Possibly the best thing about craft beer, after you’ve cracked open that unique brew and admired the fine label design, is the story that lives on behind the beginnings of each bottle. This month, we’ve been enjoying our Citizen beers here at League of Beers and thought it high time we converted you all into responsible Citizen drinkers, by sharing their full story. Gary from Citizen beer spilled the barley.

Where all beer journeys begin

Gary Pnematicatos started cultivating a love of craft back in 2010 in a home brewing escapade with some mates. He quickly realised these beer brewing endeavours were more fun than working in IT (wise choice there, mate). With the courage of his convictions tucked into his pocket, he quit the job and immersed himself in every possible bit of info on the art of craft beer. A small nano-brewery in a 7m x 5m garage popped up soon after.

Eventually he teamed up with Hugo and Sascha Berolsky (of Royal Eatery and El Burro fame), and together they developed the final ethos and principles behind this fine beer. Something they say they are rather proud of and love sharing with the world.

Citizen was finally launched in Cape Town in April 2012 with only 1000 litres of actually brewed beer to their name. Now however, their beers can be found in Cape Town, Jozi, Durban and Port Elizabeth, with a production of roughly 20,000 litres a month.

So what’s in the name – Citizen?

When asked about the inspiration for the name, Gary’s first answer is a simple one. A culmination of a number of influences from their grouped interests. Right, that makes sense.

And here’s where this beer gets really wild, in a cool, underground kind of way.

Russian Constructivism, specifically in how they used their art and architecture to create a sense of oneness and national identity while still pursuing their idealistic goals is just one of their creative influences.

Of course, the espionage of the Cold War with secret agents and clandestine dealings is another. And then there’s the hidden lives of members of society acting behind the scenes to shape the world we live in.

“You could unwittingly be sitting next to two men swapping a microfilm with nuclear submarine plans at a coffee shop, or hold the door open for someone who decodes encrypted messages from rival governments helping to thwart their plans.”

Wrapped up in all the conspiracy and covert operations of this world is where the men behind Citizen beer see something strangely romantic at play.

‘Citizen’ just encompassed and contained all those thoughts and feelings, that you could be interacting with these people and never know they were there, or what they were doing, and how much they shape the world you live in. Citizen. It was meant to be. The names for Alliance, Saboteur and Diplomat – well you can see where they fit in to these grand schemes.

Tell us a bit about the logo

Making beer is an old and honourable job. And according to Gary, Hugo and Sasha, it has history, tradition, standards and a code. It is a noble art that they felt needed to be conveyed in the design.

So, paging back through the history books to another period of great interest, the Middle Ages provided the perfect source of inspiration; the heraldry and chivalry of noble lineages as well as the building of awe-inspiring cathedrals with their story-telling, stained glass windows. And there you have the elements of the design:

  • The shield, signifying a legacy
  • The stained-glass motif of a river flowing past barley fields – the main elements of making beer, water and barley
  • A sun symbolising glory
  • A dagger or sword either making reference to the clandestine or honour, depending on your intentions
  • And a motto: Made with Honour, which states their intent to always be true to their art and to make the best possible beer to share with their fellow Citizens

Read more about the thought behind the design in our chat with the folks from Monday Design, who took up the challenge to bring Gary, Sasha and Hugo’s vision for the Citizen label to life.

The last thing left to do is dig into a recipe that pairs perfectly with one such fine Citizen beer, the lamb burgers with Alliance Amber Ale.

And while you’re enjoying this easy drinking, well-balanced beer, share your new found depth of understanding about Citizen with your mates. After all, it’s in the stories that craft beer finds its individuality – the secret source that we’re all so hungry for.

Head this way to get your thirsty mitts on a case of top notch Citizen beers.

Originally written for and published on League of Beers.com