October 14, 2011

New Boards by Alex Clare at Bethlehem Brew Works

All right, friends, we are back on the proverbial horse here. I don't think that saying actually comes from a proverb, and the word "proverbial" always seems strange to me when it's used to mean "from a common phrase whose meaning is now separate from its origin," but I have yet to find a better option.

So I'm back, grammar tangents and all.

We have new boards (and one new label) from our friend Alex Clare at the Fegley's Brew Works. Sadly, my photography with my HTC Droid Incredible 2 leaves much to be desired, but you can get an idea.
The apricot coriander is hilarious, even though I'm not sure why the fruit is pulling up its tighty-whities. Why is it even wearing underwear? But the color, as you can see, uses a nice blue-orange complement, and the text is really well done. The Bagpiper's Scotch Ale is one of the more popular beers, and while the art is maybe what you'd expect, I like the off-center composition and the fact that the piper is facing left while his pipes face right.
On the left, you can see the other half of the board for the Golden Ale, which has Clare's rendition of Indiana Jones' Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. I guess in this case, the Brew Works' lightest ale is the equivalent of the holy grail from Last Crusade? The Pumpkin-headed Jack-o-Lantern is a dramatic image for the Devious Imperial Pumpkin, and I like the lack of unnecessary text (seriously, what else would that indicate?).  The Steelworkers Stout might actually be my favorite of these boards, with the industrial, Art Deco-like look of the steelworker. It's like a 1920s labor poster, updated with a very contemporary dark color palette and simplicity.
This photograph is really terrible, but you can see the boards for the ESB and the (delicious) Green Monsta.
On the left is the Steelgaarden Wit, held by a farming robot. If you know Clare's art, this apparent nonsequitur is not all that surprising, because the man has a talent for envisioning strange characters. The Devil's Hearth was a nice surprise; I would never have expected the art for this to literally envision a fireplace owned by Satan, but Clare makes it work. The text foreshortening isn't perfect, but again the rich color of the pastels on slate give the image a nice, deep resonance.

Also, we have a new label:
Once again, we see the QR code with a link to "tasting notes and secrets," and The Brew Works has been on the forefront of using that technology effectively. But the artwork by Clare is a nice, show-stealing piece. The caricatured Ben Franklin, tipsily hoisting a brew (with Fegley's logo) because it's too nice to fly his kite and discover electricity (yes, the kite-and-key thing is probably a myth), is a fun and happy character that matches the name (a play on the popular FX show). Compositionally, the sun manages to balance Ben, and the yellow of the text doesn't even clash with it. One expects from this label to get a pale that is light, effervescent and brightly flavored, which means the label is doing its job communicating the visual identity of the beer.

From a strategy and branding perspective, one wonders if this beer is the beginning of the Fegley's Brew Works establishing more of a connection with Philadelphia. Despite being no farther than Stoudt's or Lancaster, and much closer than Dogfish Head, the Brew Works has been less affiliated with the City of Brotherly Love than those brewery. Of course, it could also just be one beer. We'll see if they're more of a present force at, say, 2012's Philly Beer Week.


  1. Thanks for the post about us!
    As for your thoughts about our homage to Philly, you are right. Philadelphia is an awesome beer town. We were proud when Joe Sixpack, one of the nation's leading beer writers who pens for the Philadelphia Daily News (every Friday), named Fegley's Brew Works Hop'Solutely the "Beer of the Year." Joe Sixpack is also a co-founder of Philly Beer Week. Hop'Solutely was showcased at several venues during Philly Beer Week and was named in several bloggers "Top 10" lists in coverage of the week long celebration.
    Then, at the Philadelphia Summer Ale Festival (at the Zoo), Fegley's Brew Works was the overwhelming champ by popular vote: Blueberry Belch (with INCREDIBLE label art by Alex Clare) recieved a runaway win!
    There were a lot of things that brought us to "Always Sunny" and it's design, and a lot of fun has been had along the way. One again Alex, and designer Traci Langer, have hit it out of the park! Now, let the fun begin for everyone else - and make sure to ask for Fegley's Brew Works everywhere you go!!

  2. Thanks for the updates, Mike. The Brew Works' efforts at expansion are probably worth a whole post, since it's a great case study into the tradeoffs of a relatively small brewery going into a new, massive beer market.

  3. Hey thanks once again for the awesome shout-out, Greg! I had no idea anyone was looking so closely at my work, and I'm thrilled you noticed some of the little things that I put time and thought into when doing these boards.

    I had said the exact same thing about the pumpkin ale not needing text, and the stout is also my favorite! You even noticed my lack of correct perspective on the devil's hearth, haha...I tried to make it less skewed but it wasn't as legible, so I settled with that.

    Anyways, I appreciate that someone is really taking the time to notice them! We just got new boards in, and will slowly be selling off these boards so I don't have to erase them anymore. Stop by the brewery soon for more info! And please, feel free to contact me in the future, I can answer any questions you may have.

  4. Great review of Alex's art! Thanks for noticing (as Alex's girlfriend, I am very proud of all his work for Brew Works!) the hard work that goes into what he's been doing. Reading your reviews, specifically talking about the Devious, Steel Worker's and Devil's Hearth, were so close to my conversations with Alex about them.

    The new Golden Ale board was more about keeping in line with the old version that was styled after the Bond film Golden Eye. I wouldn't say Golden Ale is Brew Works' holy grail, but it's a great light beer.

    Very soon, the plan is to start auctioning off old chalk boards as new beers are put on tap. Definitely something fun to own - and even more elite than the Mug Club :)

    Last thing: of course the apricot is wearing underpants - it would be rude to moon everyone while they're trying to enjoy a great brew! :}