We care about label art a lot at American Craft Beer.com. We care about it so much that we’ve even made it part of how we rate craft beers here. Labels are the unsung heroes of the drinking world; they allow breweries to advertise their wares as the craft beer segment becomes more competitive. We’ve got some great local talent slapping noteworthy art on bottles, which begs the question: who’s behind these masterpieces?
Clown Shoes cheerfully treads the line between funny and offensive with its colorful, sometimes cartoonish illustrations. Tramp Stamp predictably features a female’s posterior adorned with a tribal tattoo; Chocolate Sombrero depicts a many-armed luchador drinking in the desert; Pimp (a collaboration with Brash Brewing Company) portrays a hooded dude and a cop, both flaunting pink flamingo canes. Though Clown Shoes clearly has an edgy sense of humor, they also have a soft side – a portion of the proceeds from Miracle IPA (label: a superhero flying with a rescued puppy) goes toward scholarships for college seniors and animal shelters.
Local designer Stacey George is responsible for most of the artwork you’ll see on Clown Shoes bottles. CEO Gregg Berman approached her after a hot tip from a friend in Somerville a few years back, and the two have been working in tandem ever since. Gregg comes up with the names and the imagery, Stacey fleshes it out, and the rest is inspired madness. Fellow artist Michael Axt is new on the scene, but you have to admit that his first collaboration with an American Barleywine called Crunkle Sam is epic. Looks like hireanillustrator.com knows its stuff – my guess is this July 4th brew is going to sell like hotcakes.
I can’t think of a more blatant contrast to Clown Shoes than the stark label art of Portico Brewing. Their motto, “Put some design in your stein,” translates to sharp lines, abstract figures, and an infinitesimal amount of color, which pops on a shelf crowded with animal characters and flashy logos. The label for flagship beer Fuzzy Logic is a simple series of grey and white lines with one accent in red. Scotch ale Sett Seven features a crosshatch tartan symbolizing the seventh iteration of the original recipe. Saison Charrette offers some relief from the minimalism with a ghostly wheelbarrow, while sour Rendition consists of several concentric spheres that recall the interior of the Guggenheim Museum.
Fittingly, artist/brewer Alex Rabe is a huge fan of design and engineering, to the extent that he studied under Daniel Libeskind – master architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site – at his studio in New York. Rabe picked the name and symbol for Portico (by definition a gateway) as both a representation of how accessible the brewery’s offerings are (thanks to fellow brewer and biochemist Alex Zielke) and a reflection of his love of design. Simple patterns are appealing to a wide audience, and Portico’s beers certainly fit that description.