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Black Sheep rebrand reasoning echoes its new owner’s terminology

Black Sheep Brewery has rebranded its beer range again with a “modern” update in an attempt to “unify” its provenance with its product.

According to the Yorkshire brewery, this is its “biggest rebrand since it was founded over 31 years ago” and the “sleek new design will feature across all Black Sheep Brewery beers, included keg, cask, and bottles, as well as online merchandise” however the makeover both echoes its previous attempts to modernise the brand, uses similar terminology used by its new owners and also comes amidst the brewery’s restructuring causing a stir across the industry in what has been questioned as a means of diverting attention away from other media.

Speaking to the drinks business, Black Sheep Brewery marketing director Jo Theakston said: “Our brand refresh marks an exciting new chapter for us at Black Sheep, one which reflects our desire to evolve with changing markets and fully cements our commitment to future-proofing the brewery. This project has been in the works for some time; after some years since our last major branding update, it feels like a natural progression for the brewery, and so we’re thrilled to now be able to unveil our updated brand look.”

However, Theakston’s words echoed his own statement from 2014 when he previously revealed a “modern” rebrand for Black Sheep’s beers along with similar-sounding hopes that refreshing the brand’s image would draw in a broader demographic of drinkers.

In 2014, Theakston stated: “This modern new look will help Yorkshire’s leading beer appeal to drinkers of all ages through a wide range of pub types.”

Speaking to db about the imminent rebrand last week, Theakston insisted that this new rebrand for Black Sheep, now 10 years after the last one, would also be “modern” and assist in giving the Yorkshire brewer’s beers “wider consumer appeal”.

Theakston explained to db: “Our aim was to unify our brand story and product, whilst remain true to the brand’s history and heritage. By keeping iconic sheep branding front and centre, but with a modern twist, we firmly believe we’re retaining that much-loved and instantly recognisable brand whilst setting it up for wider consumer appeal and future success.”

The rebrand news follows Black Sheep recently receiving a £1m investment from its new owners Keystone Brewing, formerly known as Breal Group who bought the brewery last May, which has also used similar marketing terminology to Black Sheep’s claims its rebrand being an attempt to “unify” while Breal having claimed that its own rebrand to the name Keystone will “act as a unifier” each of the breweries it has added to its group

Since Keystone’s Breal Group gained control of Black Sheep, the business’s reputation has come under scrutiny amidst redundancies, key players departing and former shareholders calling the new owner’s moves to gain respect for its investment into the business as “cold comfort” and “daylight robbery”.

The private equity firm, which has also bought other struggling British breweries including London-based Brew By Numbers and Brick Brewery as well as Warwickshire’s Purity Brewing Co has recently set about closing down both Brew By Numbers and Brick Brewery’s London sites and started laying off staff as well as moving kit up to Yorkshire to consolidate the London brands into being brewed at Black Sheep’s Masham site.

Meanwhile, Keystone Brewing Group, formerly known as Breal Group, has upped its PR efforts in a bid to control its reputation with the beer industry. As such, interviews with many press outlets are being proffered with its CEO of brewing operations Mark Williams in an attempt to regain interest in company’s future moves, with some close to the scenes citing that the reasons behind its recent rebranding and controlled PR could be acting as a smokescreen to hide other news coming to light elsewhere.

The new Black Sheep branding will make its debut at the Northern Restaurant & Bar on 12 March and will also roll out to supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons later this spring.

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