It’s a familiar sight in an Iowa beer cooler: squat brown bottles, leaves imprinted in the glass, each with an orange bottle cap and a whimsically illustrated label.
But after 12 years of brewing craft beer — and two years weathering a global pandemic — Peace Tree Brewing Company owner and CEO Megan McKay decided it was time for a refresh.
Earlier this year, Peace Tree, brewers of Blonde Fatale and Red Rambler, announced they would be updating their branding, complete with new labels and, can you believe it, cans. The new design moves away from Peace Tree’s previous illustrative style and into a sleeker, cleaner look that McKay hopes will work together more cohesively as a family of brews.
“We’re rooted in a small town and really what started the company was the desire to build and grow that small community,” McKay said. Peace Tree is headquartered in Knoxville, Iowa, a Marion County town of roughly 7,600. “Having something that represents that for our brand is really exciting.”
Each of the beers’ labels now features an organic, rippling pattern in a different colorway. McKay says that the firm Peace Tree worked with drew inspiration for the design from the business’s roots, quite literally.
Happy #NationalBeerDay—our favorite day of the year!🍻
Grab a new 6-pack or stop by the taproom for a glass (or two) to celebrate! pic.twitter.com/HGXr9Ul5uA
— Peace Tree Brewing (@peacetreebrew) April 7, 2022
The brewery was named for the historic Peace Tree, a more than 500-year-old sycamore tree estimated to be the second largest in North America, that once stood in the ebbing waters of nearby Lake Red Rock. Peace Tree’s new look was inspired by that history, with labels that look like both rippling water and the rings of a tree. McKay said customers have commented that the design looks like a fingerprint or a topographical map, both of which feel aligned with how the brewery has grown and made its mark.
Peace Tree Brewing is one of Iowa’s first modern microbreweries. When it opened in 2009, it was also the state’s first 100 percent woman-owned brewery. Today, the state’s brewscape has changed — there are now more than 100 craft breweries across the state — but the fan base around Peace Tree has remained loyal. This loyalty facilitated the opening of a second taproom in Des Moines’ East Village in January 2017. (Their East Village IPA was named in honor of the new spot.)
When the pandemic shut down taprooms across the state more than two years ago, McKay said she and her team took the time to do some soul searching.
“I think it’s given us a good chance to understand who we are as a brewery and what’s truly important to us. Those are the things that help you differentiate yourself,” McKay said.
When it comes to what separates Peace Tree from other breweries both locally and across the state, McKay says the brewery’s core values have remained constant since its inception.
“We’re just always working hard to be beer first,” she said. “We believe in the quality of our product, but also in the quality of the different styles we produce.”
Because of that, Peace Tree tends to stray away from massive beer menus and flash-in-the-pan gimmicks. Instead, the commitment to a shared purpose lets the brewery’s team be a little more artful and creative with their approaches. Spacious patios and cold drinks (including their craft root beer) are the draw; Peace Tree hasn’t hopped on the brewpub trend, but welcomes customers to BYOF.
And it’s not just locals who appreciate Peace Tree’s dedication to their craft. The brewery has won gold medals at some of the world’s largest and most prestigious beer competitions. Its fan-favorite Blonde Fatale earned gold at the World Beer Cup in 2014. Then, in 2021, Peace Tree’s Get a Little Hazy IPA took home the gold at the Great American Beer Festival.
In addition to its brand refresh and a newly launched website, Peace Tree has some other changes in store for 2022.
The brewery has a number of new beer releases planned. Recently, those new brews have included the Slightly Blonde, a delightfully drinkable 4% ABV Session Ale that’s the cousin of the boozier Blonde Fatale, as well as a limited edition Sour Wood Series. So far, the Black ‘n Blueberry Sour Ale — a deep purple sour with juicy blackberries and blueberries that give it a tart, fruity finish — is the only available brew from the series. But sour lovers should stay tuned, because more will be coming later this spring and summer.
The brewery also updated its manufacturing processes last year with a new canning line. In addition to the updated labels, most of Peace Tree’s beers, aside from Blonde Fatale and its root beer, will now be available exclusively in cans, packaged in-house. McKay says that the recognizable bottle is what used to set Peace Tree beers apart on shelves, but now the new labels help their cans shine.
This article was originally published in Little Village (Central Iowa) issue 001.