How does the saying go? “Teamwork makes the dream work”? It’s certainly made amazing things happen for West Side Brewing, the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), and Brick Solid Brands. Their Braille Ale Raspberry Gose collaboration won a “Platinum Crushie” (the top category prize) for Best Can Design in the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards in July, prompting the brewery to release another run of the limited-edition late last month.
What makes this can so special? As the name connotes, Braille Ale features raised Braille directly on the can. Aaron Bley, vice president of community relations and chief development officer for CABVI, began mulling over the idea years ago. He started a conversation about it with West Side Brewing in fall 2019.
“I pitched the idea [as] ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could work together on a fundraising project and create a Braille ale with a beer can that has actual raised Braille on it?’” Bley recalls. “It’s been on my wish list for years as something that I thought would be advantageous for those with visual impairment and also a great thing to do for the community to bring awareness to accessibility challenges.”
Andrew Curtis of Brick Solid Brands joined the project, tasked with the practical issues of not only designing an appealing can of beer, but producing the raised Braille.
“The biggest challenge was incorporating the Braille in the design,” he notes. “The Braille had to be a certain size in order for people to read it. This limited us in where we could place it on the can.”
CABVI assisted by essentially proofreading the proposed Braille, ensuring its size and spacing were legible. Brick Solid Brands had to get creative to finish the limited-run cans—even ordering special plates from Germany to create the raised Braille—but Curtis thinks Braille Ale will show other companies what’s possible.
“One of the biggest challenges of this project was figuring out how to print the 3D Braille on the actual label,” he explains. “Once that process is fully ironed out, I see no reason why companies could not include Braille on their products.”
The team approached the project with two goals. First, they wanted to raise awareness for CABVI and its mission. Not only does the can spark conversation, but a portion of each sale goes to CABVI’s support programs. The can itself supported the team’s second goal: improving blind shoppers’ experience.
“Simple tasks like reading the labels on food and beverage packages is something most of us take for granted,” Curtis says. “This project has definitely opened up people’s eyes to a problem most have probably never thought of.”
The first goal also met with soaring success. “With the launch of Braille Ale, we have had requests that came into CABVI from all over the country,” Bley says. “They were trying to get their hands on the product and asking how it came about.”
Braille Ale Raspberry Gose (initially launched in 2020) is back in West Side Brewing’s taproom to celebrate the “Crushie” while supplies last. Fans can also find the award-winning cans in select retailers for a limited time.