Craft Beer Branding Tips: Defining Your Core Values (+ Get a Free Book)

It’s a real challenge starting up your own craft brewery these days. After all, on average, one new brewery opens up every day in the U.S. And living in Colorado, which is home to more than 140 craft breweries, I know from personal experience that making a name for your startup brewery requires exceptional branding and packaging work for success.

So when we at HOW saw that CODO Design had created a clever and spectacularly designed online tool for branding your craft brewery, we knew we’d be in love.

Even better, our pals at Neenah Packaging saw the online version of the Craft Beer Branding Guide and decided to partner with CODO to publish the guide in book form.


And that’s not even the best part (seriously). See, Neenah and CODO Design decided to give away this awesome little book for free. Interested? Check out the video and excerpt below to see inside, and then hustle over to order a free copy of the Craft Beer Branding Guide here.

Excerpt: Defining Your Core Brand Values

Your core values are the immutable rules that guide everything you do. They inform business decisions, branding considerations, the beer you brew, and how you deal with success (and failure). They are your reason for being. craft-beer-branding-guide-4

Your brand’s core values are set in stone the moment you decide to open your brewery. There are many reasons you want to run your own business, brew the beer you want to brew, and create the sort of experience you envision for your customers. An important step in the branding process is to clearly define these.

[Related: Raise a Glass: 16 Award-Winning Beer Packaging Designs | How to Create a Successful Beer Packaging Design | Online Course: Brand Strategy Development]

Your brand values are a set of emotional and qualitative rules that set the stage for your entire business ecosystem. Why do you exist? Who makes up your tribe? What do you stand for? It’s important to define these because they directly influence your brand essence, positioning, storytelling, and broad strategic decisions. They inspire your internal team, attract the best talent, and get customers excited to support you (we all want to support companies we believe in).

To begin this process, write out all the different values your brewery holds true. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Pages from Craft Beer Branding Guide - CODO Design-2

You should end up with a good-sized list, maybe 15–25 values. Once you’re finished, review them and try to combine similar ideas (it’s not uncommon to list a lot of synonyms). There’s no magic number, but we try to work toward whittling down to 3–5 core values.

We find that this makes them easier to remember and more importantly, easier to live by. Once you’ve narrowed your list of core values, let’s ask some questions to see if we can further refine them.


Does this value influence how you work with your customers and other organizations outside your business? For example, do you regularly think about this value when establishing relationships with distributors or supporting local charities? What about the other business you work with, such as restaurants or farms—how is this value reflected in the way you work with them?


It’s easy to be high and mighty when there’s no money on the line. How steadfast is this value? If a big enough opportunity comes around, can you be swayed from your position? If so, it may not really be a core value.


Are you willing to wear this across your chest like a badge of honor? When telling people about your brewery, is this one of the first things you mention?


Cut right to the heart of it—why are you starting your brewery? Can you boil the reason down to one or two words? At this point you should be down to a pretty tight list (3–5). Now, take some time to write about what each of these values means to you—nothing crazy, maybe a paragraph or two. Why is “artistry” a core value? What does that mean to your brewery and why does it matter?

Through this exercise, you may be able to rename these values to be more thematic, ownable and actionable. Dogfish Head, a brewery known for its experimental brewing, is a great example of how core values translate into solid branding. With its focus on innovation and creativity, owner Sam Calagione beautifully expands on these ideas by saying, “Never let the tail of money wag the dog of inspiration.” This idea aligns well with his focus on boundary-pushing, atypical brewing, and is beautifully summed up by their brand essence, “Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People.” We’ll explore how to define your brand essence in the next chapter.

Read more tips for branding your brewery when you order a free copy of the Craft Beer Branding Guide by CODO Design and Neenah. Get one here.