Abbeydale Brewery was started in 1996 and the concept for the design was put in place by owner Patrick Morton and his old friend Ivan Bradley, a graphic designer, before brewing began. The Abbeydale name had good local connections with the location of the brewery as well as being a good brewery name. The ruined abbey logo appears in every pumpclip and provides a unifying theme along with names which are often ironic and tangential and humorous. Additional point-of-sale material has been produced emphasising the theme of “always look for the Abbey…”
Abbeydale Brewery was started in August 1996. Before a pint had been brewed, the concept for the design of the pumpclips was in place. Patrick Morton, the owner and brewer was keen to have a coherent design concept which would serve the brewery for many years. He was fortunate in having an old friend Ivan Bradley, a graphic designer and artist, who mainly specialised in photography and airbrush paintings but whose main talent was for realising visualisations. Moving on from crayons and brushes, Ivan had been dabbling with an early Mac and took to the new medium like the proverbial duck. This computer was a black and white – not even greyscale – machine which rather limited its scope for beer label work, so this was updated to a colour-able model with a view to ongoing production.
There was initially debate about what to call the brewery but Abbeydale won out over Vulcan, Morton’s and one or two other forgotten suggestions, though the alternate Beerworks name was retained too and is still used. The name Abbeydale was based on the brewery location in the Abbeydale district of Sheffield and Ivan’s Grand Scheme for Thematic Harmony.
Abbeydale was a good name in many respects. To Sheffielders it is a local name and distinctly brands the beer as a local product. Abbeydale is most famous for its ruined Abbey, called Beauchief Abbey (pronounced Bee-Chiff) and for the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet an early eighteenth century water powered industrial site. It is a common local myth that the brewery is based at the hamlet; in fact we are a couple of miles up the road in less desirable end of Abbeydale in a site which used to be a steelworks until the 1980s. So for Sheffielders there is a strong local identity to Abbeydale. Outside of Sheffield, Abbeydale conjures up very different images, the “dale” gives it idyllic rural notes while the “Abbey” conjures associations with long brewing traditions in ecclesiastical establishments both here and abroad.
Having established that, Ivan and Patrick were determined then NOT to go for very obvious “Merry Monk” type names and artwork but to come at the theme obliquely and from many different angles so that the theme could be used for a very long time.
It was decided right at the beginning that every pumpclip with the Abbeydale name would feature the Abbey Ruin, based on the remains of Beauchief Abbey, somewhere on the clip. Abbeydale Beers generally, though not invariably (where would the fun be in that!) have names with a vaguely ecclesiastical or mystical slant. These are often ironic or tenuous or the theme is tangential. There is a serious attempt to avoid the obvious and the clips are not meant to be taken too seriously. Sometimes the theme is purely visual. Thus the thematically “correct” Black Bishop was partnered by “White Knight” with a common chess theme, both featuring the Abbey in the guise of a rook.
Ivan was adamant that the ruin remain sizeless and scaleless so it could be used in interesting ways on different clips. Thus it has featured as a logo on countless clips, as the gate to hell (Temptation) as a missing artefact (Larceny), as the spots on a dog (Damnation), as honey (Bee Ale Z’Bub), as a Belfry (Belfry), as butter (Daily Bread), as a fake (Deception) and, on the most recent pumpclip, Fascination, as a twinkle in the eye. At last count there were some 70-odd pumpclips featuring the Abbey. A good selection is included in the supporting materials.
A few years later when there was a little cash to spare a Bar Towel was produced which features the Abbey and the strap line “Always look for the Abbey…..” and people do. When Damnation came out the brewery actually received phone calls and emails from people complaining they could not see the abbey. “Just look at the dog’s spots” was the response.The brewery now has bar runners, again featuring the Abbey ruin and the same strapline on a much updated graphic. The ruin also features on an etch effect glass.
The initial style of the early pumpclips reflected the graphic tools Ivan had at his disposal the time. Chronologically Moonshine, Absolution, Matins, Black Mass came earliest and are the simplest designs. The Last Rites in use is a slightly later revision of an original version. Some of the later clips are more complex as the sophistication of the available hardware and software increased. Some of the more recent clips are based on photographs which are then reworked, retouched or used as the basis for paintings. Resurrection and Daily Bread are good examples of this.
The original design concept of the sizeless, scaleless Abbey Ruin, the Abbeydale name and the oblique approach to names has served us well for sixteen years and shows little sign of running out. Ivan continues to generate interesting and exciting designs which catch the eye and stand out on the bar and the single unifying theme of the Abbey Ruin along with the name ensures that anyone who cares, knows it is an Abbeydale Beer.