Most beer books focus on the beer. This 70-page picture book, suitable for coffee-tables and bar-tops, celebrates the art on the beer bottle labels.
How it all started
The project’s been brewing for nearly four decades. It started back in the ‘70s when a newly legal beer drinker, we'll call him “Ken,” noticed that the bottle he was holding had a label. The label showed a smiling maiden carrying beer steins, and she was lovely. So instead of trashing the bottle (remember, this was the ‘70s), Ken carefully washed it, along with its cap, and tucked it away in a box for safe keeping.
“Someday,” Ken thought to himself, “I will have a house with a basement. And I will line the walls of said basement with Excellent Beer Bottles such as this one. It will be my Magnificent Man-Cave. And Lo, my brothers will join me there to play pool, and shoot darts, and drink more beer, and whatnot. And verily, I will smite them at all the games! And behold, it will be very good.”
The collection grew
Over the years, the bottle collection grew and prospered. It consumed the closets of Ken's house. It filled his garage. And when 30 years had come to pass, the collection commandeered the better part of a medium-size storage unit.
Today, the Magnificent Man-Cave remains a dream. But to Ken’s great good fortune, he married a woman, we'll call her Kate, who enjoys beer and beer bottle art. Sometimes, she carries beer steins while dressed as a maiden. And she also had a dream. “Someday,” she thought to herself, “we will do something with all those empty beer bottles. Something useful. Something important. Something involving recycling—they’re worth a nickel apiece.”
The catalog was born
In preparation for the big cash-in, she began photographing and cataloging the collection. But in the process, she too fell under the spell of such lovelies as, Holy Grail Ale, Spiral Jetty IPA, and Polygamy Porter. She began rating each of the labels for their artistic quality. You know, the usual suspects: light, line, color, and composition. Finally, a good use for that BA in Studio Art!
The best labels begged to be shared and celebrated, but how?
Sharing the art
The answer was as simple as ABC: combine photos of the bottles with original photos of the California, Oregon, and Belize coast lines. To go easy on the folks at the bar, organize the resulting composites in an ABC book. And add a good old-fashioned index so folks can find labels by brewer, country, or content, such as dogs, bikes, and elves.
The ABCs of Beer Bottle Art, Beach Edition, is part of the Art of Beer Series, which showcases the beautiful, funny, ironic, and otherwise remarkable labels that all too often go unnoticed, or at best, simply get peeled off the bottles absent-mindedly at the bar.
The project won’t stop global warming or end hunger. But it might just add a bit of beauty and whimsy to the daily grind, and you don’t have to be a beer drinker to enjoy it. Plus, if the project makes a profit, 10% of the proceeds will go to cancer research, a cause that’s a little too near and dear to many of us.
We hope you’ll enjoy this happy intersection of photography and foam.
What's done and what's left
We've photographed, catalogued, evaluated, and rated more than 1,400 bottles in preparation for this project. Of those, we've selected 200 for use in this first book. The background photos are ready, and the preliminary book design is complete.
The book will be finalized over the next three months. We expect to have it done and ready for print by early June, and available to backers in July.
If this project goes well, The Art of Beer Series, like the bottle collection itself, might continue to grow and prosper.
Risks and challenges
The photos, graphics, and design are about 90% complete (note that the examples here are preliminary, and subject to change). So if I get hit by a beer truck (hopefully one driven by a small craft brewer) my husband could finish up the loose ends. After all, he is the book's Godfather.
And just in case my 10-year old Windows desktop "kicks the bucket full of ice cold beers," all the source files are backed up real good. So the main risk is in the book layout and printing.
This is my first dance with DIY publishing, so I expect some trial and error--maybe a couple squished toes--in the process. But I've done a first draft of the book layout, and I've selected a printer that can handle a small run of 25-50 books. Plus, I've allowed three months to get everything done right. When the project is funded, it's all systems GO and full-speed ahead!
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