September 2, 2011

Session 55: Beer Logos and Labels, or The Best Session Ever

So, the session this month is at Curtis Taylor's Hop Head Said, and Curtis has picked a truly wonderful topic for us this month:

Now it is time to dig through your stash and share your favorite label, coaster or cap art.

I know what you're thinking: Uhm, that's what this blog does all the damn time, so how is this different? Fair point, it's really not. But hey, this means for one glorious day, everyone's writing about beer label art!

Of course, there's a way in which this is the absolute worst Session topic for me, ever. Asking me to pick a favorite is like asking a man to choose between his several hundred children. Do I go with my main beer-art-crush of the moment in Lee Verzosa at Stillwater? Phineas X. Jones? Adam Forman? It's enough to drive a man to drink.

But I think it's been way too long since I discussed the first craft beer label that actually engaged me, and that artist and brewery continue to produce fantastic work today, so now seems as good a time for a memory-driven homage as any.

Some of you know that I was initially inspired to start a beer art exhibition by the kerfuffle over a risque label from now-defunct Legacy Brewing Co. And while that's true, I had secretly been caring about beer label art for years before that, since I discovered craft beer at a wonderful Pittsburgh establishment called Fuel and Fuddle

They had a 100 beers club, as many bars now do, and I was young and naive about beer, but my nurtured obsession with overachievement and connoisseurship drove me to start one, and I began drinking craft beer. One of the bottles on the list was different from anything I'd ever seen. It was funny, smart, artistic, creative. The label made me laugh and show it to others, something I'd never even thought a label could do. 
cheers to for having this old image
Everything about it was different. The use of the "He'Brew" (Shmaltz Brewing's line of ales), The Chosen Beer, the fact that "It's the Beer You've Been Waiting for"... to a young Jewish religious studies geek like myself, this was gold.

Now it goes by a different name (the Messiah Bold), and Shmaltz has put a lot of resources into redesign and focus on the Coney Island Lagers, but dark ale lives on with quite a bit of the label copy intact. Years later, when I launched the aforementioned art show, and was desperately peddling my concept to breweries who clearly thought I was isane, Shmaltz founder Jeremy Cowan and artist Matt Polacheck not only sent art, but came to the opening and brought the house down with wit, charm and misdirected belly dancers (but that's a story for a later time).
Bigger, badder, and brighter... but the same sense of humor
Matt (who I have been fortunate enough to get to know) continues to crank out great work, including his creepy, brilliant carny stuff for the Coney Island Lagers, and he and Jeremy continue to push boundaries of art in beer (like starting "The world's smallest commercial production brewery," making beer one gallon at a time). If you're in the NYC area, a great place to meet Matt is at Freaktoberfest, where you can see people who really do stuff like this:
A skill, yes. A marketable one? Well...
I swear, no one asked me to promote that event; I've just been to it before and it is insanely freakin' cool and, like all things Shmaltz does, is balls-to-the-wall crazy. 

So if you like this blog, and you do go to Freaktoberfest or see Matt or Jeremy in your travels, you can thank them. Without that work, it may never have occurred to me just how powerful a marketing and design piece a beer label can be.

1 comment:

  1. I wondered how you would respond to this session. I certainly prefer their Coney Island labels to the ales.