The Artsy Side of Beer
Beer itself is an art form – from the start of the brewing process, up to the first taste of your new favorite beer – but many people overlook the visual art that goes into the perfect beer experience. I have to admit that I’ve bought many a beer simply based on the art on the bottle, can, or glass (my overflowing cabinets will attest to my love of a fine pint glass). This has introduced me to many a new fave, and I think that’s because good bottle or can art often shows that the brewer’s thought process is all-encompassing. It indicates that they take their beer seriously – from the first steps of brewing process, to the moment you set eyes on it at the store, until you drink down the last drop. Here’s some of my favorite beer art that I’ve accrued in my time as a craft beer snob. I tend toward the hoppiest of hoppy beers, so if that’s your style, maybe I’ll introduce you to a new favorite brew!
Alaskan Brewing Company’s “Hopothermia” is an American Double IPA, characterized by “a robust malt body resting in easy harmony, like a massive grizzly bear in winter,” and a “big and drinkable American hop character.” Brewed in Juneau, Alaska, Hopothermia has a fairly simply visual style – a dark background with icy white letters and bright green hops. The simplicity of the label is nice on its own, but my favorite part is that the texture of paper they use for the label makes the bottle look frosted – like you just pulled it out of the fresh Alaskan snow.
One of my Texas favorites, the Valkyrie Double IPA, is a “pungently hoppy” ale with copper undertones as stark as the color of the can. The woman on the can is a Valkyrie, an icon of Norse mythology whose namesake is literally “chooser of the slain.” In the old Norse legends, the Valkyries are female figures that decide who is slain and who lives in the fields of battle. In her headpiece, you can even see depictions of the runic inscriptions you might see on the old runes in Sweden.
This beer, The SWORD Iron Swan Ale, is an artistic mixture of great brewing, visual art, and… music? The Sword is a stoner metal band, whose 2008 album Gods of the Earth is a must-listen for any fan of the genre. Last year, the band teamed up with Real Ale Brewing for a collaboration beer whose flavor is as big as the music. The can art is inspired by the band’s song, “Iron Swan,” and behind the swan and ship motif you can read lyrics from the song. You can watch a video about the collaboration between band and brewer here.
This is the one of two glasses that made it to this list, and it’s one I obtained during Rahr Brewing’s American Craft Beer Week Celebration in 2013. Texas loves its patriotism, and it shows in this glass, with its stars, stripes, and a bald eagle. As one of Texas’ most well-known breweries, Rahr has the money to spend on great visuals and it usually shows. You can get a better look at the glass here, in all its Americana-inspired glory.
Prairie Artisan Ales, an Oklahoma-based brewing company, has not one, but TWO of my favorite labels. All of their labels are drawn by brewery co-founder Colin Healey, who not only helps run the brewery but he also pays the bills as a classical musician. Because their labels are drawn by the founder himself, the style is unique to Prarie. On the right, you can see “‘Merica,” a farmhouse ale whose tongue-in-cheek label depicts hipster patriotism at its finest. On the left there’s “Funky Galaxy,” a black farmhouse ale whose geek-inspired label shows a hot dog (vegan, I hope!) at the center of an atom. To read more about Colin’s passion behind the beer and the art, check out this interview.
Next up, the brewery closest to my home (and quickly becoming close to my heart!), Grapevine Craft Brewery. Lakefire, an American Rye Pale Ale, is inspired by Grapevine Lake, where you can see fireworks over the lake during the summer. Once again, I’m a fan of the simplistic nature of this can, with its one flame and its retro line art. GCB just recently opened its doors for brewery tours, so I’m hoping I can make a stop soon!
This is the second glass I’ve added to this list, and it’s also one of my Rahr Brewery favorites – once again, their visual creativity and fun attitude shines through. This glass was their brewery tour glass for 4/20/2013, when 4/20 happened to coincide with one of their Saturday tours. While I don’t think craft beer is Snoop Lion’s substance of choice, I like to think this is a glass he’d be proud of.
When I discovered Southern Tier’s “Krampus” seasonal over Christmas, I immediately thought of Skepchick’s intrepid leader, Rebecca Watson. Rebecca introduced me to the legend of Krampus in her 2010 talk at Skepticon 3 – back when I was a baby feminist and newly-out atheist. This beer is a “medley of rich, dark malts and aromatic hops” that threatens “to warm even the most frigid of hearts.” The art is a modern take on the fantastic Krampus Christmas cards of yore, and I like to think that St. Nick will leave this beer in my stocking if I’m good.
Lastly, I bring you “Blakkr,” a medley beer from Real Ale Brewing, Three Floyds Brewing, and Surly Brewing (a brewery that surely is named after our fearless editor, Surly Amy). I had only recently heard of Surly Brewing, after they were recommended by Stephanie Zvan, and I had the pleasure of happening upon this beer at my favorite vegan eatery Spiral Diner. Inside is a beer whose malts are as dark as the name might indicate, while the can depicts a black metal-inspired theme that would make any soulless feminist proud.
Do you have any favorite beer art? Leave pictures in the comments, and maybe I’ll find a new favorite brew too!
All Images by Courtney Caldwell