November 30, 2020
Posted by Diane...
of the first things people often tell me when coming in the shop is: “I don’t know anything about beer, I would just pick the can I think looks best!” And what I usually answer is that this is as good a way of picking a beer as any. In the (weird) world of craft beer, design, and art in general, has become an integral part, with some breweries like Collective Arts even teaming up with artists and making their can collectable items. For me, who adore illustration and design, what is outside the can is just as exciting as what is inside it, and I can never wait to pop open a new box of cans to see how they look like. Passion for art aside, in the 21st century, you can’t really blame me – the images we are constantly bombarded with are made to excite us, attract us, and ultimately make us open our wallets. It is no surprise, then, that a strong visual identity is extremely important for breweries, just like it is for any other brands.
today’s post, I felt like showcasing some of the fantastic artists that I see on the shop’s cans. I suppose one could still take this as a beer review considering I care about these cans’ labels as much as what they taste like… No proper “reviewing” though – all these artists are as great as each other, and they won’t get any criticism for me. I just hope to give them some credit, some love too, and show how diverse the craft beer art scene is.
it comes to strong identity, the first brewery that springs to my mind is Black Iris. These massive metal-heads from Nottingham made a name for themselves thanks to, among other things, their ‘Piss Up In A Brewery’ parties and their careless attitude – the good type of careless. A quick look on their glorious FAQ sets the tone: “Can I get a brewery tour? No, it’s a mess and we don’t want to clean it for guests.” And for Black Friday, you can also get a discount with the code F*CK2020. If it wasn’t obvious yet, I love them. And on top of being super cool dudes, they’ve got what I think is some of the best can designs around, all thanks to fantastic artist Kev Grey. Kev’s art is bold, black and white, often spooky, and very much ingrained in the metal/skate/graff scene. His cans are real works of art and I constantly see customers gravitate around them.
skulls, esoteric signs and other dead creatures, we’re going the completely opposite direction with Beak Brewery from Lewes. These guys haven’t been around for a while, and in fact opened their taproom this year, but they’re already making waves and they’re ones of my favourite breweries to have in the shop. You guessed it, this is also thanks to their can design, that I absolutely adore. This one is more divisive, which I consider a good thing – it is without a doubt very minimalist, maybe simple, perhaps childish? I love the use of primary colours, the bold black lines on a white background, and the way the illustrations complement the names of the beers, sometimes in quite a funny way. The great artist responsible for this is Jay Cover, also member of the great art collective Nous Vous and lecturer. For me it is reminiscent of minimalist Scandinavian illustration, and of this odd Italian cartoon I watched as a child called La Linea… I love it.
my last artist, I felt that I had to mention Chapter Brewing and Boneface. The microbrewery from Cheshire owned by a former English teacher has one of my favourite concepts ever – pairing beers with books. Their slogan “Fictional beer” sets the tone – and is also a dig at CAMRA – and each beer is a chapter in the brewery’s story, who is masterfully mixing the art of craft beer with the arts of literature and illustration. If that wasn’t enough to conquer me and my English degree, Chapter is also working closely with the amazing Boneface to illustrate their cans like you’d illustrate a book. The artist from Liverpool creates mindblowing artworks in a brilliant play with colours - bold, rebellious, staggering, dreamlike, at crossroads between Berserk, Tank Girl and old school Marvel… But better, completely in accord with the brewery’s concept. What is inside a Chapter can matters just as much as what is outside it, which is made even more obvious by the reading recommendation at the back of each beer can. And this is why I couldn’t leave these guys out.
Don't forget to check these guys out, to look up artists when you like the look of a can, and to always give them some love. Without these guys, there would be no craft beer revolution.
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