GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times

The set of Guinness papers we’ve been sorting through for their owner includes a fairly complete two-decade run of Guinness Time, the in-house magazine for the brewery at Park Royal.

While the con­tents is on the whole fair­ly dull (egg and spoon races, meet the toi­let atten­dants, and so on) the cov­ers are works of art, redo­lent of the peri­ods in which they were pro­duced.

Those pre­sent­ed below are all from the 1950s and so there are a cou­ple of ref­er­ences to TV, the hot trend of the day.

Guinness Time Summer 1956 -- a topiary seal.
Sum­mer 1956. Illus­tra­tor: Tom Eck­er­s­ley.
A man uses a giant bottle of Guinness as a telescope.
Autumn 1956. Illus­tra­tor: John Gilroy.

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Portman Group v. Infantile Can Designs

The label for Cwtch.

News broke this morning that a complaint against the design of the can for Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch has been upheld by the Portman Group.

The Port­man Group is the beer indus­try’s organ for self-reg­u­la­tion, the pur­pose of which is, broad­ly speak­ing, to head off this kind of issue before things get real­ly heavy. The com­plaint against Cwtch was that “a mem­ber of the pub­lic, believed that the prod­uct wasn’t obvi­ous­ly alco­holic, due to the design, and also had a par­tic­u­lar appeal to chil­dren”.

We have a few thoughts on this.

First, we’ve been wait­ing for some­thing like this to hap­pen. As we wrote back in March 2016 craft beer cans often fea­ture designs that mean they resem­ble soft drinks, and the bor­der­line between fun and down­right infan­tile is pret­ty fine. How do you design some­thing that will appeal to a 19-year-old but not to a 17-year-old? This is an espe­cial­ly impor­tant ques­tion giv­en that the for­mer has been a large part of the suc­cess of the crop of craft brew­eries that have emerged in the last decade or so.

What per­haps does­n’t help is how often we see peo­ple chortling on social media that, tee hee, craft beer cans are great because The Man assumes you’re drink­ing pop! Heck, we’ve even played this game our­selves. And, vice ver­sa, when peo­ple are con­stant­ly post­ing pic­tures of fizzy pop cans with vari­a­tions on the joke, “This new IPA looks inter­est­ing.”

Then there’s a sec­ond point: the nag­ging sus­pi­cion we’ve had that Tiny Rebel have been fol­low­ing the Brew­Dog play­book (Brew Bri­tan­nia, chap­ter 14) and angling for some kind of dis­pute in which they are the oppressed under­dog for PR pur­pos­es. We’re sure they must have known that the pack­ag­ing was provoca­tive – ted­dy bears! Can­dy! Car­toon char­ac­ters! – just as Brew­Dog knew Speed­ball was back in 2008. In addi­tion Tiny Rebel seem to have been active­ly engaged in what we’d call ‘trade­mark bait­ing’, ref­er­enc­ing char­ac­ters owned by huge cor­po­ra­tions such as Nin­ten­do (Princess Peach), Dis­ney (Darth Vad­er) and Sony (the Stay Puft Marsh­mal­low Man). So far they’ve got away with it, as have Robin­son’s, which we sup­pose makes it a win-win.

Then again, maybe we’re wrong. After all, the Port­man Group’s judge­ment sug­gests that Tiny Rebel played ball through­out the process and have agreed to change the pack­ag­ing.

Any­way, on bal­ance, the judge­ment seems fair enough to us, and hard­ly dra­con­ian. It would cer­tain­ly seem less con­tro­ver­sial if it as AB-InBev or Carslberg in the fir­ing line, would­n’t it? This kind of back-and-forth over mar­gin­al cas­es is far bet­ter than hard-and-fast rules which tend to push the bound­ary back well into the safe­ty zone. We would cer­tain­ly start to wor­ry, though, if these rul­ings begin to pile up and lead to, say, a de fac­to ban on the use of bright colours.

We came to this sto­ry via Char­lie AKA @craftybeeress who blogs at – give her a fol­low!

Q&A: What’s the Story of Branded Pub Mirrors?

Do you have any information on the history of brewery and distillery branded mirrors? No one I’ve spoken to seems to know exactly why or how they started, or why they dropped off.” – Nathan, via Twitter

It’s often hard to pin­point the exact moment a trend began but we do know, first, that the pop­u­lar­i­ty of glass as a build­ing mate­r­i­al and for dec­o­ra­tion in par­tic­u­lar increased after the Great Exhi­bi­tion of 1851, the cen­tre­piece of which, the Crys­tal Palace, used glass with great extrav­a­gance.

The Crystal Palace.
SOURCE: The British Library.

We also know that tech­niques for cut­ting designs into large sheets of glass took off at around the same time lead­ing to ear­ly exam­ples of brew­ery-brand­ed glass pan­els and mir­rors, with only rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple designs, in the 1850s and 60s. A tech­nique known as ‘back-paint­ing’ became pop­u­lar in the 1870s and brought colour into play. (All of that accord­ing to Inside the Pub, McDun­net & Gorham, Archi­tec­tur­al Press, 1950.) By the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry a look and feel that had been the pre­serve of pri­vate homes and exclu­sive clubs was the pre­ferred style for grander city pubs. But dec­o­ra­tive glass  was still rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive, which brings us to the kind of brand­ed mir­rors Nathan has in mind.

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HOW TO: Make Your Own ‘Victorian’ Pub Mirror

We often find ourselves lusting after the kind of ornate vintage mirrors that cover the walls of pubs. As we can’t afford the real thing we began to wonder… Could we make/fake one ourselves?

Here, after a bit of exper­i­men­ta­tion, is what we came up with:

Finished mirror, close up.

It’s not per­fect. It’s small, for one thing, and does­n’t bear close scruti­ny for rea­sons that will become clear. But it does add a bit of cor­ner-of-the-eye pub glam­our for less than £20.

As a cou­ple peo­ple seemed inter­est­ed when we Tweet­ed about this you’ll find our best attempt at some instruc­tions below.

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GALLERY: Bristol Style

Bristol is famous for its graffiti and street art with entire blocks and many businesses decorated, more or less elaborately, in the familiar spray-paint style.

We’ve found the way this applies to pubs par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ing since arriv­ing here per­ma­nent­ly in the sum­mer. We don’t know yet if we like it, as such but we do like that it seems to be a Bris­tol ‘thing’ – a real expres­sion of local iden­ti­ty. It also seems to sig­nal a cer­tain laid-back infor­mal­i­ty that you might call Bohemi­an if that did­n’t sound ludi­crous­ly 19th cen­tu­ry.

We’re not sure of the eti­quette of pho­tograph­ing and shar­ing oth­er peo­ple’s cre­ations but have tried to find cred­its where we can and link to the artist’s web­sites. At any rate, con­sid­er this an encour­age­ment to go out and look at these pubs your­self, which are far more star­tling and unusu­al in the flesh.

"The Prince of Wales" (scrolll)
In the yard at the Prince of Wales, Bish­op­ston.
Art in the gaps at the Prince of Wales.
Front of the Prince of Wales by Andrew Burns Col­will.
A giant painted beer pump.
Side of the Prince of Wales.
The Golden Lion, front.
The unfin­ished front of the Gold­en Lion, Bish­op­ston.

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