February 14, 2012

In Memoriam: The Art of Bavarian Barbarian

So six breweries announced that they are closing so far this year, and they're all fairly small, even by craft standards. The best-known is Buckbean Brewing Company, which sponsored the annual Canfest that I unsuccessfully tried to get flown to one year, but the closest to me was Williamsport, PA's Bavarian Barbarian

Owner Mike Hiller is by all accounts a good guy, but I can say with some confidence that the closing is not totally unexpected for those of us who have had the beer. Sadly, the quality of the product was never up to what the market around here demands. There were great batches, and then there were not great batches. There is a lot of debate about closings being a "trend" (it's not), but one thing that's for sure is that breweries no longer have years to grow into quality brewing (as, say, Dogfish Head once did). A startup brewery today needs to be good from pretty much day one, and unfortunately BavBar never quite got the consistency to go with their awesome branding and enthusiasm.

Still, they had some rockin' art.
Hank Aaron's favorite beer?
As you can see, the dominant theme is somewhere between industrial and industrial Labor/Socialist Propaganda, all employed with a clean two-color (with gray) style.
It's not really 2 inches by 4 inches, you know.
The 2x4 IPA was less well-executed, as the 2 gets a little squished on the left. Still, nice detail on the log.
We'll never know why they used a Z.
For those of you thinking the style limits detail, the art for Headbangerz Brown Ale shows a lot of depth and intricacy, while still maintaining the hardcore branding.
This is a bit of a Central PA thing. Williamsport is in the midst of what used to be coal country, and the history there is very hardscrabble, so an industrial motif made great sense, while having lots of appeal to the rest of the state.

It's worth pointing out that Williamsport has changed quite a bit in four years since BavBar launched. Once a fairly small city mostly known for the Little League World Series, it is in dead center of Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, and has experienced the boom town issue to some extent. Once everyone in an area can put in a well on their land and make significant money by doing nothing but watching it, prices inevitably go haywire, and my friends from the area all tell me that this has happened. Of course, we have no idea what  longterm effects those economic changes or the environmental ones will have on the area, or if it played in at all to BavBar's folding.

A part of me mourns the passing of any PA brewery, but the business side of me understands that not everyone makes it, and that not everyone should. Still, Bavarian Barbarian had some good branding and art, and we'll miss Mike and Kira.

1 comment:

  1. They had good branding and art, but their beer was good too! I rarely saw it around, but when I did, I always made sure to try some...