Crit* McGrath’s Premium Ales

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McGrath’s is a range of premium ales created by Clanconnel, a Northern Irish microbrewery that specialises in natural, high quality, handcrafted beers produced through a combination of traditional and artisan techniques with a modern twist.

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The ale’s visual identity and packaging solution, recently redeveloped by specialist design agency Drinksology, was inspired by the famous 19th Century greyhound, Master McGrath, and his racing successes.Drinksology's design boldly appropriates a regional racing legend and mixes it with typographical blend of old and new, a traditional pub sign layout, iconic greyhound illustration and a tactile substrate with edging detail to draw together the regional, handcrafted qualities of the ale and develop a sense of brand heritage to capture Clanconnel’s 180 year old brewing techniques.

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The greyhound illustration has been well rendered with some neat shadow and line work that really captures the physique of a track dog with a good sense of motion and energy. It is neatly tied to the logo-type below through a shared detail that forms the track and frames the type. The broad spacing, heavy letter-forms and internal highlights of the logo-type reflect a hardworking 19th century proletarian work ethic and heavy industry but with a contemporary slab serif twist that reflects the Clanconnel’s mixed approach to brewing. Unfortunately it does share a couple of similarities with the free and saturated typeface Museo that makes it appear a little cheaper than it should be. The layout of these two elements and their position across the label has a subtle pub sign aesthetic that lends further weight to the tradition of ale drinking and working class hobbies.

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The secondary sans serif typeface has been competently executed across the label with a nice eye for space and used to build a front-of-pack three line narrative that, although offering little in the way of depth, makes the concept clear. The recipe numbers and their tones, referenced from McGrath's racing jacket, introduces a weighty and colourful contrast to the smaller type and neatly unify the themes of individuality, craft, unique and hearty flavour profiles (through their bold and usual forms) and, builds on the adopted racing heritage of the brand. The signature, bizarrely signed off by the dog, communicates pride, delivers a fine and organic contrast to the geometry of the other type treatments (perhaps a subtle nod to the natural ingredients) and has a direction that counters that of the greyhound illustration.The die cut, ‘torn’ edge detail of the label is a great concept but far too controlled in its execution and resolution of craft compared to the subtleties of its cream colour, texture and uncoated composition.

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Each element is well constructed, relevant and bound under a solid and interesting concept. But much like the trend for 50’s and 60’s Americana the 19th century beer and ale aesthetic is coveted but rarely fully realised, ultimately limited by a fairly straightforward vector and die cut translation of traditional design and craft cues. As such it struggles to appear either as a truly authentic product with a rich and genuine history or have enough originality to warrant a premium price tag. It does however successfully mix illustration, type, colour, texture and a narrative style in a consistent and engaging way.

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