November 27, 2010

Brew Masters, and the Saison du Buff Design

So I just watched Brew Masters (with DVR, the concept of a show being "on" at a certain time has totally eluded me), and since this is an obvious topic of interest, I thought I'd share my thoughts:
  • The show is well-produced and edited well enough that it's a great thing for the craft beer industry no matter what. Discovery has this down by now, and they've put up a good show that demonstrates what we like about craft beer.
  • I know Jim and Don at the Beer and Whiskey Brothers almost had this show, instead of Sam Calagione and the guys at Dogfish. I love their blog, and I would watch any show they run. If you're a podcast person, their podcast is one you should add to your list. But I'm glad this went with a high-profile, high-volume craft brewery, rather than roving bloggers. I'm concerned enough about the general public finding craft beer interesting that I think this show would be close to impossible to do without a charismatic brewer like Sam.
  • Obviously, I love that they talk even briefly about the packaging and supply chain decisions. I think those decisions are actually pretty cool insights that a lot of people can relate to from their own jobs.
  • Yes, I played the SAVOR scenes in slow motion looking for me or my friends. No, we're not in it.
  • Jack Curtin said that he noticed a real difference between Sam on camera and Sam on script in voice over; I heard this, too, and it was a little annoying to hear him slow everything down, but I think it's a necessary part of shows like this. Every show on Discovery has the same issue, so I assume they know what they're doing, and that what sounds scripted to us sounds understandable to those not freakishly obsessed with craft beer.
  • The ultimate question that everyone's asking is what type of staying power this show has. As someone who used to love Cake Boss and LA Ink before they got goofy, I think what we've seen is that shows like this get between one and two seasons on just the intrigue of the industry. Then, everyone knows as much as they want to about the brewery, and networks start bringing in reality show actors and guest stars and making up fake plots and the shows start to suck. Sadly, I see no reason this show will be different. Sam is really engaging and I love watching him go through the process, but unless they really can make Floris, Brian, City and everyone at the brewery compelling characters and continue to find new plotlines, I can't see how this is different from cakes or tattoos or anything else (and really, how many compelling Bitches Brew-like stories are there in the year of a craft brewery?). That said, I'm really looking forward to watching the season or two of good television this will make. And who knows? Maybe Sony will contract them for five other famous band tribute beers, and Sam will have 50 zany ideas per season for many years.
And to commemorate, here's the quick look at the Saison du Buff art:
Here are the three labels next to each other. As you can see, the three breweries forming a triangle is the unifying theme. The Dogfish puts their logo a bit higher and more central for their bottle:

Victory has the most different take on the design, using their usual font and limited color schemes with a swirl:
Stone's is probably the most restrained. What makes it distinctive is the fact that it's enameled on the bottles, as with most of Stone's bottle art:
If I had to vote, I actually like Stone's the best. It's tough to incorporate three different brewery logos into a design, so the decision to go with simplicity highlight the triangle itself is, I think, the most effective.


  1. Finally found the Victory version this evening. I was about to pour it and complete the triangle. For my money, I like Stone's the best, but Victory is the most visually pleasing.

  2. Your take on Brew Masters is the most balanced I've read so far. Beer blogs seem to be meh, Twitter is in love, and the beer geeks in my circle think it's the worst show on television.

    I love Stone's entire line of collabs, all featuring variations of the triangular motif. The triangle suggests a balance of contributions from each brewery, symbolic of the process that went into each brew. The lineup is amazing and the beers are some of the best I've had in the last couple of years.

  3. @chwi,
    I've had the Victory at the brewery, but still haven't found the other two. I need to commit myself to finding and trying all of them, since I liked the Victory so much. What makes you like the Victory art more?

    I think the thing we have to remember is that a show only beer geeks liked would be short-lived. For a show to work, it has to bring in a wider audience. I don't know how many bakers watched Cake Boss, or how many bridal store owners watch Say Yes to the Dress. The point is we already know about craft beer, so the show has to be for other people, too, and it's a tough line for Discovery to walk.

    On Facebook, someone suggested they switch breweries every season. I like that idea a lot, but I suspect it'll be too much trouble for a cable network.

    Stone is one of those breweries that I love for many reasons. They're arguably the biggest practitioners of the "bigger is better" modus operandi, with massive hoppy beers billed as aggressive, but they also have one of the best session beers in the country with the Levitation. They are a huge brand with a charismatic leader that loves collaboration. If Brew Masters does take the advice and follows a different brewery next season, I'd love to see them follow Greg Koch at Stone.

  4. Although I say Stone is most likely and least subjectively the "best" label, I don't like it as much since Stone did the exact same design for the San Diego County Session ale.
    The simplicity is what makes me say it's the best, but since this whole beer was a major undertaking, I would have liked to see them not use the exact same template as the session beer.

    For the Victory, I prefer both what was inside the bottle and the outside to the other two.
    The Victory version was mainly spearheaded with the sage, whereas I thought DFH had too much rosemary, and the Stone didn't make any memories with the flavor. But this is a label blog, so....

    I liked that Victory didn't take the top point on their triangle. Sure, it says it in big bold letters above, but they shared the top with Stone where neither of them could be considered "top" and DFH is the only correctly positioned logo.
    That may be nit-picky, but look at DFH's bottle. No denying where that came from.And even Stone, the demon is top and centered nearly vertical.

    My OCD on that aside, the level of detail and shading, with sparing use but rich color makes it. It makes it seem more mysterious and intriguing. Call me crazy.

  5. Oh, I don't think that's crazy at all. I think the giving points for more selflessly embracing the idea of collaboration makes a ton of sense, and your reasoning seems dead-on.

    I think I was considering the Stone bottle exemplary of their collaboration art, but you're right, it's not all that different from what they do with other collaborations.

    There's no right or wrong in this art stuff, Chwi, and I very much appreciate your (and everyone's) feedback. I suppose it's worth mentioning again that I have seen NONE of these bottles in person, so it's also possible I'm missing a good deal of the point.

    Thanks again for the feedback. I think one mark of good art and design is that it can be talked about by regular people.

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