Ghost Ship’s story has always been tied to Walberswick, Southwold’s neighbour, and reputedly the most haunted village – not only in Suffolk, but in England. It was here, while the team was sheltering in one its hostelries, that Ghost Ship’s tale began, much like the stories of sightings of haunted ships did. 

As part of our re-design, we wanted to focus more on the sense of place within each beer’s story and develop a broader impression of our region and its rich tapestry of tales. Previous branding for Ghost Ship was focussed offshore, with the ship front and centre. We wanted to show it in situ, as it might appear in ghost stories told around pub firesides. We wanted to show the ship as if spotted from Walberswick’s shore, with its sails enveloped in fog and lit by the moonlight - a sight that is true to the legend.

Artist Vanessa Sorboen visited Walberswick and has incorporated a stretch of the beach and its dunes, into two oil paintings – one for Ghost Ship Pale Ale and the other for its low-alcohol manifestation, Ghost Ship 0.5%. Her aim was to start to embody, a little sense of the coastline.

For Ghost Ship Pale Ale, you have the night sky and the moon causing the clouds to look like the ship and then you have this glowing, russet sun hitting those clouds on Ghost Ship 0.5%, which makes it really looks like the sun is setting.

The ship was quite dark and illustrative on the previous branding, but Vanessa’s painting portrays a lighter, more ethereal vessel emerging from the fog. We asked her how she managed to capture that scene and refresh the vision of our two best-selling brews.

I never paint the same thing twice, so from the off, that was one of the big challenges with painting Ghost Ship Pale Ale and its low-alcohol counterpart. I've never really painted anything that someone asked me to paint, let alone paint it twice.

In terms of the look, the agency really wanted me to put my twist in it, but there was also a requirement for certain brand colours to distinguish these two beers. Those colours are synonymous with the beers, but I also had to make them my own, said Vanessa. 


For Ghost Ship Pale Ale, the whole scene is brighter and lit by the moonlight, whereas for Ghost Ship 0.5%, the light is on the sky and the sails, while the dunes and the shore begin to fall into shadow, as the setting sun drops to the horizon.

When painting these ships, it's all about the perspective and the angles and the juxtaposition with the water, the sails and the reflections and shadows. I wasn’t aware when tackling Ghost Ship how accurate I was going to have to get with its sails, so it would work on the labels and on the cask clips. The position on the canvas was crucial – it wasn’t like it was computer generated and could be played around with until it fitted. That was an interesting part of process.

When I was finished, I couldn't quite believe what I saw.Which is true for anyone viewing a ghost ship.