Sliding into home base with labels as consistently superb as the beer inside
The first commercial brewery in Canada opened in 1668 in Quebec City, a fact that proves beyond the shadow of a stout that we Canadians have been guzzling beer for longer than we’ve been a nation. We know: it’s confusing, but the point is that our love-affair with the brew is long and storied, and showing no signs of a last call.
These days, it’s craft beers that are taking our love for suds to the next level, and that’s where Ontario independent craft brewers Mark and Mandie Murphy come in. In the early days as craft brewers, this married couple had marketing acumen (Mandie’s), a deep appreciation of business and baseball (Mark’s), and the idea that they’d love to make great beer. Without premises of their own, they outsourced production and hustled to get their brand into pubs, where, you could say, the crowd went wild. When the duo—accompanied by their dog, Spice—came across an empty building in east Toronto’s hip Leslieville neighbourhood, Left Field Brewery finally got its home turf.
Nowadays, in addition to playing host to community events like yoga and euchre nights, Left Field offers four core brews — Greenwood IPA, Laser Show double-IPA, Eephus oatmeal brown ale, and Bang-Bang dry hopped sour — plus a roster of rotating products they cycle in and out every week and a half. Add in fun seasonal suds like the Sweet Spot Mocha Marshmallow Stout or summery Sunlight Park Grapefruit Saison, and you’ve got a bustling brewery always in need of quality labels.
From choosing tanks to managing yeast strains to establishing a brewing schedule—there’s a tremendous amount of learning to be done before you can pour yourself a cold one. For Mandie and Mark, it was a taste of what would become their Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale that let them know they were on the right track. But now, there was another problem: How could they give their product the shelf appeal it deserved?
Armed with their love for baseball, Mark and Mandie worked with Left Field marketing communications specialist Justin Spencer and CODO Design out of Indianapolis to develop a beautiful set of strong and striking illustrations to showcase their product, and added bright, bold colour to really make the brand jump off the shelf. And it did… sometimes. Although the label graphics and design were on-point, in the early days some Left Field brews were hitting the shelves in sub-par packaging. “What we were seeing sometimes on the shelf was really inconsistent colour,” Mandie said. “You’d have a brand at shelf in four different colours of purple—and those could have come from the same label run! It was really noticeable.”
One of the people who noticed was Lorpon Labels’ VP of Business Development, Jeff Sommer. “Just from seeing it in market, I thought we would be able to make some improvements on it, so I made a call.”
“That conversation started everything,” Mandie remembered. “When Jeff showed up and said ‘We can hit your colour targets’, that’s what started the working relationship—and there has been so much added value on top of that.”
Hitting colour target … every single time
Although Left Field had visually arresting packaging, 65-70% of the colours they used could not be produced through CMYK. This meant that Lorpon had to use seven colour expanded gamut to achieve an accurate Pantone spot colour match. This worked well in most cases, but for the colours that didn’t have a Pantone match, Lorpon used a sample to create a custom colour. Armed with these files, Left Field could ensure that the labels looked exactly right, every single time.
“As soon as we started working together, the colour issue was immediately resolved,” Mandie said. “But there was so much more value to the relationship. Lorpon is a second set of eyes. We’ve had labels arrive from other suppliers with errors—costly errors that could have been fixed before production. Lorpon’s team is really active in getting things right.”
And for Left Field’s part, they’ve received a valuable crash course in digital printing and production. “We’ve learned so much over the whole process that’s helped us be better at building a file that saves time and energy, and encourages consistency.”
Experimentation and collaboration
With their colour clash well and truly fixed, Left Field found themselves in a position where they could take their packaging to the next level—but they weren’t sure where to start. “We’re ready to try new things, but everything is so new that we didn’t even really have a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve,” Mandie explained. “Jeff was able to really show us what they’d done before and help us see how we wanted to pull it all together to create a certain look, feel, and tone for our brand.”
One such initiative came when Lorpon introduced Left Field to waterproof paper. “When Jeff said they could print waterproof labels, we were like, ‘No, that’s not a thing!’” But Aquashield does exist—and it’s a great option for labels likely to sit in coolers, ice buckets, or the refrigerator.
More efficient process and faster turnaround
Among the many challenges involved in getting Left Field products labelled and to market is that fact that the team doesn’t know the alcohol percentage of a product until they’re reached a certain point in the process. Turnaround time—the time between approving the copy to having labels in hand—can be a really sticky situation, but Lorpon makes it work. In fact, with Lorpon’s help, Left Field has successfully tightened up every aspect of their turnaround time.
Added value and exceptional customer service
Lorpon Labels’ exceptional knowledge of the Left Field brand has significantly tightened the proofing process and ensured that any potential errors are flagged—before they end up on the shelf. “We take so much time and energy to develop a consistent, high quality brand,” Mandie explained, “and it used to feel like we were diluting some of that work by not having the best labels.” Now, Left Field is confident they’re delivering the very best quality to their customers—both inside and outside the can.
When asked about Left Field’s success, Mandie said, “We’re known for consistency and quality as a brewery, and I don’t think we would live up to our reputation if the package on the outside of the can and the label doesn’t reflect that consistency and quality.” With Lorpon Labels, Left Field Brewery found the expert help they needed to maintain their sterling reputation and brand equity.