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"La Bamba" by Birmingham District

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Art and Crafts

Locally brewed beers are a canvas for ideas

Ordering a craft beer at our favorite brewery is more than just a tasting experience; it’s a visual experience as well. The artwork adorning our favorite IPAs, pilsners, sours and lagers doesn't just happen – rather, it is the result of pondering, conceptualizing and feeling inspired. We spoke to three different Birmingham based breweries, all well-loved for their art— and, of course, their beer —  to learn what goes on behind the scenes to make these labels pop off the shelves and enchant our imaginations. Read on for more about how your favorite brew got that look, and cheers to a colorful fall. 

TrimTab Brewing Co. 

Brad Reed has been working in graphic design for 20 years. After graduating from the University of Alabama, he dabbled in screen printing and creating posters for the sorely missed Bottletree Cafe, then accepted a position at Cayenne Creative, where he refined his skills further. Reed eventually met the owner of TrimTab Brewing, Harris Stewart, who asked him to create some label art as a side project – then later, offered Reed a full-time role as creative director. “I could not say no to his offer,” Reed admits. “Now, I handle videography, photography, social media, our website — everything. At a brewery, you wear a lot of hats.” 

At TrimTab, the process for creating a label begins when the master brewer puts together a calendar of beer releases. Reed finds out the beer’s name and its “series” — such as Beach Club or Candy Shop — then “goes with [his] gut instincts.”

“I get influenced by pop culture, social media —I’ve always loved band posters, comic books, graffiti and vintage stuff,” he says. “I like vibrant colors, and I feel like I’m always trying to mix those in.”

As much as Reed follows his creative whims, however, he’s also diligent to adhere to the TrimTab brand. “We want people to see our beers on the shelf and know it's us,” he says. 

Birmingham District Brewing Co. 

Patrick Glenn, a freelance graphic designer, started working on his skills as early as high school, then earned his degree in industrial design from Auburn University. Eventually, Glenn got a job with Birmingham Legion FC, continuing to take freelance projects in design on the side. Because his company’s office is down the road from Birmingham District Brewing Company, he ran into Cale Sellers and head brewer Jimmy Sumpter, who were mulling over their laptops. A conversation ensued, and, upon learning the labels on the screen were unsatisfactory, Glenn offered a re-do, and, with that, a new gig with the brewery was born. “They are the best clients,” Glenn notes. “They are supportive but hands-off.”

Glenn, too, is apt to follow his instincts when determining how to design a beer label. The process begins with finding out the name of the new beer and “a quick conversation,” he says, followed by the opportunity for him to do his own thing. Fortunately, he's usually spot-on, and the owners don’t typically have edits. As for his creative sources, Glenn pulls from a variety of ideas; the world is basically his Pinterest board. “Inspiration for the beers really depends,” he says. "I don’t have one specific thing.”

Ghost Train Brewing Co. 

Blake Hobbs stumbled upon his design career in 2008 while making videos, when he figured out the videos could be vastly improved with better graphics. That’s when he started to “lean into the graphic design side of things,” which resulted in his career with Ghost Train Brewing Company. 

“I think we’re continuing to find our identity as a brewery, and I’m excited to be along for that process,” he says.

As for how Ghost Train’s cans get their snazzy look, it’s different for every label, Hobbs admits — but, as a lover of great tunes, inspiration often comes from a “good Spotify playlist.” The rest of the staff is also apt to offer input on a can's artwork. But it’s far from haphazard; rather, the process at Ghost Train is precise, with the core beers all sharing “a vintage, timeless look.”

“We are a team, and I love asking input from pretty much anyone on staff — but the owner, Taylor DeBoer, gets the final approval,” Hobbs adds. 

  • "Dripping Gold" by TrimTab
  • "Experimental IPA" by TrimTab
  • "Coast to Coast" by TrimTab
  • "Cold Blooded" by Birmingham District
  • "La Bamba" by Birmingham District
  • "The Big Squeeze" by Birmingham District
  • "Oh em gee" by Ghost Train Brewing
  • Various by Ghost Train Brewing