Kinkaider Brewing Company

Building a Brand That Stands the Test of Time

Kinkaider, a farm brewery based in Broken Bow, Nebraska, celebrates lone wolves, risk takers, and anyone battling the odds. In 2015, the company prepared to launch five new beers. In order to stand out in a competitive market, the brewing company turned to Grain & Mortar to help build a brand that represented their rural roots and their craft beer-savvy.

Standing out in a Crowded World

As a new product entering a competitive marketplace, Kinkaider needed a logo that could grow with them and set them apart from other products. The brand itself needed a through-line: a conceptual and visual thread that connected the brewing company and each of the beers they released. Our challenge was to create something timeless enough for a company that aspired to become “Nebraska’s beer.”

Legendary Characters, Events, and Folklore

Inspired by Nebraska History

As we brainstormed with our client, they shared legendary stories from their area. Some were tall tales, others were historically accurate, all the characters were unique and unforgettable — and light bulbs went off.

The company’s own name references the Kinkaid Act of 1904, which shaped the settlement of Nebraska’s Sandhill Region, where Kinkaider beer is brewed. It made sense to follow that thread to specific people and moments that shaped that part of the West.

Re-Creating the Past

We scoured images and logos from the 19th and early 20th centuries for visual inspiration for each beer and its “legend.” The Kinkaider type was created from scratch to harken back to vintage styles. Our goal was to achieve a balance, so the type had a distinctly western feel but never looked “old-timey.”

A Timeless Style

Each beer would become a sub-brand within the larger Kinkaider family, so we set parameters to ensure consistency. Each beer would receive a custom illustration and was limited to two colors. We focused on a high-contrast style and a woodcut feel. This kept us in the “Old West” style while remaining modern.

Legends Were Born

Creative Evolution

With the legends selected, the real work began of bringing those legends to life. We started with a series of hand sketches for Devil’s Gap trying to narrow in on how to best capture the essence of the legend and evoke emotion. The brewery picked a direction to head, and soon, the sketches grew in thickness, color, and depth.

One Moment in Time

As each of the characters came to life, the challenge became how to capture a scene or a single moment in a clean, simply, memorable way. Drawing on inspiration from comic book and gig poster styles, we let limited colors, bold lines, and a strong character tell the story. Each beer has its own mood, its own way, its own life, all while integrating with the collection family.

Meet the Beers

Dan the Wiser

Dan the Wiser was named after Kinkaider’s brewmaster. Like Dan himself, this illustration didn’t require a lot of detail to tell the story. The man on the motorcycle and the bike themselves say “bad ass.” The red light on Dan’s left side hints at danger — is he riding away from a crime scene? Balanced with the moon and stars above, the viewer gets the sense of this local lone wolf and the open space in which he operates.

Hiram’s Bones

This porter, named after an unfortunate explorer, was a challenge to illustrate. We needed to communicate the discovery of a pile of bones and the location of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. After several variations, we pinned down the right proportions and kept it in the Kinkaider family with two colors, the skyscape above, and a woodcut feel.

Frame the Butcher

While the beer name “Frame the Butcher” is simple, it was a strategic puzzle to visualize. For anyone unfamiliar with Solomon Butcher — the photographer responsible for documenting Nebraska settlers and sod houses — it sounds a bit like a murder mystery. To reinforce the name, we put Solomon in the center of the picture frame wearing a butcher’s coat. We added a nod to the Nebraska rural landscape in the background. Classic representations and a color palette of gold and green helped to bring the legend of this small town risk-taker to life.

4-County Pale Ale

The illustration for 4-County Pale Ale follows the brand pattern but in a farm-fresh, straightforward style. The classic pickup truck, the license plate, and agricultural setting in the background nod to this beer’s “legend.”

Devil’s Gap

When you name a Jalapeño Ale “Devil’s Gap,” you’d better put flames in the illustration. We brought a fantasy feel to visualize this gritty, edge of civilization legend.

"Grain & Mortar does world-class work.

They took us through every step to ensure we came out with something that would not only complement our beer, but also make us truly stand out in a very crowded market. We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome."

Cody Schmick

Kinkaider Brewing Company