Broadside’s bold taste and imagery has endured for over 50 years, and we do love a ship here at Adnams. Since it was first launched in 1972 to mark the tercentenary of The Battle of Sole Bay, that ship has taken centre stage on the branding.

Broadside’s refresh remains really true to the brand, after all, it is such an iconic beer for us. It has a lot of supporters, and we didn’t want their cannons turned on us. We’ve moved its instantly recognisable design cues into our new painted style, and we’ve built on its wonderful red colours. It’s now super-intense, vivid and vibrant, to reflect the beer’s big-hitting character.

Artist, Vanessa Sorboen, loves working with light and by painting in oils she’s really managed to capture that stormy, battle-scene sky – it really shines through. She’s also embedded the scene in the landscape, expanding the canvas to bring in some perspective and connect it clearly to the town.

Vanessa was lulled into a false sense of security when she was given Southwold Bitter as the first painting in the project. She was told that one would be the hardest, and then she was broadsided! Just ask our pub signwriter, Dave, and he’ll tell you that ships are notoriously difficult to paint.

“In truth, the hardest painting was probably Broadside. The ship! Oh my god! I didn't know about Broadside when we began Southwold Bitter,” she said laughing. “In the Broadside painting, you have the perspective of the ships moving away in the distance and how the scene merges with the landscape of the town. Once I’d got to grips with the ships, it wasn’t too bad, apart from the fact that you’re working in oils. It’s a totally fluid medium that you're constantly having to work with. it's not like you can just change one bit - you’d have to change the whole thing because it all needs to blend.” 

We love the battle scene moodiness and the glow that Vanessa’s created. It feels like the sky is on fire. “It was hard to get that effect in this medium and it was interesting to contemplate how things might translate from the painting to bottle. Elements might feel obvious when I'm painting them, but I had to think about when somebody looks at the bottle and if they’ll see the same thing. It was an exciting challenge because I never would have thought I could have done it. There were a lot of expectations with this one.

“I also had no idea how precise I’d have to get with things like the edge of the sails, or the positioning of the composition on the canvas, so it would work with the final graphic elements. I thought as long as it is in there and this bit is off to the left it will be fine, but we had to be much more controlled than that.

I've never painted a ship like that in my life and thought how on earth am I going to do it, but that's when the design agency was really supportive. They would say do it a bit like this, and then they would draw it, and then once I started trying it, I found it quite easy. I couldn't believe it when I finished. I stepped back and thought, I can't do that again. It was like an out of body experience.”