February 8, 2011

Boulevard Smokestack Series and the Label Art of Payton Kelly

Okay, been sitting on these since December, but it turns out it's a good thing I saved them.

Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, MO, has work that was good enough to achieve mainstream media recognition, with the KC Star's profile of artist Payton Kelly. There's a story in there about how Boulevard's early cardboard cases left him with an appreciation for earthtones and muted colors. Using Cindy Hoedel's excellent reporting as a backdrop, let's take a quick look.
Anything called the "Double-Wide" has to have a mild sense of humor. According to the Star story:

Kelly was looking for an image that would tie the exotic-sounding name to the Midwest. He found it in a painting by Kansas City artist Archie Scott Gobber called “Relax It’s Twister Proof,” which depicts a tornado bearing down upon a double-wide trailer. Kelly later tweaked the image and expanded on the theme for the company’s Single-Wide India Pale Ale, which shows an aluminum trailer that looks like the Airstream Bambi.

Of course, I can't find an image of that painting, but you can get a sense of Gobber's work on his site here. Regardless, we can see even from Gobber's later stuff his fondness for retro lettering and style, so it's easy to see the good fit here.

The Tank 7, according to Hoedel, is:
one of those labels that feels familiar, but you can’t pinpoint why. The elaborate font is called Captain Howdy, and it was used on classic Ouija boards. The “7” is inside a circle as if seen from the hole in the Ouija planchette, or pointer. The mysterious mood reflects the sense among Boulevard workers that “you never know what’s going to happen with fermentation tank 7 — it’s like the black sheep of equipment.”
I actually wouldn't have picked up on the Ouija font, especially against that nice soft blue-green color. It strikes me as more Cowboy/Western, with the 7 having connotations from one-armed bandits to Jack Daniel's.

No writeup for the Dark Truth Stout work, but we see the similar color scheme. I love the inversion of text color to conjure both darkness and mystery. Cheers also for making the glass cloudy at the top, which adds realism, further mystery, and a match for the glass' base. The line of the glass functions as a U, while the line of beer reinforces divisions in the text planes.

One more time, from Ms. Hoedel:
McDonald took the name for The Sixth Glass Quadrupel Ale from a Hans Christian Andersen story called “The Watchman of the Tower.” The story is a cautionary tale about over-imbibing, the gist of which is that in the first glass lies health, but by the sixth glass you’ll find the devil himself. “Andersen wrote this tale for a somewhat older audience. Our quadrupel ale, also meant for the mature connoisseur, is a deep and mysterious libation, dark auburn and full-bodied, its sweetness deceptive,” Kelly said. In drawing the devil, Kelly gave him a mischievous rather than darkly evil demeanor, in keeping with the story’s moral that the source of temptation seems harmless enough in the beginning.
That's a lot to put into this relatively straightforward label, but it goes to show you how much thought and inspiration there is that we never see. I would have just pegged this as one of the many devil labels (lord, there are lots of them) with a nice burnt orange backdrop and palm reader lettering, and moved on. But it's a pretty cool story, and thanks to Kelly, Hoedel and the Star for giving it to us. 

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