Craft Beer & Art: Bringing It All Back Home

  I don’t know if any of you may have noticed this but I’ll let you in on a little secret…craft beer is starting to
get sort of popular. There, I said it. I know, blind-sided you didn’t I? I can give you a minute if you need to recover from this startling revelation. It’s true though, it would seem that more and more people are slowly catching on to this craft beer thing.

  As the world of craft beer continues to evolve, so do the festivals that help to promote and celebrate the craft of brewing. The greater Lafayette community alone boasts a number of events that take place throughout the year.
  •         Lafayette Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer features Indiana breweries showcasing some of their heavy hydrometer offerings
  •         The Friendsof Downtown will be hosting the 3rd annual Beers Across the Wabash festival in less than two weeks (click here for event info & tickets)
  •         People’sBrewing hosts their annual Fall Bash, featuring People’s beer, BBQ, a beer schwag raffle, and plenty of local music
  •         Finally, this spring the Tippecanoe Arts Federation hosted their 3rd successful TAP at TAF event, highlighting the artisanship of craft beer

Expanding on this theme is the latest festival that took place just 30 miles north of Lafayette in the city of Monticello.

The Origin

  We all hail from somewhere. Sean Manahan, brewer at Flat 12 Bierwerks, hails from Monticello, Indiana. Well after the realization that his boyhood dream of being a shark and shortly after deciding that his pre-law path wasn’t his destiny, Sean “quickly became obsessed” with all things craft beer.  “I worked at a liquor store and would spend most of my days at work reading up on beer,” states Sean. “I felt I knew enough to at least be a beertender at some brewery and as luck would have it, People's opened up in my back yard.”

  Thanks to Chris Johnson, Sean started his career at People’s Brewing as a part-time bar back. His role would expand, taking on such tasks as delivery truck driver, draft tech, assistant brewer, and ultimately leading to the head brewer position in 2012. Sean emphasized, “I appreciate everything the People's crew taught me but I knew I wanted to be part of the Indy beer scene.”  At the end of 2013, Sean made the move to his current position at Flat 12.

  Still maintaining strong ties to his home town, Sean began working with staff members of the Monticello
Public Library to organize the Monticello Arts & Biergarten as an addition to the library’s annual art show. Having ties to Monticello as well, I looked forward to making the short trip up to White County to take in this new event. Having spoken with Sean for awhile, he agreed to an email interview to discuss the makings of event. Our correspondence follows.

  What was your inspiration for the Monticello Arts & Biergarten event? What was your overall vision and goal?

  The idea for beer started as an opportunity to give back to Monticello. The idea of providing beer for patrons of the 7th annual Broadway Art Show began in a passing conversation. The donors gala on Friday night offers wine from Whyte Horse Winery in Monticello. The original thought was to provide local Indiana beers in a small biergarten on Saturday.  When the idea made it to me, I knew there was theme enough in the art show to build a small event out of the biergarten.
  The connection between art and beer is obvious.  A painter starts with a blank canvas and creates with various paints.  A brewer starts with a blank canvas of water and with 'hues' of barley, hops, and yeast creates liquid art.  Not only is there art in the bottle but there is also amazing art on those bottles, each piece as unique as the beer inside. So, we decided to serve from packed beer so the label art could be displayed in art show fashion. We also invited the artists of the breweries represented so they could discuss their work and how it represented the beers.

Overall, how successful do you think you were in achieving this goal? Discuss the importance of bringing an event like this to the Monticello community.

  Overall I was very happy with the event, my first go around with event planning. The crowd was fun and engaging and everybody was all smiles. The library has already told me they look forward to building off our experiences of this event for a 2015 event.
  It was a good event for Monticello, a chance to expose the small town to something different. It's definitely a box beer town but slowly I'm seeing craft beer filter in. Without events like this, beer drinkers just aren't exposed to good beer. Most bars have three taps that pour B/M/C (Bud, Miller, Coors), but now places like The Scoreboard have close to 20 different local and regional beers available. It's slow and it's tough but I'm trying to spread the love to my hometown and it's finally taken root.

Finally, you had mentioned taking the Art & Biergarten concept and doing a similar event(s) elsewhere. Could you discuss that a bit.

  I feel the theme of art and ales is sound.  The artists at the event all seemed to enjoy themselves and, in discussions after the event, all voiced they would do it again.  While a Monticello event is more suited to a handful of breweries, I think a similar event held in Indy would support a much larger number of participating breweries with their artists there to show off their work.

The Artists

  In keeping with the spirit of the event, I spoke with the three artists who were able to attend and represent both their art and their respective breweries. As a small way of showing appreciation for contributing their time and talents to the event, I wanted to try to give them a little bit of the spotlight as well. Due to my terrible note taking skills at these festivals, I fired off a few questions in an email that they were all gracious enough to respond to. Please take a few minutes to get to know these artists and their work.

Shane Brown – Sun King Brewing (Indianapolis, IN)

How long you've been partnered with your brewery?
  Since the beginning.  (Owner) Clay Robinson came to me and said he was starting a brewery and he needed a logo months before the opening of Sun King.  

What art work that you do for your brewery?
  I cover a lot of areas of art for the brewery: logo designs, shirt designs, can designs, sprinter truck designs, growlers, biz cards. Pretty much everything you visually see from the brewery I have something to do with.

What inspired the concept or theme of your work for your brewery?
  Clay wanted to do a Mayan theme so I came up with what I call the Sun King Crest. I wanted to give us a look that no other brewery had out there!  I wanted it to look almost like an energy drink and bring a real new age look and concept.  Then I just branded it with a color scheme, black, white, and orange, and then kept using the same elements in all of the art you see now.

Any other art that you do aside from your work with your brewery?
  I love doing chalkboards and logo design. Chalk is my favorite though.  I work with about 15 other businesses on their chalkboards.  I have really gotten a name out for myself for them.

Any links to a site or sites that feature your work?
  I need to set up a site but you can go on my Facebook

Joey Potts – 18th Street Brewery (Gary, IN)

How long you've been partnered with your brewery?
  Almost two years now.

What art work that you do for your brewery?
  I handle all artwork that comes directly from the brewery. That includes label art, merchandise, event fliers, photos (unless otherwise noted), etc. As far as labels, the only time the label art is not mine might be when we do a collaboration beer such as the ‘Grapefruit Dead’ collaboration we did with Mikkeller and ‘Devil's Lettuce’ we did with Pipeworks.  

What inspired the concept or theme of your work for your brewery?
  It's different every time. Sometimes it is strictly based on the name of the beer, sometimes its based off of conversations with Drew (owner/head brewer) and Rich (brewer). Our 'concept' is to make fantastic beers with fantastic label art. We don't feel like every one of our beer's should look the same with a change in type or color being the only distinguishing factor. Each beer is unique, its character and the labels help reflect that personality. 

Any other art that you do aside from your work with your brewery?
  Aside from art for the brewery I love to paint.  I'm always active in the arts and I do a lot of group and solo gallery shows, although not as much since I started working with 18th Street!

Any links to a site or sites that feature your work? 

Anthony Beard – New Albanian Brewing (New Albany, IN)

How long you've been partnered with your brewery?
  I've been with the brewery almost 10 years now.

What art work that you do for your brewery?
  I do all of the bottle labels, festival banners, tap handles, signage for the brewery, t-shirt designs, and marketing materials.

What inspired the concept or theme of your work for your brewery?
  I was raised on comics and cartoons, so much of my style for the brewery labels stems from that, I view a lot of the characters in a weird kind of hodge-podge mythology of their own.

Any other art that you do aside from your work with your brewery?
  I don't have a lot of time to do my own stuff, so it's mostly all for the New Albanian.

Any links to a site or sites that feature your work?

  As far a websites, most of my stuff is up on

The Festival

  If you've made it this far then you should have a pretty decent idea of what this event is all about. While I cannot boast being particularly knowledgeable of art in any form, I admit that I find myself enjoying events such as this considerably more than the much larger festivals. Events like this offer a much more personal experience with the participants and other patrons. The pace is far less frantic and there is no urgency to scramble from booth to booth in an attempt to hit as many breweries as possible.

  A huge thank you goes out to 18th Street Brewing, Flat 12, New Albanian, People’s, Sun King, and Triton for your support of this event. I’ve had a number of beers from some of these breweries yet I still managed to try several new beers. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was happy to see that Sun King was pouring some Grapefruit Jungle which, I must admit, I frequented several times. Also, 18th Street brought along a very limited amount of their Grapefruit Dead, a collaboration brew with Mikkeller!

  Overall, the 1st Annual Monticello Arts & Biergarten was a nice experience for those new to the craft beer scene, more experienced festival goers and everyone in between. Personally, I had the opportunity help steer a friend toward some new beer discoveries, had some great conversations with the artists, brewery representatives, friends & other revelers, enjoyed some great craft beer, and had some good eats at The Scoreboard after-party. Great job Sean and I look forward to next year’s event!

Cheers! - Jason C.

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