Mustan Virran Panimo (Black Brook Brewery) is a small craft beer brewery from Savonlinna, Finland. The spiritual home of our brand lies deep inside the walls of Olavinlinna, a medieval castle built in 1475 located in our hometown. Old manuscripts tell that the castle had it’s own brewery in the courtyard and the malts were produced in their own malt sauna. The brewmasters of the castle brewed different kinds of beers for the inhabitants of the castle and part of the soldiers’ paycheck consisted of several litres of beer per day. The castle is a pride of the locals and they’ve grown up listening to the interesting and captivating stories from the history of Olavinlinna. We draw inspiration from legendary brewmasters of the castle and bring it to this day with a modern touch.
“The visuality of the brand is based on the stories and myths of the castle, medieval wood prints, the objects and heraldry. We’ve also co-operated with the Finnish National Museum when creating the designs for the labels.
With a working experience in advertising and branding for major brands in Finland we knew that the store will be our most important channel to build the awareness for our brand. As a small brewery with minimal budgets, we focused on creating maximum visibility for the brand through design. The bottles look different than the usual long-necks and the label design is based on a design system which tells about our background but helps to discover the bottles from distance.”
“Craft beer revolution has hit Finland as well and the supermarkets have long shelves full of colorful labels from domestic and international breweries. Standing out from the visual mass of unfamiliar labels is tough. To differentiate our bottles from the competitors, we chose a stubby neck bottle which also fits well to our historical backstory.”
“We needed a simple, visible and flexible design that would help us to stand out in the shelves but also make our own beers differ from each other. We started looking for the basic forms and colors in heraldic designs and created a system where each individual label is based on a simple color and shape. Other graphic elements are then placed on top of these shapes.”
“A set of worn out medieval typefaces and serifs were chosen to bring authenticity to the labels. Our aim was to create labels that could have been the originals beers brewed in the castle back in the days.”
“Some of the illustrations on the labels are from the monumental encyclopedia ‘A Description of the Northern Peoples’ (published in 1555) by a swedish writer and Catholic ecclesiastic, Olaus Magnus (1490-1557). He wrote about a new castle built deep in the mainland of Finland, surrounded by dark waters so deep that the depths have even colored the fishes black. This water area surrounding the castle was called Black Brook and it was a source of myths and legends in the dark medieval ages. It’s been said that there goblins and ghosts wandered in the shores of the brook and deep on the depths of the lake lives a merman which pulls the unfortunate soldiers into the waters.”
“Each beer is based on one of the legends of Olavinlinna and the stories have also been printed on the labels. St. Olaf Pale Ale is named after the Norwegian tyrant and king after whom the castle have been named. Despite being nominated as a saint, he was a fierce and merciless conqueror.”
“Pässi (Ram) Ipa tells a story of the black ram which ran away one evening when the enemy was about to attack the castle. The ram ran up to the castle walls and at the same time, lightning bolt lit up the tar barrels. The enemy fled from the horrifying sight of a black creature with horns standing up with it’s back feet, roaring skies and tall flames in the background.”
“Neito (Maiden) Golden Ale is based on a tragic love story of the castle commandant’s daughter who fell in love with a man who happened to be an enemy officer. One night, she opened up the gates to her lover who betrayed her by leading the enemy troops into the castle. Thee castle’s soldiers managed to defeat the attack but as a punishment, the young maiden was buried alive into the southern wall of the castle. Soon a beautiful rowan tree with blood red berries started growing from the burial plot.”
The brand has taken off tremendously well in Finland and it has been notified in the biggest medias already. We believe that this is a result of a strong branding that is strongly linked with an actual place with a captivating story. The locals of Savonlinna have always been proud of their castle, their support and positive feedback during the liftoff have shown us that they’re now proud about their beer as well.
— Mustan Virran Panimo
“This summer we’ve also opened a Black Brook Brewery Bar into the neighboring island of the castle. The heart of the bar is an old Citroen HY van that has been transformed into a fully functional bar. In the future, we’re planning to utilise the van in different events and festivals in Finland.”
“As a part of our social media executions, we put out a recruitment ad for a knight. St. Olaf in his shiny full armour has been seen in various events that we’ve held at the bar during this summer. A selfie with a knight has become a hit, some of the visitors wanting to try it on themselves.”
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