well I’ve always been a dog guy, but we’ve adopted a stray cat in the last few years and he’s pretty great. He’s called Len and he’s kind of swaying me to cats. The kids want a puppy though and keep telling Len when he dies he’s getting replaced by a dog, which seems a bit out of order. so….Cats.

Long live Len. He deserves a Dreamie.

To find out more about Exale, please check out their website, and on socials:

Brewery and Taproom on Twitter

Exale on Insta.

And here’s to visiting taprooms and pubs across the UK from Monday! Chin chin, chaps!

Published by beerbydesign

Beer widow, picture researcher, author- and dog-wrangler.

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