Don’t Label Me.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Friends,Homebrew,Links,Pictures,Promotion | Tuesday 6 April 2010 10:00 am

As I stated before, I’m homebrewing beer (and mead… and eventually hard cider, hard lemonade, and perry).  Never being one to do anything halfway (or easy, for that matter — not when I can overdo it!), I went beyond the simple brewing process, containing the precious liquid in recycled clean beer bottles.

I have have five distinct styles of beer bottles, each style to define a single batch of beer in matching vessels.  I have not just cleaned each bottle, but eradicated any and all trace of the original labels and packaging.  I stow them in matching boxes, some with custom-cut dividers to keep the bottles from rattling together.  I keep spares of each bottle style in case I break some, or more likely, never get them back after generously sending beer home with friends.  And, I’m making custom labels for each style of beer.

The name of my brewery is “Ol’ Shambler Brewery”, and all the beers are zombie themed (or in a pinch, generally ‘horror’ themed).  I have purchased labels specifically suited to the task of labeling beer bottles, complete with a die-cut neck label.  I then proceeded to enlist my obnoxiously talented friends to help me create not just a simple beer label, but custom works of art.

Martin Whitmore, whom I’ve pimped here many times, designed and illustrated the labels themselves.  Provided with the oddball name of the brew and a few nudges in the direction I wanted to go, he then proceeded to craft the perfect — and I do mean perfect — concept and illustration.  Marty already knows from zombies as they’re his specialty, but he went beyond simply drawing a zombie and brought life (ha!), character and the perfect amount of humor into the design.

Kim Gall — an award-winning pet portraitist — is a dynamite watercolor artist with just as wicked a sense of humor and style as Marty and I.  She brought the perfect atmosphere and tone to Marty’s illustrations, a nice sense of earthy gloom, and a whole new level of depth and spark.

The frames of the neck and main label were drawn separately from the internal artwork so that we could easily and simply draw a new figure for the center of each and add them in later, along with the text.  I was in charge of stitching all the elements together and working in the text.

As promised, here is the artwork for my first two styles of homebrew.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Belgian Devil

The Belgian Devil is a Belgian golden ale, reminiscent of Duvel (which is Flemish for “devil”).  The idea was to have a guy in a devil Halloween  costume — something akin to a red hoodie with horns — but I had absolutely no way how to make him discernibly “Belgian”.  Marty pulled that big mustache from I-don’t-know-where, but by Jeebus, it sold the Belgian look.  It caught me off guard, and I choked from laughing.  Shambler, who has become the unofficial figurehead for Ol’ Shambler Brewery, is nobly gazing out from the center of the neck label through his milky, bloodshot eyes.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Bayou Headsucker

The Bayou Headsucker is a kolsch — a German pale ale  — and has recently been dubbed a “lawnmower” beer, an unofficial name to describe beers that are light and refreshing, yet full bodied, without much hop bitterness, that are great for easy drinking on hot days (i.e. when you’re out mowing the lawn).  It was brewed very specifically to accompany this season’s crawfish boils, and is the perfect accompaniment to hot, spicy seafood.

Again, I didn’t have much of a concept for this label other than it really needed a coonass Cajun on there, and a swampy background.  The zombified crawfish sucking on the ol’ boy’s head so hard that his face inverted is sheer genius.  I also believe that the cypress trees hinted at in the background are an inspired touch, and I can’t imagine the piece would be complete without them.

And here are some “action shots” of the labeled bottles in the wild.

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Belgian DevilOl' Shambler Brewery - Belgian Devil

Ol' Shambler Brewery - Bayou HeadsuckerOl' Shambler Brewery - Bayou Headsucker

I look forward to more collaborative labels with these two.  Who knows, we may have some other guest artists chip in on future labels.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

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