Makes for a pretty awesome photo, doesn’t it?
For those of you who don’t know what this represents, the Elysian brewery put out twelve beers in 2012, a new one each month, as a countdown to the Mayan Apocalypse. They enlisted illustrator Charles Burns to do the labels, and used unique ingredients for each month like beets, chilies, persimmons or blood oranges as adjuncts in the beer. From what I have been told, they didn’t do test batches; they just used their experience, formulated a recipe and rolled it out.
It was a really bold idea coupled with eye-catching illustrations and I instantly wanted to collect them.
The beers themselves were all over the map. The Torrent, a pale beet bock, really highlighted the beet’s earthiness without letting the flavor run over the beer. I’d say about half fell into this camp. Others, such as the Fallout which used cardamom, didn’t let the flavor establish itself in the beer. There was only one which I didn’t like: the Peste, using chocolate and chilies-but I don’t like spicy beer.
None of the beers were flawed, mind you: there were just times when I wish they’d been bolder. If you’re going to run with an Apocalypse theme, then don’t be afraid to make something that might be off putting.
On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that these beers are for commercial sale and need to be at least somewhat appealing, otherwise who’s going to drink them?
The upside of all of this for me is that the brewers at Elysian are more experienced in using different ingredients to produce more interesting kinds of beer. That’s awesome. Plus, if this experiment is successful, it will hopefully lead to some better partnerships with local ales and local designers: Burns lived in Seattle for a long time and his unique style of art was undoubtedly one of the cooler parts of collecting this series. More breweries could use a little visual flair to help their brand stand out, I think. Too many seem to be homogenizing behind a cleaner look and with beer becoming more local, why shouldn’t the look reflect that?
I look forward to the next cool thing.