Local Artists Style Local Beers

The creativity and enthusiasm inherent in making craft beer extends noticeably further than the recipes and techniques employed to make these boundless brews. It includes an emphasis on adventurous and colorful labeling. These five of our nearby favorites all partnered with local artists to design labels that capture the nuances of the beers’ distinct personalities and create exceptional shelf presence.

Greenport Harbor Leaf Pile Ale
Pumpkin Ale, 5.2% ABV
Artist Scott Bluedorn: Leaf Pile is autumn in a bottle—we wanted an image utilizing seasonal symbols and the concept of a central character and its relationship with a pile of leaves. We also wanted to include a pumpkin, an ingredient in the beer. We settled on an antique diver—the nautical theme reflecting Greenport’s industrial heritage. I loved researching the equipment: big helmet contraptions with intricate windows that I eventually adapted into a pumpkin. The diver is shown gripping his rake as though it were a trident, among a wild sea of leaves.

Barrier Brewing Daddy Warbucks
Imperial IPA, 9.8% ABV
Artist Daniel Birch: The last label I did was based on owner Evan Klein’s dog and I wanted to keep the theme going and make this about the people that work like dogs at Barrier. The brewery’s salesman, Mike Descarfino, is pictured here as Daddy Warbucks, a nod to the self-made man. I put some pictures of Albert Finney’s Daddy Warbucks from the 1982 version of Annie and pictures of Mike together and drew it. The lettering and design work I took from an American dollar bill—because this beer is so damn rich with hops.

Blue Point Hoptical Illusion
IPA, 7.0% ABV
Artist Jimmy McCune: Owner Mark Buford inspired me with a story about ancient Egyptians stuffing their pillows with fresh hops because they believed the intoxicating aroma delivered intense, vivid dreams. Blue Point’s other owner Pete Cotter told me to go wild and make it psychedelic. The combi- nation led to a counterculture label—this came out 11 years ago, there were very few craft beers then. The name is an obvious play on “optical illusion,” so I wanted to make sure an eye was the focus. My obsession with the Illu- minati led me to the Eye of Providence from the dollar bill. I custom-coded an algorithm to generate the fractal background using colors I sampled from Grateful Dead’s Aoxo- moxoa. We even updated the six-pack carrier in 2014 for its 10th anniversary using a brand-new 3D holographic foil.

Blind Bat Hell Gate Golden Ale
Belgian-Style Golden Ale, 8.5% ABV
Artist Paul Dlugokencky: I’m owner and brewer of Blind Bat, but I’m also a self-taught, color-blind cartoonist who did some newspaper and illustration work back in the 90s and 2000s. I enjoy designing my labels as much as I enjoy brewing my beer. There is a tradition with Belgian golden ales that began with Duvel, a play on the Flemish word duivel, where the beer is named after the devil. The name Hell Gate plays on this idea as well as a local reference to the railroad bridge spanning over the infamously hazardous Hell Gate strait linking Long Island and Manhattan. It was fun for me to “hell-it-up” a bit with some flames and bats flying about menacingly. This isn’t a light beer for easy drinking. It can sneak up on you, but hopefully you won’t wake up in hell.

Grimm Artisanal Ales Super Symmetry
Dry-Hopped Citrus Gose Conditioned On White Oak, 4.8% ABV
Artist Gretta Johnson: This label is a sequel to another of Grimm’s dry-hopped, citrus zest-infused gose beers, Super Going, which depicts an athletic female with hair flowing in the wind. Super Symmetry has a similar profile: incredibly flavorful, bursting with tropical fruit and lemon. Owners Lauren and Joe Grimm wanted a label that had equal exuberance, reminiscent of the dynamic and bright qualities of the beer. I think of the figures as hip hop dancers at a party, their backs arched in a pop and their hair swinging wildly. I like to make drawings that are meditations on the body, utilizing archetypal female characters to explore power dynamics.

niko krommydas

Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.