April 20, 2011

Brewery Art Rundown: Three Heads Brewing

A relative newcomer to the craft beer scene of upstate New York is Rochester's Three Heads Brewing. Their label art thus far is by Allen Firlit, an illustrator without a website, but whose Googling result shows is an art teacher and a grad of RIT. His art, as we shall see, is stylistically interesting and distinctive.

But first, the logo:
Okay, high up on my list of things that need a moratorium/ban is the copying/interpolation of the old OBX logo that has been overdone to the point of ubiquity. Especially with a visually evocative name like "three heads," this boring redux is a missed opportunity. But it's one of those things that can be redone in the future, and it's not ugly or anything, so let's get to the good stuff:
The Blimey English Pale label has a great union and juxtaposition of London and the traditions of the British guard, and a '60s hippy style, down to the peace symbol., The thin, bony elongated digits and neck play up the hippiness (not a word) of the guard. Note the composition: The tall guard forms a vertical line up the right, with Big Ben as a counter on the left, and the exaggerated angle of the famous double decker bus drawing our eye between the two.

The '60s theme continues with their IPA, The Kind:
This is clearly a reference to the fact that marijuana (cannabis sativa) and hops (humulus lupus) are closely related in the flora kingdom, and we should in no way consider this to indicate that founders of 3HB like smoking weed. The hippy guitarist in the image looks based on on Jerry Garcia., delightfully plump and unwashed. The soft halo of the lighter tan around him and his guitar lends itself to the chillness of the image.

Now to the most adorable skunk you'll ever see:
The Skunk Black IPA label is just the fusion of the things you'd expect to see: A skunk, hops, and a dark color palette to suggest the dark, roasted character of the Noonan Black Ale style (I really hate the idea of any term that describes something as both "black" and "pale"). Once again, we will assume no intentional use of marijuana puns. This skunk has big, cute eyes and his stripes even kind of have a fun, jagged bounce to them that reminds me of Mary GrandPre (who did the Harry Potter cover art in the US). Again we see Firlit's great composition, with the curves of both the skunk and the hop vines suggesting movement and drawing your eye around the piece.

Lastly, the Java Sutra:
This is pretty awesome. Firlit's style remains one of children's illustration, but this time dealing with a fairly adult suggestion, except that the couple in bed is a coffee bean and a hop. Brilliantly, this is amusingly salacious, safe for kids, clever, colorful, and - most importantly - suggests the flavor of the beer. It's like a coffee bean and a hop had a really good time in a lot of different positions, causing some mild but enjoyable chaos and settling into a pleasant aftermath.Nice use of complimentary and contrasting colors to keep the image jumping out.

For those geekishly into such things (i.e. me), I do have a question. The two appear to have switched places in the revelry; the hop flower is of course female, and the women's clothing is on the right side. But the coffee cup is on the right side as well, and the beer bottles are on the left. So did they roll around enough that everything was scattered? Were they enjoying each others' beverages before their romp? And is it me, or is the bean kind of angled away from the hop? Maybe it's running late for a meeting.

All in all, great work by Firlit. I look forward to seeing more stuff by him and Three Heads.


  1. On the horizon...


  2. Very cool. I saw several bombers in a bottle shop and was drawn in by the labels. Once I found out they were from Rochester (my hometown growing up), I had to purchase a few.

    Keep up the good work.