June 22, 2010

Twisted Pine's Le Petite Saison Label

When I was in Colorado for last year's GABF, I had the opportunity to get up to Boulder and visit all 16 breweries there at the time. One of the winners, from both a beer and art standpoint, was definitely Twisted Pine. 
Twisted Pine has a basic label that looks like this:

Not particularly stunning, but the combination of the simple elements would lead it to jump off a shelf while remaining approachable. Many of the beers use a permutation on this.

They also branch out, such as with label art like this (Ignore the promo stuff on the right):
Or the art for the quite spicy Billy's Chilies, which was successful enough to adorn a cycling jersey:
You get the picture. Simple, clear, effective. Their new summer beer, Le Petite Saison, is no different. Here's the design by former brewery employee and now freelance artist Tyler Hale.
This design is in keeping with Twisted Pine's clear, defined color fields and simplistic style. The color palette is even more limited than usual, sticking to two colors and only one small monochrome figure. The lettering is not revolutionary, but the cross-fading of coloration keeps the image interesting from top to bottom. Summery, simple, and interesting, just as any good saison should be.

June 17, 2010

Some Links, and Pete Brown's Book Covers

Some links I've been meaning to share:

June 16, 2010

Four Warm Color Labels

So I've successfully moved, and along with unpacking I'm still trying to clear a backlog of interesting beer art that's been accruing for a month. Let's start with the Hopworks Urban Brewery Rise Up Red:
Like a lot of Hopworks stuff, it's got a healthy dose of Communist propaganda art influences. That's even more appropriate in a Red Ale called "Rise Up." I tried to contact the artist with no success, but it's pretty fair to say that what the design lacks in subtlety it makes up for in bold, attention-grabbing pointedness. I like the limited color palette, too.

Next, Odell's Woodcut #4:
Nothing too out of the ordinary, but I like the old-timey feel of the Woodcut series artwork. Brown-on-orange is a bit tough to pull off (and on my monitor it doesn't look great), but the denseness of the tree and old West lettering sets off the swirling designs in the background. My guess is it looks great on a 750 ml bottle.

Now for something completely different:
Oakshire's Line Dry Rye label is here because of the way it separates out color fields on a simple line image. One of the siren calls of label art is to fill every space with swirls and designs so that the image is as complex as possible. This can be effective, just as throwing lots of ingredients into a beer can be effective, but there is also excellence to be found in simplicity. This label is not afraid of empty space, using only a slight waviness in the lines and a little insect to decorate the sides. The simplicity goes with the hand-style lettering and kindergarten colors to make the label look bright and appealing. The only thing I catch myself not liking is the dark blue on the sides. I think they were trying to set off the colors, but it seems to go against the overall brightness of the image. I love the red at the bottom, though.

Okay, last one for the day, in honor of the recently finished Philly Beer Week (congrats to Don Russell and everyone else at PBW for an unbelievable 900-event-stuffed week of wonder), we have the Victory Summer Love:
This is a beer created by Victory to go with the Philly Tourism campaign. Neat idea, and I love that a brewery can help market a community. The art is nice, if comprised of predictable elements: Ben Franklin statue holding a beer, hops floating, a nice summery palette of yellow, green and blue. Still, it perfectly conveys the purpose of the beer, which is to promote Philly and provide a nice warm weather brew.

June 15, 2010

Epic Brewery's Opening Label Art

Utah's newest brewery is called Epic Brewing, and it opened late last month. Their label art is a nice blend of sleek design and photography. Here are a few of the standouts from the line.
The 825 State Stout might be my favorite. The use of the black-and-white photography of the dilapidated beer sign next to the red-black lettering and the wood imagery conjure some feel of a brewery building a contemporary image that's still steeped in history. The gray inlaid bottom bar with the industrial style brings the two panes together. The template is used for their whole Elevated Series.
Anyone who names a beer - and an IPA, no less! - after Robert Smithson's most famous work is okay by me. The earthworks artist was a pioneer of postmodern art, and his sculpture into Salt Lake City is a piece I want to see before I die. I also like the use of the sunset palette and the painterly look to it. Here's what Smithson's piece looks like from a more traditional view:

Onto the Galloway Porter Label:
I mean, cows are just great subjects for art. Look at the facial expression on the main one. The way his (pretty sure that's a bull) head is cocked gives it a nice asymmetry that balances the smaller wood field on the left.

Ed: Just saw an old post by beersage about the Epic Exponential Series. Labels are monochrome pastel on cream, and all look something like this:
Nice, clean, easy to read. But isn't this a lot of offerings for a new brewery? That's three series of beers.

June 7, 2010

Some Cleanup Links As I Recover From SAVOR

Okay, a mess of stuff as I try to clear some of the backlog...

A good friend who I shall call the Pour Sociologist sent me a link to Tom Megginson's amusing collection of blonde ales personified as hot blond women. Nice work, but he left out my favorite, the Ska True Blonde Ale:
Now that is an attractive beer. Or woman. Or something. I guess this supports that whole beer-art-is-masculine theory.

Three recent Jay Brooks posts included Rubens' ode to drinking in The Village Fete, Pure Travel's creation of a world map based on beer labels, and Neal Barbosa's painting and performance art of the Lagunitas dog:
Barbosa paints quickly to music, crossing that line between visual and performance art that I find particularly intriguing.

MSN did a nice story on some of the more impressive brewery buildings. And so is the Lost Oregon Blog.

Speaking of great buildings, the SAVOR beer and food festival was held this past weekend in the National Building Museum, which is one of the more impressive structures I've ever had a beer in.

On the other side of those five-story columns were projected in light the sponsoring breweries' logos. Great food, great beer, great event with lots of brewers and craft beer lovers. It's definitely worth getting to if you ever get a chance.

June 4, 2010

The Session #40: The Artwork of Session Beers

This month's session was a tough call for me, since "session beers" are a large and somewhat vague category, and there's no way to really narrow down artwork.

So I did what I always do when I have session questions: I consulted Lew Bryson's Session Beer Project. I mean, it is Philly Beer Week now, and Lew is the foremost appreciator of session beers, so it seemed appropriate to search for beer artwork there. A session beer, for those who don't know, is a low-alcohol, high-taste, inexpensive beer. It's something of a lost art in this age of ever-hoppier arms races for the biggest beer possible.

The first thing that piqued my interest there was a PBW-appropriate reminder that Yards Brewing Company's Brawler is 3.8%. Yards is, of course, in Philly, and in the show, so let's start with them.

As you can see, the brawler features an old-style boxer versus a demon. This fits with Yards' early American style in their art. In this particular case, it highlights the virtue of a good session beer, which is a punchy flavor (that's more than a bad pun, it's actually descriptive of what big flavor from low-abv beers is like, in my opinon). Session beers are also something of a throwback style, so this is totally appropriate.

So I was thinking about session beers I like, and thought immediately of the Stone Brewing Company Levitation Ale. We've mentioned Stone for their delicious beer and masculine gargoyle artwork, so let's look at their 4.4% session offering:

So the gargoyle is floating, but still glaring, hinting at the intense flavor of the beer. I love big IPAs, and I like Stone's beer a lot, but Levitation might be my favorite offering by them, because it was such a departure for the San Diego brewery. I can't remember ever getting more flavor for a 4.4% abv beer that costs $4 at a bar.

And lastly, also via the project, I see that there is a new session-only beer company, Portland, ME's Notch.

I like the theme, a fairly masculine color red-black palette and Western style lettering, and I like the little notch in the N that looks a little like it got shot. Honestly, though, I wish the branding were a bit more exciting, not because I dislike it but because my first thoughts on seeing the Western style design were that it was too similar to the contemporary MillerCoors effort Batch 19.
Not that too many people are likely to confuse a Massachusetts session brewery with a macro launch, but I think it highlights one of the challenges of session beer. The fact is that it is easy to differentiate a 10% double IPA or a robust porter from a new offering by InBev, because they don't taste similar. But a low-abv, low-cost, high-flavor ale sounds a lot like it could be a slogan for whatever macrobrewery product is new this month.

Oversimplistically, session ales are craft beers aimed at swill drinkers, and Batch 19 is swill aimed at craft beer drinkers. In these cases, brand confusion is an even bigger pitfall, and so art and design becomes an even more important distinguishing factor. Consequently, brewers like Notch are walking a line between an image that is approachable and one that is distinctive. In this case, I hope the stroke of bad luck that Notch ran into with similar design by a high-powered competitor doesn't hurt them; I'd love to get some Notch in PA. After a month, they're doing great, and new craft-esque offerings by macros have largely tanked (Bud Light Wheat, I'm looking at your crappy sales numbers), so my money's on Notch.

June 2, 2010

Brad Hosbach Designs Your Philly Beer Week Attire

Philly artist and middle school teacher Brad Hosbach has designed a shirt to go with all of the beer you'll be having at Philly Beer Week. And the money you spend on it goes to help a good cause.
A few months back,  I entered a design contest for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.  I ended up winning and also learning a bit about the foundation.  I've been making t-shirts for a few years now and I've given some discounts for "relay for life" tees and stuff like that, so i thought I'd step it up a notch and donate 3 dollars from each BEER WEEK shirt (to ALSF) to help fight childhood cancer. 
 Here's the design:
I like the integration of the skyline with the PBW logo (the LOVE statue made into BEER). It's interesting that Yards gets its own building, and the other great breweries of Philly are just implied, but having been to many of the city breweries, I can say that the Yards facility is definitely the most striking from the outside, so that makes sense.

There are more details on the shirts at many places, including Primitive Printing and The Brew Lounge (from whence I found out about it). But the bottom line is you e-mail Brad or just pay that email address through PayPal. It comes in blue but if you want something special color-wise, Brad can probably make it happen.
 The shirts come in 3 styles:
Hanes beefy tee $10  (sizes are pretty true)
American Apparel soft tee $15  (run a bit tight)
Alt Apparel girl fitted tee $15  (a bit snug, order a size up if needed)
add $2 for xxl, xxxl, $3 for xxxxl
Shipping costs an additional $3.

As for Brad's other work, here's his contest winning shirt design.:
Here's some of his Fauvism-inspired paintings:

East End and Toonseum Unite with Illustration Ale Project

Any teaming up of craft breweries and museums is something I wholeheartedly support. Pittsburgh's East End Brewing Company (which I already loved) has teamed up with the Toonseum, a museum of comic art, on the Illustration Ale, a beer with six labels illustrated by different local artists, whose proceeds got to support the Toonseum, and which will be unveiled at the Toonseum for the release party on June 19th.

Here's a quick look at the Illustration Ale artwork:
David Coulson's is the most basic of the labels. Looks kind of like some of the older breweriana labels.
I like the complementary color palette that Dave Klug uses here. Also, I like whales and octopi in general. Pretty much everything from the bowler-clad fish to the catfish is adorable.
Pat Lewis' caveman owes more to the Flintstones than Lascaux, but I like the guy with the beer he's drawing. It's like a mini-anthropology lesson: Are those figures drinking with that game creature, or hunting it to use as a pairing?
A slightly more contemporary illustration, George Schill's work seems less indebted to Hanna Barbara than to Antoine de Saint-Expury or Gary Larson. This piece is a nice, crisp two-color image that could be a nice piece of branding (though it does call to mind some of the older style posters whose spoofs have become prevalent on dorm room walls).
Comic book artist Jim Rugg seems more inspired by the later comic book work of the 80s and 90s, when artists like Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons worked with the first generation of what we now call "graphic novelists" like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. The pairing of the anatomically detailed brain stem with the traditional gag glasses, one assumes, is a comment on the work of the comic artist.
Mark Zingarelli's label is the most obvious throwback, using the golden age comic book style that inspired Roy Lichtenstein. I love that Suds Tully looks like the most mirthless bureaucrat one could imagine.

Once again, June 19th is the release party of the Illustration Ale. Could make a great bookend to a roatdtrip with "Design, Drink and Be Merry" on the other side. Okay, enough shameless pluggery.