North Pier Brewing Co.
Long live letterpress

Long live letterpress

Long live letterpress

Hello! My name is Anne-Elise and I love all things crafty. In particular, I have been printing letterpress note cards and posters for the past few years. So when my brother Jay asked me to print some letterpress beer labels and note cards for North Pier Brewing Company, I jumped at the chance to tackle a new project.

Letterpress is the oldest form of printing. Simply put, a surface with a raised design is inked and pressed to imprint that design on your paper. The technique dates back to the 1400s and was the primary form of printing for the next 500 years. Eventually it was replaced by offset printing methods and nearly disappeared. In the late 1980s, letterpress printing had a revival among small printers. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that letterpress was propelled into the mainstream by … Martha Stewart. Her magazine featured letterpress wedding invitations, sparking a renewed interest in the printing method.

I print on a Vandercook press. These are huge machines that weigh several thousand pounds. The last of them was manufactured in the 1970s. They can be challenging to work with, but they
produce the deep impressions that are now associated with letterpress.

The beer labels

Jay wanted to make some sample labels for the test batches they have been working on. Letterpress labels seemed like the perfect fit. We felt that the two shared similar traits – both
letterpress and craft brewing require a lot of time, attention to detail, and passion.

We researched the proper paper to use, and designed the label. We also had to order the polymer plates – this is the raised design that you put on the press to print. The tricky part for me is that it involves two colors, and that the different colors are very close to each other (leaving little margin for error). This means that you ink the press with the first color and run all of the labels through. Then you clean the press, re-ink it with the second color, line up your plate perfectly, and make another run. It involves a lot of minor adjustments, but the result was amazing.


The note cards

I love personalized stationery. While the beer labels were the primary objective for this project, I knew I wanted to make note cards as well. We used the same North Pier Brewing Company logo as we did with the labels, but I also printed the interior of the card with the secondary logo. This means the card went through the press three times: (1) Front of card in the red color, (2) Front of card in the golden color, (3) Interior of the card in the red color. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth the effort.


All in all, the entire project meant spending all day on the press. It can be an exhausting process, since you are physically cranking the press for each run (and each label required two runs, each note card required three runs). I calculated that I ran the press almost 1,000 times that day, which definitely counts as my workout for the week.

Stay tuned to find out what other letterpress projects Jay, Steve, and I come up with!

– Anne-Elise