Fifty West Cans, Distribution, A New Generation

It’s an exciting time for anyone who has been drinking craft beer in Cincinnati for a while.  The more that I think about it, actually, it’s an exciting time for anyone who drinks beer in Cincinnati, period.  For those of you who have found places around town that you call your “spot”, that you frequent and have fallen deeply in love with over the years, things are probably getting really exciting.  Whether your favorite spot is growing, moving, or just kicking serious ass lately – chances are they’re in the midst of something major.  There’s a lot to be said about all these places that have been around anywhere from 3 years and older, but I want to focus on one in particular, Fifty West.

Fifty West-ville

If Fifty is your favorite spot, I don’t think I need to explain too much about what they’ve physically done with their space.  If you haven’t been there in the last couple years, though… or maybe are a new drinker that still hasn’t been out there at all I guess we can explain “the compound”.  I call it Fifty West-Ville because they’ve seemingly created an entire city on both sides of Route 50 in Mariemont.  It’s not a typical city, though, the kind with a hospital, a school and an Applebees.  Fifty West-Ville is a concept that you really have to see to get.  They’ve got a brewery front and center, of course, but surrounding that is a fantastic brewpub, a beautiful beer garden, volleyball courts, canoeing and kayaking, and a bike shop.  All of this is situated right alongside the bike trail and the Little Miami river.

Fifty has somehow managed to take every experience that you might talk about around a table when you’re trying to express their “brand” in words – and instead of trying to create a theme that looks like that brand, they brought the brand to life via the experiences that bring their beer into your life.

Someone once told me that Fifty West wasn’t a Cincinnati brewery, that they belonged somewhere else (this was said in a very complimentary way), and I can’t agree more – it belongs in Fifty West-Ville.

(you can read more about this in my post I wrote when they announced the expansion)

The Production Growth

There are a few places here in town that have done things very differently from each other in terms of what “growth” is supposed to mean.  50 West has grown slowly, but organically.  They are still self distributed by a really small team of people, but most of what you’ll find in terms of Fifty West beer is what you’ll find being poured in their taproom(s).  While the brewery has had plenty of bottle releases (and a few specialty can releases) they’ve all either been extremely limited in quantity, or only been taproom only exclusives.

Yet they have managed to become one of the biggest breweries here in Cincinnati somehow.

Part of the(if not the main) reason that the brewery decided to expand into a production facility back in 2015 was to increase their ability to get their beer out there into people’s favorite bottle shops (and into your fridge).  They told us from the get-go that we’d eventually see cans make their way out of the production works space – and we’re getting really close to that happening (they’re saying that we’ll see it happen in the final quarter of this year).

I thought that it’d be fun if we took a look at their new core lineup – not just so you could see which beers are going to hit shelves, but to get a look at their new design as well.

The Beers

Let’s take a quick look at each beer first, and then we’ll dig into the design a little bit:

Doom Pedal

This label is bright blue and white, and features a little mustache at the bottom of the front of the label.  If you don’t know the full story of the creation of the beer (I talked about it in the original tasting notes from when it was packaged for Fifty Fest’s limited can release in 2016), it was brewed in honor of dear friend, and Fifty West family member Allen White, who had a killer ‘stache.  The beer is packed full of citrusy peppery flavors and is perfect for warm weather drinking.

The description on the can reads:

In memory of our friend Allen White – A wheat beer that’s unfiltered & hazy like your last road trip.

It clocks in at 5.5% ABV with 20 IBUs.

Coast To Coast

Bright green and white, there’s no mistaking that this a hoppy treat.  The label features the little picture of the US Map, with a line cutting across the center of it.  For anyone who has spent some time in the production works taproom, you’ll recognize this logo pretty easily, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably know also that it’s the map of route 50 cutting across the country (we’ll talk more about that idea when we dig into the design more in a second).  Like Doom Pedal, this beer was also packaged as part of 2016’s limited run of Fifty Fest cans, so if you don’t know what it tastes like, I’ve got tasting notes for you!

At 6.8% ABV and 70 IBUs, this is a beer for IPA lovers… and doesn’t make any excuses for it.  From the description:

Toasts to the coasts – Hints of fruit and dank – The east meets west.

American Lager

When I first drank a few of these beers, there was no apology from Fifty West.  They were just getting ready to open their production facility, and they knew that they wanted to have a light, easy drinking lager for people to enjoy while they were outside sweating.  This beer fits that bill perfectly.  It takes everything that you love about American Lagers and kicks out the window all the crap you hate about them.  It’s nice, easy drinking and refreshing.  The logo that adorns this can is none other than their signature VW bus… a symbol of a constant standby, stable and reliable (except when they catch fire).

4.5% ABV and 16 IBUs, you can pound a few of these back.  The description reads:

To far corners with friends – Crisp and reliable.

The Design

The can labels take some big cues from the branding that you’ve probably started seeing a little bit of if you’ve been looking.  Their email newsletter for example runs with the same banner that covers the top of the can – which is a great place to start when we talk about the design itself.

The banner that stretches across the can traces the path of route 50 as it makes its way from coast to coast.  The pictures that represent the journey starts with the Bay Bridge, to the mountains and pine trees of the west.  It moves on to the St. Louis Arch, the Fifty West brewpub itself, the capital building and then finally the ferris wheel on a pier of Ocean City Maryland.

The barcode on the bottom of the label is cut into the design of none other than the signature VW Bus that symbolizes the brewery just as well as anything they’ve ever brewed does.

Each beer is represented individually by a symbol that represents something about the beer and a bright color that stands out against the white background of the label.  To give consumers a little more information about the beer, there is a badge on one side with a quick description of what you’ll taste if you crack one open.

To finish it out the brewery has included something else that’s very important to who they are, the four core tenets that emblazoned the wall of their brewpub brewhouse space: Craftmanship, Patience, Innovation, and Tradition.  It’s a core ethos that defines every aspect of their brewing and something that has guided them into the position that they are currently in here in Cincinnati’s busy and exciting craft beer market.

The design is clean – it’s bright – it’s very much Fifty West.  The bright cans will stand out on the shelf next to the other packaged beers from the region, and the core styles that they’ve chosen should provide a nice variety for any drinker that finds themselves with a six pack or two in their hands this winter.

Stay tuned, Cincinnati… you’re going to be seeing some fun stuff from Fifty West soon!

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