The artistry of craft beer labels
Story by Adam Justice
Whether or not you know a lot about beer, you’re transfixed by the creativity behind beer labels. Like concert-gig posters, beer labels have become increasingly creative and sophisticated alongside the popularity of craft beer. Unlike gig posters, beer labels haven’t achieved collecting status just yet, but could one day be the new treasure for aspiring stamp collectors.
We invited talented Lakeland designers to submit their renditions of labels for specific types of beer. The concept was simple: Imagine Lakeland has its own local brewery. What would be the brewery’s name and how would it brand itself and its products? Designers were assigned a specific type of beer, from an IPA to a saison, and asked to create a label that included the brewery’s name.
Here are the beautiful results.
Designer: Fred Koehler
Beer: Swan City Brewers Zombie Bite, Oktoberfest
Inspired by Downtown Lakeland’s Zombie Fest, Swan City Brewers’ Zombie Bite is a traditional Oktoberfest ale pockmarked with hints of fleshy bacon and sweet, sticky maple. Reflecting hues from both the living and the undead, the color palette of this design reminds us that what falls to the ground may in fact rise again and try to harvest ourselves right back. As a bonus exercise in form versus function, the bottle has been pre-scored along the edges of the label to create a zombie fighting gauntlet. Only trained professionals should try to break bottles into gauntlets or punch zombies in the brain, and neither should be attempted under the influence of alcohol.
Fred Koehler is the head window washer at The Fred Group brand agency, an author and illustrator of books for little people, and would prefer all parking in downtown Lakeland to be free. Follow him on Twitter @superfredd.
Designer: Brian Chambers
Beer: Yule Lager, Winter Lager
Brian Chambers is a native Lakelander who began studying graphic design in Tampa. He was ultimately inspired, however, by a group of contemporary graphic designers he has been associated with for more than twenty years. Currently, he is a creative director for Publix Super Markets. He’s driven by the process and tools associated with clean and clear design.
Beyond graphic design, Brian satisfies his creative appetite by playing drums and cooking. He tends to gravitate toward IPAs as a beer fan, especially Cigar City’s Jai Alai, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Sea Hag, and Racer 5. For this special Lakelander project, Brian focused on a design for a winter lager.
Designer: Eric Blackmore
Beer: Barnstormer Spring Saison
Eric Blackmore has been a practicing designer for twenty-three years. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Art where he earned a BFA in graphic design and photography. His first design position was with a small firm in Cleveland where he was a designer, photographer, videographer, and producer. After moving to Florida, Eric started Blackmore Design and currently creates designs
for many national and local businesses. This year marks his fourteenth year as an adjunct professor at Florida Southern College, teaching graphic design, photography, and packaging. He also helps coordinate FSC’s Travel Abroad courses and has worked with FSC photography students in over twenty countries on five continents.
In his spare time, Eric brews beer at home. He and his father began making beer after they moved from their family vineyard and winery. He has been brewing beer in Florida for fourteen years. His current favorite is an IPA with a strong Cascade hop, but he has begun experimenting with brewing his first saison.
When thinking of a concept for a Lakeland-based brew, Eric wanted to include a sense of local tradition. His label is an homage to Lakeland’s Sun ‘n Fun and the area’s aviation history. After some research he learned about the Barnstormers who once practiced at Lakeland Linder Airport many years ago.
Gretchen Wood was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She studied graphic design at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. In 1994, she graduated cum laude with a BA in graphics after having completed a summer internship at Kathleen Elsey Design in San Francisco. In 1995, she became the art director at Marti, Flores, Prieto & Wachtel, a major advertising agency. She later moved to Tampa with her husband, who was continuing his medical training in Florida. She has been in Lakeland since 2011 and is a freelance designer.
Gretchen’s local clientele includes Red Door Wine Market, Haka Fitness, and FitNiche. She also does some pro bono work for Lakeland Montessori Middle School. Nationally, Gretchen designs wine labels for a winery and a winemaker in Paso Robles and Napa Valley. As a designer, she is driven by the process, from brainstorming concepts and making preliminary sketches to hashing out the final detail on her computer.
She loves a cold beer, so long as it’s gluten free, but can never turn down a glass of Pinot Noir.
When Matthew Wengerd arrived in Lakeland well over a decade ago, he didn’t plan to stay long, but the allure of the Swan City won his heart.
A formally trained jazz musician and self-taught designer, he approaches aesthetics with the same sense of improvisation that he employs on the bandstand. Matthew believes that clean, minimal design and plentiful whitespace are keys to good living. He enjoys the work of James Victore, Jessica Hische, and Count Basie, who “never played one note when none would do.”
Born in Miami, Allen Reed grew up in Lakeland and has lived most of his life here. He received his commercial-art degree from Tampa Technical Institute in 1990 and was principal of two Central Florida advertising design firms before joining Madden Brand Agency as creative director in 2003. Throughout his twentysomething year career, Allen has worked with a diverse range of local, national, and international companies. Here in Lakeland, his distinctive branding work for Saddle Creek Logistics Services, Bank of Central Florida, Ledger Media Group, and dozens of other companies and organizations can be spotted all around. Allen is a recipient of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) of Polk County’s “Ad Man of the Year” award, numerous industry awards, and is president of AAF Polk.
A few years ago, Allen caught the craft-beer bug and enjoys sampling brews from local spots offering unique selections. Among his go-tos are IPAs, Belgian-Trappists, and Porters.
Dennis Hart is a native Lakelander who studied digital media at Full Sail University. He worked as a graphic designer for five years before beginning his career as a caricaturist. His earliest projects as a designer included banners for Geffen Records and material for several businesses in downtown Orlando. You can run into him at the many Florida arts festivals and other more Lakeland-based events like the Food Truck Rallies and First Fridays. His caricatures have become very popular with the Lakeland community.
He is driven by the appeal of lush layouts and textures combined with clean lines and bold shapes. Many of his designs focus on quirky and memorable messages that represent more than just the product.
He strives to give products a personality with his contemporary style related to street art. Dennis is open about being more of a liquor fan, but he loves the creative potential behind the new age of beer labels.
Liz Chinchilla and Sean Hults have lived in Lakeland for nearly eight years. They both moved to Lakeland for college: Liz received her BFA in graphic design and studio art from Florida Southern, and Sean studied design at Southeastern. Prior to Southeastern, Sean also studied at the State University of New York in Purchase. Nowadays, Liz is a full-time designer at Kellogg Marketing, and Sean is a freelance designer. They are both driven by the need to be creative, and the beauty and power of a visual world. They are fascinated by the broad range of contemporary design and how accessible it has become thanks to the Internet. This makes them as inspired by other designers as they are other designs.
Luckily for us, they are both huge beer fans, with Liz siding with Swamphead’s Midnight Oil and Sean favoring North Coast’s Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin.