Ausias Pérez and Zeta Beer: how design can make sales rise like a head of foam
20 Nov 2020 /

Ausias Pérez and Zeta Beer: how design can make sales rise like a head of foam

The craft beer market in Spain has come of age. In Europe, where this drink originated, we watched with envy as the Americans opposed the oligopoly. Against this global industry, controlled by a small number of companies, cheap stills and echoes of do-it-yourself have changed things since the nineties. That and the internet, which increased awareness and access to information. Recipes and control of the ingredients began to make sense for the most widely consumed liquid in the world, barring water. And if this was happening in the United States, Australia or the Scandinavian countries, how could it not stand a chance in the territory with the highest consumption of beer per inhabitant (Spain). 

The foam that crests this wave has overcome the hype, the lifestyle reports and even the attempts of absorption by the multinationals. The decade of 2010 has created specific consumers who, rather than representing a niche, have changed the rules of play for this coveted game. In 2005 people did not usually ask which brands of beer were on offer when asking for a pint. In 2020, most people are able to distinguish between a lager and a stout or a pale ale. To attract attention in a market dominated by companies that invest hundreds of millions in advertising – and which, suddenly, also make stouts or pale ales – design is part of the solution. 

To attract attention in a market dominated by companies that invest hundreds of millions in advertising, design is part of the solution. 

Ausias Pérez y Zeta Beer

Zeta Beer was born in 2014. Manolo had been making beer at home for some time, experimenting, and his friend Carlos worked for one of those large brands, in Denmark, with responsibility for such a monotonous issue as energy performance. The cause convinced them: Why not set up a small Valencian craft brewery. No sooner said than done, they set out to assume an investment that involved favours from family members, and loans. Craft, yes, but professional: safe (health-wise) and stable (homogeneous flavour and colour, to make it appeal to distributors and customers). It was necessary to communicate and to sell, sufficient reason for Guillermo Lagardera to join the project as the third and final partner. 

“When we started out we were small. We didn’t know what we would be, what we would end up being.” Zeta, the name, arose from the local reference to having a cerveseta (cervecita, or beer). They chose a minimalist design, to stretch their scant resources and to feel comfortable. Remnants of the original logo and concept remain in the brand today. However, and after taking a step towards professionalisation with individual designs by Lawerta, the company needed to take a qualitative leap based on visual and commercial imagery. “We had a contact, an exchange with the Andalusian craft beer, Río Azul. We liked what they were doing in this respect. The surprise was that the person doing it was Valencian.” 

That Valencian is Ausias Pérez, whom we know today as the man behind the graphics for the discs, posters and digital communication of Rosalía and, recently, for Veneno, the series by Atresmedia that HBO has just incorporated in its international catalogue. “The Zeta project greatly appealed to us in the studio; being able to take on the creative management of a beer brewed in Valencia, with a great deal of generational complicity and codes and values that we share. Moreover, they agreed that we should establish a long-term relationship so that the brand could develop,” explains the designer. 

Ausias Pérez y Zeta Beer

Ausias Pérez remodelled the brand. He had to reclassify the whole catalogue of bottled beers, based on typographic work and the arrival of colour, for a brand that had been characterised by two-tone austerity. Taking on full creative control also enabled him, with one or two launches per month, to incorporate effects in the imagery that were coherent with its market. “Today, there are collectors who buy every can we make, and we make a lot over the course of the year. We have designed everything, from coasters to a cycling jersey, or from the barrels themselves to posters, etcetera. Based on the use of geometric patterns and a tone inspired by references, the brand is recognised on the shop shelves and it is very competitive in the market,” adds Ausias. 

Ausias Pérez y Zeta Beer
Ausias Pérez y Zeta Beer

At the beginning of the process the brewers wanted to respect the original brand. At the end of the day, they felt truly comfortable with their origins. But, beyond this, they were aware that they should “hand over the keys” of the brand to the designer: “Ausias worked on international projects with budgets that we could not even consider. Part of the agreement involves him filling all the communicational space, that he should feel it belongs to him. But this is a business philosophy that we have with all our suppliers: allow each professional to develop his or her tasks,” they comment at Zeta. For Ausias, that freedom includes self-imposed nuances: “It is true that sometimes it looks like a play-project, because the margin of freedom with which we can design is considerable. But for me it isn’t so great because I never forget that Zeta has to sell and to attract the public it seeks.”

A business philosophy that we have with all our suppliers: allow each professional to develop his or her tasks.

Even so, the symbiosis between the brand and Ausias’ studio has developed since a couple of years ago to the point of becoming blurred: “Sometimes they arrive with a name. Sometimes, not even that. We tackle everything and we make proposals. Sometimes those proposals also arise from the relationship itself,” says the designer. From Zeta, they emphasise the Destroy Series, which arose between brunches and tastings, three cans inspired by the “Ruta del Bakalao” techno club scene, for which the studio invested an effort that is hard to express in accounting terms: “We invented three clubs, with a long period of research. I created everything for those clubs: the name of the club, the flyers, the posters, and, based on this, we launched the three beers: Palmeres, CV-500 and Pepas”. 

A beer brewed in Valencia, with a great deal of generational complicity and codes and values that we share.

The Ruta del Bakalao series is one of the most widely sold of Zeta, but not the only one. Limited editions have enabled the Alboraia-based brewery to bring new and constant recipes to the market. “From what I know, these series are often sold out in just a few days,” comments Ausias. Meanwhile, the brand continues to add contents and provide more and more references in a complex market. The weight of this relationship is so significant that Ausias Pérez is the only non-US jury member of the Craft Beer Marketing Awards. The prestigious rewards of the international craft beer market will count on his vote from San Diego, although, for the first time this year, in an electronic edition.

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