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Schlafly Batch No. 40004

Schlafly Batch No. 40004 Design Process

Over the last few months I had the chance to watch a beer come to life. I was invited to participate in Schlafly’s annual Artist Series release where their brewers work in tandem with a local artist to develop, name, and package a beer from scratch.

In our first meeting the brewers led the conversation talking about ideas they had been wanting to try and thinking about what might make a good fit for the Artist Series beer. We knew it would be a late spring/early summer release so it made sense to think about lighter flavors that would be good to drink outside in the sunshine. Also, because it would be a one time event beer it made sense to try something a little outside the box. As the brewers were discussing different extracts and obscure processes somebody joked that it was a bit like listening to a bunch of alchemists compare notes which became our first design direction.

I went home and started compiling mood boards and making some early sketches taking a lot of inspiration from astrology charts, cabinets of curiosities and old medical diagrams. When the design team  (Sarah Frost a designer for Schlafly, Will Rogers the brand manager and I) met again we all agreed that we were excited about this vibe and that it left a lot of room for creating fun imagery for the label and eventually a cool interactive exhibit at the Art Oustide event where the beer would premiere. We still didn’t know exactly what the beer would be or what it would be called though.

The next time we all sat down the brewers had done some experiments and narrowed in on a direction. It would be a golden ale with ginger and lime extracts which they would then age with chips from bourbon barrels giving the beer a hint of bourbon flavor. So basically it was Schlafly’s take on a Kentucky Mule. Initially we in the design group thought we were going back to square one, since bourbon and the Kentucky mule cocktail come with a pretty established set of visual references. We started thinking about cocktails or western motifs, smugglers, saloons etc but it all felt pretty straightforward and nobody was as excited as we had been with the alchemist/ witchdoctor vibe.

At that point we realized that we might find something new by combining the two concepts and so was born Dr Kentucky: the mysterious potion maker with the head of a mule. I thought it would be fun to pull the color scheme directly from the recipe and so we wound up with gold, green, and dark brown palate signifying ginger, lime and bourbon. We thought about giving the beer a purposely wordy title harkening back to advertisements for dubious medical tonics and cure-alls. we settled on “Dr. Kentucky’s concoction from his curious cabinet. Batch No. 40004”. The number is the zip code of the county in kentucky where bourbon is made.

With all of this in mind I went back and created some more detailed sketches taking the idea for the character and trying to put it in the context of a label.

We agreed that the sketch with multiple hands and a flaming cauldron was the best fit for the mail label and I went ahead with turning that sketch into a finished design. My first version used a hand drawn symmetrical 40004 which was cool but competed for attention with the illustration. I swapped that out with a blocky type version.

Once this main label was locked in it was time to move on to the rest of the bottle. I came up with some diagrams/runes that illustrate the basic ingredients in beer and in the Kentucky mule. We came up with a long-winded description description trying to reference the style of early medical elixirs and traveling snake-oil salesman.

Once our final beer design was in I put together a poster to show Dr. Kentucky’s cabinet of curiosities. These will be available at the art outside event along with a variety of other mysterious prizes.
It was an absolute pleasure to work with the team at Schlafly throughout this process. They trusted me and gave me a lot of leeway to push things as far as possible, always contributing ideas to make the final product better.

The beer will be hitting shelves around St Louis this week and it’s really, really (really) good. It brings together a lot of different flavors with a really light touch and it’s surprisingly refreshing. I’m not just saying that because I have to. There is a lightness about it that is a little bit like ginger beer or even Kombucha, but combined with a really solid golden ale flavor. I plan to enjoy plenty of it this summer. Hopefully you will too! thanks for reading.


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New stuff

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A couple of recent pieces:

Top: For an article about running clubs affiliated with restaurants and bars for Denver 5280 Magazine

Below: For an article about the “Black Brunch” protests taking place around the country, for San Francisco Magazine

Thanks for looking!

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Black Hill Press

BlackhillcoversI’m excited to share that the Series of covers I designed for Black Hill Press is now available!

I worked on covers for three new novellas: Renaissance Spook by Jason L. Pyrz, Skinny Blue by Nathan Pensky and 116 Days* With Dad by Cazzey Louis Cereghino

I will write a more thorough post soon, talking a bit about the process, but I wanted to share a link to the Black Hill site where the books are now available in e-book and paperback form.




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Alive Magazine



An illustration for Matt Sorrell’s Mixologist column in Alive Magazine. Looking forward to doing more like it soon!

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“His name is etched in the grand fonts of the record books, but his game is still like florescent graffiti…” Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Read the rest of Rowan’s lyrical ode to the little Argentine playmaker on the Howler blog here

I visited Barcelona a few years and Gaudí”s architecture made a huge impression on me. Celebrating Messi’s time in Barcelona seemed like a great time to throw some of that in.

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Fashion Week Drawing


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I Had a fun opportunity to do some on-the-spot drawing recently when I was hired by the Regional Arts Comission (RAC) for a kickoff event for St Louis Fashion week. I set up in a little booth and spent a couple hours doing quick drawings of the various fashionable folks in attendance. I tried to get through each drawing in about 5-8 minutes and I think I finished about 18. Most of the drawings were given away to folks who posed for them, but here are a couple that I found images of, and a couple that I did beforehand to practice.

I know next to nothing about the fashion world and have never worked anything like this which made it a challenge. I tried to just focus on looking for interesting colors and shapes. The time limit was probably a blessing because it forced me to move quickly and not worry to much about getting every line right.

Thanks to Mallory Nazeem from RAC for hiring me and to everybody for patiently standing still!
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Fox Trap

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I’ve always hoped i’d get the chance to design some beer packaging but have never gotten the opportunity. A couple of months ago I finally just decided to make some for myself and started sketching, and many weeks later I finally had a free moment to put this all together.

The concept was inspired by a stressful period a couple of years ago where a bunch of neighborhood cats started turning up dead. It left a strong impression.

Anyway, If you are a beer-making sort of person and think you might like something like this get in touch and let’s work together!


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CUP 360

A few months ago I got an exciting call to contribute to a new line of packaging for Chipotle. Jonathan Safran-Foer was curating a series of short stories and essays to be printed on cups and bags, and each piece would be illustrated. I was given a story by Malcolm Gladwell about an experience with Old Order Mennonites .


After a little bit of back and forth we settled on this sketch, focusing on the barn-raising. final art_NM
A full color version I worked up before the decision came out that the cups would be brown and white.


And the final piece! Read the full story and check out the rest of the pieces here!

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