Stumptown Found Beer-spiration For Their Cold Brew Line

By: Bill McCool

Cold brew coffee is relatively simple to make—you ground up some coffee, add some cold water, and you wait. And then you wait. And then you wait some more. Once you’ve filtered out the sludge, you’ll have yourself a pretty decent cold brew.

But we don’t live in caves anymore and no one really has time for that. Lucky for us, there are a lot of options out there, but none shine brighter than the Stumptown stubby.

This past year, Seattle design stalwarts Column redesigned Stumptown’s entire line of cold brew coffee. This came after the Stumptown brand was going to hit the national stage. Column first came aboard when they were tasked with designing their Sparkling Cold Brew line. So enamored with their work, Stumptown decided to enlist Column to create a unified look across all of their bottled products so that it would stand out in an oversaturated market.

“At first they didn’t know if they wanted to have a consistent look across all their products,” says Matt Fagerness, partner and creative director at Column. “But we all came to the conclusion that we should have a unified look with a sash going across all of the products. Depending on what the product line was, it would dictate how we use color in order to show variation throughout a particular line.”

Stumptown has been synonymous with Cold Brew, and in some regards, they really owned the category as they were one of the first companies to bottle it and bring it to market. But for them to have more of a national presence on the shelf, they needed the Stumptown name to be front and center. Before, "Cold Brew" dominated the bottle, now their redesigned logo would be front and center.

“We looked at a lot of iterations of how that could be, staying close to home with their original design, and then really pushing the envelope,” Matt says. “What we ended up doing was consolidating the branding and sharing the common thread that we created with the sparkling beverages and translating that to the rest of their ready-to-drink line, particularly with the logo.”

They drew upon the eclectic and unique nature of the hand-painted signs that adorn most of Stumptown’s brick and mortars. Borrowing ideas from those signs, Column partner Tony Ciocca created a new logo using custom script art that screams “I am your old man’s beer from the 1970’s, now drink me, goddammit.” It’s a world-class logo that only serves to amplify the brand.

Of course, a lot of the design’s architecture can be traced back to the roots of the company’s bottling Cold Brew. According to Stumptown’s stubby history, the primary look and feel of their cold brews came about after a lot of their baristas were complaining about how time consuming it was to make cold brew coffee every night:

“I was sitting in the office I shared with Matt, and there were empty bottles of beer laying around, and I remember sitting up and being like, ‘Fuck! We should start putting it in here,’ Duane ( founder, Duane Sorenson) says. "Fuck it, we’re going to put cold brew coffee in stubbies!” And they would look like Olympia Beer stubbies, a nostalgic nod to his father and grandfather’s preferred beer brand.

The coffee makers still wanted to retain the vintage beer can aesthetic and Column wanted to incorporate some of the elements from the original bottle. “One of the things that they came to us with was the idea that they liked the vintage beer can look,” Matt says.  “They didn’t want it to look overtly coffee or like an alcoholic beverage, but they wanted it to meet somewhere in the middle.”

“It was an evolution instead of a revolution,” Matt adds. This was already a successful product, and even in attempting to gain a larger audience, the brand itself didn’t need to be upended.

Be on the lookout for Stumptown’s eclectic line of Cold Brew coffees. Just don’t mistake it for your old man’s go-to backyard BBQ beer—it’s coffee. We swear.


Bill McCool
Bill McCool is a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.