April 16, 2011

Brewery Art Rundown: Tony Beard's New Albanian Artwork

I have a theory that the next great craft beer state is Indiana. I say this not because I know anything, but because I am continually becoming aware of interesting Indiana breweries whose beer I can not easily get in PA. From an art perspective, I've written about Sun King and Three Floyds, both of whom do good work in their respective media. But so far, the best art I've seen in the Hoosier State's beer scene might be coming from New Albanian Brewing Company and artist Tony Beard.

Many of these pieces are relatively new, but Beard has a lot of great work going back a ways that is posted here. Let's start with collaboration label for the C2, a beer by NABC, O'Fallon and Schlafly.
So right off the bat, we have a good look at deep, rich colors and textures, and the magical/fantastic style that characterizes much of Beard's work. In this case, the wood nymph-like creature exhales smoke from a volcanic mouth, while the bark-like skin and the bright, rich green suggest to us that the smoked beer is also hardy and bold in flavor.

The Thunderfoot Cherry Imperial Stout similarly channels a sci-fi/fantasy vibe.
We see an enormous foot emerge from a swirl of stormclouds to threaten the city. The sinewy structure of the foot and swirling clouds are reminiscent of a tornado (we are in the alley, after all), and the tag of "Ultimate Urban Renewal" is a pretty dire piece of black humor. I particularly love the fact that we watch all of this through a double hole in brick walls, giving it the feeling of a welcome, cleansing destruction of the dark, blighted city, rather than the bad thing that an enormous stomping foot would probably be.

Here's this year's piece for Gravity Head, an indescribable beer and event thing that they do every year:
Unlike previous years' space themes, this is a Thomas Pynchon reference, playing on the tarot theme from his huge and famous novel. Eerie, awesome, and a little disconcerting, this year's logo does a lot with a simple idea and only one color (irony with the idea of a "rainbow"). The falling figure gives us both movement (and plays to the gravity theme). The tarot cards and different logos relate to the format of the event, where multiple beers are involved.

I mentioned there is some old work up, and that appears to be because Beard and NABC update looks often. Let's look at the Hoptimus, their imperial IPA.

Here's the first:
The Hoptimus name lends itself to the obvious hop robot pun, and this was pretty straightforward.

It was updated to:
A far more original work, and note that Beard was able to use his earlier work both in the robot's emblem and at the top bar.

Finally, the most recent piece:
Here, a background of gray gears not only sets a tone but really pushes the robot out of the background in a way that the straight black of earlier years did not. Now we really get the fact that this beer is "stern stuff," from the imposing nature of the 'bot, and the steampunk look of the label and lettering also makes it clear that drinking it might be a fun experience.

Many of Beard's pieces are influenced by Communist Propaganda art of the 1920s and 30s, like this poster he did for the brewery:

I really, really like this piece. The arc of the hammer, the angled beam of light  that widens to the right (could call to mind train tracks on which the laborer is working),  and the simple form and color palette all work. Particularly effective is that Beard is definitely not afraid of empty space, which serves to isolate the figure in a more heroic way, and makes the simple lettering at the top and bottom more dramatic without being ostentatious. Fantastic stuff, and I'll have to keep my eyes out for more of Beard's work. Really, if I ever run out of good beer art (unlikely, as I fall farther behind), I could do probably two more posts based just on the stuff he's posted.

A few notes and links:

  • As breweries continue to get more ambitious and effective with social media tools, we're going to see more things like this app from Abita, which lets you find any Abita beer you want nearby.
  • Via Stephen Beaumont, the guys at Notch Session Ale won a very competitive Business Plan competition.
  • Box Vox has some good stuff on the bottles of former Staten Island Brewer Bechtel.
  • The B&W Bros had some thoughts on beer censorship in Canada. Boy is that label ugly.
  • The Fegley's Brew Works released a statement about the fight with Troegs over the word "elf." This seems like it is going to go to court, which will be long and expensive, but I think it probably has to. Because the Fegleys have been using "Rude Elf" for so long, and because Troegs hasn't protected "elf" against other breweries, there's a case here, and my contacts on both sides don't indicate anything close to conversations that will resolve this amicably. As many others have said, it does suck when it's two of your own favorite, local breweries.

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