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The Visual Art of Craft Beer Part 1 – My Top 5

March 25, 2011 2 comments

New and...improved?

There has been quite a few stories in the beer press lately that have really got me thinking about beer artwork.  There’s the new look of Red Hook (check out this post on Washington Beer blog), a new label design for one of my favorite beers of all time – Stone Imperial Russian Stout (see this post at beernews.org), the North Coast Brewing logo upgrade (the old logo has always been a favorite of mine) and most notably the new Upright Brewing Four Play label that has been subject to much controversy (please check out this article on Beervana).

When I first started thinking about it I was leaning toward the fact that there really aren’t that many labels/logos out there that are especially noteworthy.  There’s a few that really jumped out at me right way, but for the most part…far too many exist that fail to catch my attention.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I discussed it with friends, the more epiphanies I had and the more I realized just how wrong I was.

The Classic. Is is better?

There’s actually a lot of breweries out there that are putting serious attention toward their image.  Clearly, this isn’t surprising.  Anyone possessing even the slightest bit of entrepreneurial savvy knows how important branding can be to creating a successful business.  Here, in my Visual Art of Craft Beer Series, I plan to discuss some of my favorites.  Hopefully, in doing so, I will open up the floor for debate.  I’m sure there are a bunch out there that I either don’t know about or have simply overlooked.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to present them all in this initial article, so the debate just may have to wait.  Start thinking about your choices now and see if I end up agreeing with you.

The following is my top 5.  This is not limited to logo alone.  I feel that if it were, the scope of this exercise would be drastically diminished.  This includes not only the straight forward logo of a brewery but the labels of all, most, or some of their bottles/cans/mini-kegs/what-have-you.

5) Three Floyds Brewing – FFF does not mess around.  They make some of the most unique beers in the country and their labels follow suit.  In may ways, they remind me of Garbage Pail Kids.  All have a comic book/cartoon like quality.  Some are lighthearted and humorous, others are dark and disturbing, all are well designed and fun to look at.  I’m not sure whether I like the Clockwork Orange themed Moloko Stout, Zombie Dust, or the Dark Lord (above) the best.  No matter how you look at it, they are all undeniably bad ass.

 

4) Southern Tier Brewing – The logo above isn’t very glamorous, and it by no means is the sole reason why I have put STB in the number 4 position, but I must say that I’m a very big fan of it.  I find it to be very slick, clean and simple, yet highly effective.  The tools of the trade encircled by the ingredients of the trade.  Classic.  I’ve often thought of having a variation of that logo tattooed on myself.  Good logo aside, the continuity and simplicity of all of STB’s label designs is so well done that I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to find them being celebrated in HOW Magazine (or something similar).

 

 

3) New Belgium Brewing Lips of Faith Series – Take a minute to gaze upon the above image.  Tell me you wouldn’t want a full size print of that framed and mounted in your living room.  It’s beautiful…and it’s just a beer label.  I could have posted a picture of almost any LoF label and it would be equally stunning.  Whomever is behind this is really doing fabulous work.  Give them a raise.

 

 

2) Stone Brewing Co. – This logo is absolutely unmistakable.  It may not be number one on my list but it’s very possibly the number one most recognizable beer logo in craft brewing.  It’s bold, like Stone beers and the attitude of the owners/brewers.  If you’ve ever taken the time to read the lengthy, screen printed text on any of Stone’s 22oz bottles, you know just what I mean.  Stone is hard fucking core and their dark, devious mascot exemplifies that to the t.

 

1)  Flying Dog Brewery – Can someone please explain to me how FDB got Ralph Steadman to illustrate all of their imagery?!?!  Whether you like his style or not, this has to be the most lauded, continual collaborative effort between a brewery and a world-famous artist of all time.

Yeah, I guess I do sort of get how FDB pulled this off.  Supposedly the owners of the brewery were friends with Hunter S. Thompson.  It’s quite clear that his influence is felt throughout much of FDB’s advertising and marketing campaign.  Since Ralph Steadman is most famous for his work with Hunter S. Thompson, in lies the connection.  God knows how much money they must dish out for his work, but I for one thing it’s worth every penny.

Portland Wows, Upright Stuns And Le Pigeon Haunts My Dreams

Four Play teases my better senses. Want to steal, need now.

Sunday was quite the trip. It lingered through Monday, but no regrets. Upright Brewing rocked my world. Le Pigeon made me redefine the word “burger.”

Upright Brewing was celebrating their 2nd Anniversary, so we made it a point to get their early to taste the new release. But, we couldn’t help but to shuffle around the city to visit some other favorites.

 

Top of the Morning with Imperial Workhorse

 

I won’t jump right into Upright’s display of greatness, because we had some other amazing visits that I’d like to share. First off, we visited Laurelwood’s production brewery in NE neighborhood of Hollywood.

Laurelwood Brewing recently released its first ever batch of Imperial Workhorse, a larger than life version of its iconic Workhorse IPA. The big brother is 9.9% and almost 100 IBUs. At first sip, it immediately wakes you from whatever slumber you might be residing within. The beer is incredibly flavorful, sharp and non-boozy. Lots to like about that beer, and the brewery will be bottling a limited amount in swing-top bottles that will be available at the brewery. Hint: Do not miss the Bourbon Barrel Aged Moose & Squirrel Russian Imperial Stout – I actually preferred this beer to the Imperial Workhorse.

 

Upright’s Rise to the Top

 

We left Laurelwood to head over to Upright Brewing, where we spent an hour crying in the last drops of each beer. Its that good. Watching it reduce to nothing was so incredibly painful.

Upright Brewing decided to release a sour version of its Four, a 4.5% wheaty farmhouse ale. The beer, appropriately named “Four Play,” uses a combination of fresh Oregon cherries, brettanomyces and lactobacillus yeasts aged in Pinot Noir barrels. This beer is right now, my beer of 2011. Drinking this beer reminded me of standing in front of Jean Van Roy in Cantillon’s tasting room, drinking one of their more celebrated Lou Pepe lambics – its that good. Incredibly smooth, yet refreshingly tart, the cherry flavor is subtle enough to keep this from being a kriek, but pronounced enough to not be forgotten. Do not miss, if you can find it.

To prevent a one-sided affair, Upright also decided to pour its last remaining portion of its christmas ale, Noel. This spiced farmhouse ale is aged in Pinot barrels and spiked with cherry juice. The wood really works well on this beer, because the alcohol is barely noticeable and it goes down very smooth. The spice is unforgettable, hitting you with concentrated dosages of black pepper and herb. Had Four Play not knocked me out of my boots, Noel would have stole the show.

To end our visit, we had a great talk with owner/brewer Alex Ganum. If you want to meet a great brewer and better guy, chat with Alex. Ganum hails from the ballyhooed ranks of Ommegang and certainly knows how to make incredible beer. Despite his incredible success (they made the Rate Beer Top 50 Brewers in year 2), he remains a normal guy, more than happy to stand and chat with his customers over a beer.

 

Some Old Favorites

The remains of duck wings, flanked by Fred.

 

After leaving Upright, we had quite the whirlwind trip around the east side. We visited renowned bottle shop Belmont Station, who was holding its 14th Anniversary sale (Congrats). There we got our first tastes of Corvallis brewers Block 15 and Flat Tail Brewing. Block 15 poured several bourbon barrel aged brews, including the rare Pappy’s Dark Ale. Pappy is a Strong Ale aged in 10 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 2-4 months. While a few other Block 15 barrel aged beers were surprisingly unimpressive – this one blew our minds. The Pappy wood is noticeably more rich and flavorful than other bourbon barrels, and we agree its worth the extra dough.

After Belmont, a visit to Hair of the Dog was simply nostalgia and routine. Why the hell would you ever go to Portland and not get indulge in Alan Sprints’ craft? The house flight of Greg (a spiced pilsner?), Blue Dot, Fred and Adam, will warm the cockles.  If you are lucky, Alan might be serving the duck wings, a stack of 3 full wings smothered in a rich gravy. Get it.

 

A Burger for the Ages

 

Last but not certainly not least – a visit to Le Pigeon. While we were waiting for this renowned eatery to open, we ran over to Burnside Brewing and tried the Oatmeal Pale. I was surprisingly impressed by that beer, as Pales typically do nothing for me. The oatmeal was absolutely noticeable and really changed the body of this otherwise simple beer. But, 5:00 PM rang and we ran back to Le Pigeon.

Nothing to say. Look and admire.

Why are we running? Rumors of Le Pigeon‘s incredible burger have haunted my dreams for weeks. I have seen glaring images of this burger in nightmares in the previous few nights. It was seemingly stalking me – and for good reason. Le Pigeon makes 5 of these bad boys each night. Thus, its incredibly important to get in there when they open at 5 PM. By 5:15 PM, all 5 orders had been placed.

Le Pigeon has an earthy, classic gastropub feel. Sitting at the bar, you feel part of the kitchen and the decor makes you feel right at home. It only took about 60 seconds to order our burgers with greens ($13) and our $4 Pilsner Urquells (they also have $2 High Life – got to love it).

The icon of glory arrived before me in less than 15 minutes. I had ogled at its creation, built from the implements of success, beauty and wonder. Its time. I sliced the perfectly charred ciabatta bun in half and dig in. What followed was a protein orgasm smothered in pickled specter. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best burger I have ever tasted – and my companion agrees. The meat is top notch, cooked to a perfect medium rare, maintaining its juiciness. The pickled slaw on top is such an added treat that you barely notice the perfectly melted cheese that covers 100% of the burger mound. Perhaps most important is the fresh powdered ciabatta roll that was charred to perfected, giving the burger an “off the grill” flavor.

Its not often when a Sunday in March results in my favorite beer of the year and my favorite burger of all time (and that is saying a lot). This past Sunday, Portland floored me. Well played, PDX.

 

 

Events for Week of February 15, 2010

February 16, 2010 3 comments

The Porter Beer Bar in Atlanta, Georgia

After a long day at the mountain, we are just going to jump right into it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hebrew/Coney Island Beer Tasting: Jacksonville, Florida

7:00PM-9:00PM @ European Street Cafe

Get a taste of New York tonight with a tasting of 8 beers from Hebrew/Coney Island Brewing Co. On tap tonight: Albino Pytho; Jewbelation; Coney Island Lager; Sword Swallower Lager; Human Blockhead; Lenny’s RIPA; Genesis and Massiah.

Ommegang Beer Dinner: Rhinebeck, New York

5:00PM-9:00PM @ Terrapin

Upstate New York is home to Brewery Ommegang. Tonight entails a three course meal paired with 9 different Ommegang beers such as Chocolate Indulgence, Beirre de Mars and Three Philosophers.  There are menu items for both meat lovers and vegatarians.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pliny the YOUNGER Keg Tapping: Seattle, Washington

5:00PM or 6:00PM- until its GONE @ Brouwer’s Cafe

PTY, Russian River Brewing Co.’s triple IPA has made it up North to Seattle. We missed the keg at Collin’s Pub on Friday, but we are NOT missing out this time around. This keg is bound to be kicked in an hour, maybe even less, so get there early.

Mardi Gras Celebration: Grand Rapids, Michigan

4:00PM-12:00AM @ HopCat

Okay, so Michigan is a lot colder than New Orleans, but you can still partake in the Mardi Gras festivities. Beads, a faux parade and Abita beer for all!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cigar City Unleased: New York, New York

7:00PM-3:00AM @ Rattle -n- Hum

Ok seriously, like 30 – 40 different Cigar City beers on tap tonight. From Jai Alai IPA to Cubano Espresso Maduro. Come thirsty and fill up on Cigar City beers!

Upright Brewers Dinner: Portland, Oregon

6:00PM – 8:00PM @ Aquariva

A four course meal paired with Upright Brewing’s seasonal beers. This dinner is limited to 25 people at $40.00 per person.  Call the restaurant for reservations at 503-802-5850.  Beers to be had include:  Gose (rare german wheat beer brewed tart with coriander and salt); Flora Rustica (old world saison brewed with yarrow and calendula flowers); Oyster Stout (stout brewed with oysters); Billy the Mountain (pinot barrel aged old ale).  Billy the Mountain is especially unique.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cask Night: Sturbridge, Massachusetts

5:00PM-7:00PM @ Pioneer Brewing Co.

Pioneer Brewing Co. has Cask Conditioned their Stout and added a handful of fresh Cascade Hops. This will be their first time with a Cask Condition brew. Chris Courtney, the assistant brewer will be in attendance to answer any questions you may have. Look for more Cask Conditioned beers in 2010 from Pioneer Brewing Co.

Midwest Night: Brooklyn, New York

6:00PM- 10:00PM @ Baracade

Since 1/3 of Beer Blotter reigns from the great state of Ohio, we wanted to feature this event.  Stop by to sample around 20 different beers from the middle of the USA. The draft list isnt posted, but one can only hope breweries like Great Lakes, Founders and Three Floyds will be available for your enjoyment.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Release Party for Great Divide Brews: Denver, Colorado

6:00PM- 10:00PM @ Great Divide Brewing Co.

$20 admission covers snacks and all the Great Divide beer you want, within reason of course. Hoss, Claymore, Colette Saison and Espresso Oak Aged Yeti will be released tonight. Good stuff! Go there.

Bourbon County Stout Vertical Tasting: Chicago, Illinois

8:00PM-10:00PM @ The Long Room

Sample 2007, 2008, and 2009 Bourbon County Stout with the folks from Goose Island Beer Co. Those that show up early enough will also have a chance to sample our very special treat, 2005 Bourbon County Stout. Limited amounts of each, so the beer is first come, first served.  This beer ages very well, so it will be interesting to compare the taste through the years.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dogfish Head Tasting: Bellport, New York

1:00PM-5:00PM @ Bellport Cold Beer and Soda

Dogfish Head beers are available for sale as well as to taste—>6 -8 beers will be for samples! The following beers (only a few are named here) are available in bottles – Singles – 4pks – 6pks – 750′s: Chicory Stout; Midas Touch; Palo Santo Marron and Burton Baton.

HOP FEST: Owosso, Michigan

11:00AM-11:00PM @ Wrought Iron Grill

8 IPA’s on tap, 2 firkins and select bottles will be featured all day starting at 11am. Heated outdoor seating will be available as well as entertainment, food pairings and door prizes. Breweries included will be Short’s Brewing Co., Bell’s, Founders, Avery, Victory, Stone Brewing Co., plus many more.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Fest: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1:00PM-5:00PM @ Kelly’s Bar and Lounge

Tis’ the season for Barleywines, so stop by the 6th Annual Barleywine Fest. A massive collection, draft list available upon arrival for those of you lucky enough to participate.

Meet and Greet with The Bruery: Atlanta, Georgia

6:30PM-8:30PM @ The Porter Beer Bar

Come meet Patrick La Rue from The Bruery and sample some of their amazing beers- Two Turtle Doves, Rugbrod and Mischief!

As mentioned above, we are moving into the barleywine season, so keep an eye out for featured barleywines at your favorite beer bars! Beer Blotter is looking forward to the barleywine festival at Beveridge Place Pub beginning on the 26th with 24 Dedicated Barleywine Taps and 50 different barleywines rotating throughout the Fest!  Attending an event, want to attend an event, want to want to attend an event? Leave a comment or email us at beerblotter@gmail.com.  Cheers!


Portland: The Land of Beer

Hopworks Brewery in Portland Oregon: 1 of 3 brewery stops

This past weekend, Beer Blotter drove the 2.5 hours South to Portland, Oregon. During our trip, among other things of course, we had the opportunity to visit three breweries, New Old Lompoc, Hopworks and Upright Brewing. Each brewery had something different, new and exciting to offer, including the ambiance, the staff and the beers!

11:30AM We arrive at Sidebar, a tasting room attached to one of New Old Lompoc’s brewery locations. Dimly lit and lined with wooden barrels (some wine, some bourbon), we quickly approach the bar top. On the list for today, as always their special, barrel aged beers. The first, a coffee stout to wake us up. Black Dawn Imperial Coffee Stout smells exactly like coffee. This beer is smooth, bitter, malty and is reminiscent of a carbonated caramel latte. So good! On to the Bourbon Barrel Fermented Cherry Stout-WOW! This brew sits in bourbon barrels for two months, then 35 pounds of sour cherries are added….. then it is cellared for three more months. Smells like dried cherries, syrup and dark chocolate. There is a sour quality from start to finish paired with a punch of bitterness. Thin in body, finishes like a whiskey or bourbon. A very unique beer. These two beers are only available via tap at Sidebar. Lucky us!!

Patrick, the bartender was nice enough to show us around, recommend a bottle of Oak Aged Doppelbock and offered to fill a growler, which we regretfully declined. We finished our conversation and first beers of the day then stepped out into the bright, unforgiving sunlight. Off to lunch at Hopworks.

1:06 PM Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) has a spaceship kind of feel to it with a passion for bikes. Stainless steel and stark colors decorate this large space. Bike frames hang above the bar and we make our way to two seats in front of the chalkboard of beers. Seriously, we always sit in front of the chalkboard. Off the bat, we order a cask conditioned baltic porter, Kronan the Barbarian and a barleywine, Noggin Floggin which was very hoppy for this style but finished with a malty thick presence. Food orders (a salad and slice of pizza and an order of wings) were placed as we made our way downstairs for a tour of the brewery. Hopworks uses bio diesel fuel to run the brewery and has quite an impressive system. Thanks to Emelia for showing us around and to the bartender who called down to let us know our food was ready! And to round out our visit, we split their Seven Grain Stout which was highly carbonated, bitter and evoked your quintessential stout qualities.

Next day 1:30PM We land at Upright Brewing, a modest establishment located in a basement. We had a good feeling about this stop, as the beers summoned a long line of thirsty patrons. We grabbed a taster of 6 (4, 5, 6, 7, Billy the Mountain and a Gose) and a bottle of their Gose. Since this was a release party, the brewery offered complementary small plates of pork terrine, smoked pork loin, pork rillete and rabbit confit. Billy the Mountain is an Old English Ale that has been malted to the extreme. There is an immediate barleywine taste but finishes with a Pinot acidity from the barrel aging. Quick side note about the German style beer that is Gose. This is a traditional, top fermented , pre-lager that was first brewed in the early 18th century in the town of Goslar, Germany. You learn something new EVERY time you visit Beer Blotter!

What a great trip! Three new breweries, great beer ONLY available at the breweries and of course a pit stop at Deschutes for some Abyss and Hop Henge IPA…this was a Beer Blotter dream come true.

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