The Great American Beer Festival


The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has come and gone again. We’re a little behind on the written side of things, but sometimes you need to take a step back from the festival to reflect on it. While there, we published daily photo albums, videos, and interactive 360 content, quite a bit for 3 short days!

This was our second year having a presence at the festival and we gave ourselves a bit more time without client deliverables; which freed up time for observations, seeking out our friends, and actually enjoying beer.

Overall Observations from 2018:

Craft Beer Makes Strange Bedfellows


This year featured two large areas sponsored by fairly large corporate entities - Buffalo Wild Wings (same parent company as Arby’s) and Jamison. The partnerships are likely important to bringing craft beer to more people, but we found it curious. Why do you think the BA, who typically sides with and advertises/supports/promotes 'smaller is better' would bring in these large megaliths to the Great American Beer Festival?"

The partnership with Jamison at least made a bit more sense to us, since they were promoting their partnership with a variety of breweries from around the country in their “Caskmates” program. That being said, they are neither an American company nor a brewery.


Events around the event


With ~60,000 tickets sold, you’d expect the actual festival to be the main show, but that isn’t the case. The entire city of Denver becomes a beer event for the three days of the festival (and week leading up to it). We made sure to check out some of the tap takeovers around town and see what else is going on in Denver beer. Our favorite event was a beer media bottle share and burrito breakfast called “Bangerz and Smashed.” Now in it’s second year, the event is a bunch of folks that produce media around beer, drinking rare beers and eating breakfast burritos. It’s a great reminder that there are lots of others trying to make a career out of beer, while not being employed by a brewery (although many were). Look for us promoting that event next year!

Beers on Display


GABF increased the area of the festival this year, which allowed for more beer, bigger booths, and bigger displays for getting consumers attention. This increase in booth displays showed a disparity in marketing budgets between the bigger breweries and the small ones that barely had enough beer to bring. Some of the best beer we had was from breweries that had no additional booth setup other than the sign provided by the festival. While good beer is typically the driving factor for consumers once they’ve tasted it, marketing is needed to get the beer drank in the first place. At a festival that imitates the more and more crowded shelf space, breweries need to learn how to stand out to consumers.

Awards + Members Session


Last year we scheduled our flights out for early on Saturday, which caused us to miss the awards portion of the GABF weekend. This year, we learned from our mistakes and attended both the awards and the members only tasting. The awards were a lot of fun to see, we camped out near the stage and sniped some great shots of our friends winning medals, but the Members Session after was where the fun was really at. For those that haven’t been in the past, the Members Session is Saturday afternoon, immediately after the awards in the morning. This session is only open to members of the American Homebrewers Association or Brewers Association. It is much more laid back and has glassware instead of the plastic cups used the rest of the festival. It’s a great opportunity to try the beers that just won awards, actually chat with brewers, and have a lot more space to move around. We’ll make sure to hit this session again next year!

Plan for 2019

With our 2018 GABF coverage coming to a close (and after being featured as the final image of the fest from the official Twitter and Instagram accounts), we’re looking forward to what next year will have in store. We’re already looking at AirBNBs and figuring out how to share our view of GABF with the world.



Eric and Yancy (and Adam!)

Homebrew Con 2018

Portland, Oregon

We like beer, we talk beer, we drink beer, and sometimes we brew beer. The commercial brewing side of the industry has been the main focus of our company for years, but I've (Eric) been a homebrewer for longer than I've been a Hopstoryteller, almost 8 years! With the National Homebrew Convention (Homebrew Con) in Portland this year, the opportunity to attend was too good to pass up.


Homebrew Con contains educational talks, beer, book signings, beer, a convention floor, beer, demonstrations, beer, and fun events and excursions (most include beer). Most home brewers that attend are targeting specific talks and techniques, we attended with an open schedule, but found it full of great experiences!

Charlie Papazian giving the keynote

Charlie Papazian giving the keynote

The official beer of 2018 Homebrew Con featuring Charlie Papazian

The official beer of 2018 Homebrew Con featuring Charlie Papazian

Skee ball courtesy of Imperial Yeast, Mecca Grade Malt, and Yakima Valley Hops

Skee ball courtesy of Imperial Yeast, Mecca Grade Malt, and Yakima Valley Hops

Free Malt!

Free Malt!

Lots to see and learn about

Lots to see and learn about

Over 3,000 homebrewers came to Portland for the biggest Homebrew Con!

Over 3,000 homebrewers came to Portland for the biggest Homebrew Con!



We went into the conference with a limited amount of time and we came away with a greater appreciation for the homebrewing community. The passion these folks have for beer and making it is unparalleled. If you want to talk specifics about any style of beer, techniques, ingredients, or get into a discussion about water chemistry, this is the place for you!


Next years Homebrew Con will be in Providence, RI over June 27-29. Maybe we'll see you there as we continue our craft beer culture journey!

Craft Brewers Conference 2018: Nashville


There is nothing quite like the Craft Brewers Conference. Between the number of brewers in one place, the cities that play host, and the amount of education that happens, I always encourage folks to go. 

A Sort of 'Family Reunion'


CBC and GABF are often called "family reunions" of brewers and this year was no different. It is hard to walk the show floor without running into friends every few booths. Between vendors that we're friends with, brewers that we know from our own work, or striking up conversations with new friends, there is no shortage in happy, friendly, beer folks.


This year we were able to see our work playing on multiple screens throughout the show floor and during the keynote talks. We enjoyed the unique ways our videos are being used!



Every year CBC takes over the town. The amount of beer that must flow into the Craft Brewers Conference is off the charts. The opening night event and conference floor is a lot, but every tap room, dive bar, bottle shop, brewery, and even empty parking lot, is transformed into a craft beer bar. Beers from all over the country are brought in by distributors to the benefit of out of town brewers and local beer lovers alike. 


Nashville played host this year and made for a great backdrop of music and a bustling craft beer scene that was unknown to the PNW folks that we traveled with. Bearded Iris, Jackalope, and Craft Brewed were our favorite spots, but we hardly scratched the surface of the town. Broadway is a honky-tonk heaven with live music playing on multiple levels for 3-4 blocks. 


Educational Opportunities

While we weren't there specifically to learn, we had to stop in some of the talks. The topics that attracted us were around what's next? The answers were attempted in a variety of talks: Marijuana and Beer, Craft Malt, Terpines and Extreme IPAs, and Session Beers. There's always seminars about starting your own brewery and growth. Educational opportunities abound at CBC.

Next year is bound to be another step up with the conference heading to Denver. Many brewers know the city well from GABF being there every year, so it will make for some incredible beer-centric experiences. We will see you in Denver!

Creatives in Craft Beer with Jordan Wilson Designs

We reached out to Jordan Wilson (who had been suggested by Jeremy Backer) to talk about branding, design, and beer. Jordan is a freelance Designer and Creative Director for Old Town Brewing in Portland, Oregon.

Who are you?

My Name is Jordan Wilson. I’m a product of Mark and Brenda Wilson, fanatic of graphical design solutions, and a semi-closeted Michael McDonald enthusiast. I enjoy the cold sides of pillows, learning things I currently don’t know, and filling up once-blank Moleskine notebooks. At the time of this interview I am 29 years old, living in the heart of Portland, Oregon, working as a part-time freelance designer and full-time creative director for Old Town Brewing, and trying to get better at calling my mom once a week.


How did you get into design?

I got into design through way of music. Growing up, I was in a ton of bands, which in turn would need things like posters, album art, merchandise, etc. I’ve always been a doodler - going from crayons on walls to pencils on paper - and it just seemed like a good fit to take on the role of guitarist/designer. So I cut my teeth early on. Learning the basics of graphic design on bootleg adobe software and dial up internet. It really wasn’t until much later, after I moved up to Portland, that I started taking design seriously. Taking classes, going to marketing seminars, learning how to draw up a proper contract etc. And it was just recently that I discovered I can make an actual living doing it.


How did you get into craft beer?

Old Town Brewing was my gateway into the world of craft beer. It also gave me a leg into the industry. At the time I started, craft beer was just in the early stages of ramping up. There wasn’t a massive design focus on it like there is today. The opportunity to come in a make a difference was prevalent in every direction and that had a major attraction to me. Now, design trends quite literally start in the beer industry. Everyone is pushing amazing designs through, filling every void, and flooding the market in beautiful and effective works of art. It’s different now. I’m glad I got to come in before the big bang. But it’s also pretty inspiring seeing what came of it and where it’s all headed. People are really pushing the envelope in this market. Yes it’s flooded and overwhelmingly crowed, but that pushes the needle and the needs for good design more than ever.

What drew you to craft beer?

Initially it was the options. I think that is truly what sets craft beer apart from macro/big beer. I never understood the argument of the die hard Bud or Coors folk - “I only drink Bud, I’m a Bud guy!” I think in any other type of scenario that would be insane. Like, “I ONLY eat artichokes. If I’m eating something, it’s an artichoke. I’m an artichoke guy!” That sounds miserable. Just like food, or music, or anything - I want to indulge in things that pair with my mood, the season, the setting etc. I don’t want to drink the same thing every single time I open a beer. Where’s the joy in that? To me, it only makes sense that if you really like something (like beer) you would want to explore everything it has to offer. And the beauty of beer is that it can take so many forms, styles, flavors. If I meet someone who says they don’t like beer, I typically assume it’s because they haven’t had the right one yet.


How does craft beer inspire you?

I think the thing that inspires me most about craft beer is the same answer that everyone else will give: The community. It’s sounds almost cliche at this point, but there’s a good reason for that - it’s because it’s true. The beer community is the number one reason that craft beer is successful. It’s the beating heart that drives the market into new territories, keeps things from falling flat, and recruiting the best kind of people. It really is true what they say, everyone’s unbelievably nice. It’s an open-door policy, anyone and everyone is welcome, and there isn’t a sense of completion despite the ever-crowding market. The creed is “there’s room for all of us, let’s celebrate something we all love, together”. And that’s more inspiring than anything.


Talk about your favorite work. What was the inspiration, what was a challenge you overcame to create it?

I think my favorite work to date has been the rebrand and restructure of Old Town Brewing. It has been, by far, the biggest undertaking I’ve lead. We spent over 10 months working from the ground up, redefining Old Town’s role in the community, readjusting the core values, and asking the impossible questions like, “Who are we?” and more importantly, “Why are we?”. I think people can underestimate the magnitude of a full rebrand. Even on the “design” portion alone, it’s more than just a label; it’s menus, business cards, website, signage, retail, packaging - literally everything a company has touched with the old brand. Which is why it’s incredibly helpful to have defined the company, the voice, and the mission, so they can act as guidelines for the visuals.


With the new branding, we created an encompassing list of areas we wanted to improve. The biggest chlallenge for us was strengthening brand presence on the shelf while conveying a better sense of quality and our historic ties to Portland. We also knew that we were going to increase packaged beers from 1-2 releases/year up to 10-12 a year. This is a big jump for a small brewery like Old Town. But it was only made possible because we developed a design system for the labels, where the only things that change between them is the beer information, color, and an icon. Before, we were creating custom illustrated labels for each beer, which would take a month or more to complete just one. Now, we can push out one in a number of hours, freeing up more cashflow to put towards other things like added beer releases, specialty beers, higher quality packaging, etc. And so far, even with just the redesigned labels, we’ve already seen a pretty dramatic leap in beer sales and overall consumer engagements. Which just goes to show the power of a good rebrand.

If you could work with one brewery (other than Old Town), who would it be and why?

Honestly, I think my dream brewery job would be a complete startup where I could pick and choose the team, location, and focus. Sort of like an All-Stars game for beer.

Outside my fantasies, I think Modern Times would be fun. They kind of sell this hip, laid back, party vibe while also maintaining a strong impression that the beer is taken very seriously. I like that. They’re less predictable which makes them more interesting. They use packaging systems, while also tossing out “one-off” can editions that break all of their own design guidelines but it somehow still works. That’s really hard to achieve. Especially in the craft beer market. I don’t really know what more I could help them improve on - they have some of the dopest packaging on the shelves, plus they’ve recruited some of the best in the business; like Simon Walker, lord of the lettering. And if you don’t know that name yet, you’re welcome.


What are you working on now? What is your dream project?

Right now, and basically at all times, I’ve got anywhere from 5-10 projects underway. Here’s a list of what I’m doing currently:

  • Branding work for an outdoor apparel company
  • Finalizing branding work for an agriculture industry app
  • Everything Old Town Brewing (just finished website)
  • Video production for a local tap house
  • Designing my next font - I loosely built the skeleton of it from a 1972 cayenne spice container I found in my grandma’s cupboard.
  • Working on some illustrations that I will be screen printing in limited runs for my shop.

My dream project is always changing because I’m always crossing things off of my “design bucket list”. One item that has been on the list for a while is to illustrate a kids book. I’d also love to work with a proper distillery.

What was the beer that started you down the craft beer rabbit hole?

This is a difficult question to tackle. Mostly because different beers have affected me and inspired me in different ways. I think the beer that made we want to take the craft of brewing seriously - actually understand the process, history, and nuances of beer - was a Kolsch ale by a small brewery here in Portland called Occidental. At the time, I was like everyone else, searching for the hoppiest tongue wrecking IPA - the higher the IBU the more badass you were. But I recall being drawn to these bright solid yellow tallboy cans with a style that i’d never heard of (Kolsch). At first sip I was born again. Baptized in the funky, vinous, golden suds - totally a changed man. That quickly got me down the path of obsession for German-style beer, which lead to Belgian styles, that paved way to English-styles and so forth. It lead to me to appreciate how the geographical importance and history played a pivotal role in making a beer taste the way it does. I think it’s fascinating. It started me down the rabbit hole and I’m perfectly content knowing there’s no exit.

What are you drinking right now?

I’m currently sitting at my desk drinking a nice cuppa English tea with a splash of cashew milk because my girlfriend doesn’t like real milk anymore and I am a supportive boyfriend.

What do you wish you were drinking right now?

A nice cuppa English tea with real milk. Or a Balvenie 30 Single Malt Speyside - neat. I’d also like to try a true ‘New England Style IPA’ from the motherland to see if the hype is real.

You can find more of Jordan’s work here:

Creatives in Craft Beer with Trevor Carmick of Beer Labels in Motion

I first came across Trevor through his blog, Beer Labels in Motion. Through a careful eye and years of practice, he has taken his love of beer and put his own spin on it. Here’s a short interview with him:


Who are you? What do you do?

I’m currently working at Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Media Technician. My background is video production in a post-production position. When I’m not at my day job, I also own a video production company with a friend called Wow Signal Media. And of course when I’m not doing either of those two jobs, I’m probably animating some beer labels!

What draws you to craft beer?

My old answer to this question would have been that craft beer is so unique and stands to prove that beer can be much more than Bud Light. But now I’d say my answer is the beer community draws me to craft beer. Everyone is really friendly towards each other and I admire how breweries collaborate and help one another. The craft beer scene has become so wildly popular that I don’t consider it a niche anymore.

How does craft beer inspire you?

Craft beer provides me the canvas to work with animating beer labels. 


Why animate beer labels?

Why not animate beer labels? I love craft beer so it made sense to take the labels and animate them. So many craft beer labels are creative and unique. There’s a reason why many breweries and artists join forces; both are creative outlets and compliment each other. 

How do you approach a new label?

I start by looking at the overall action in the label. Is there a central figure to animate or is it mostly text based? Or maybe the label is something like Magic Hat #9, where it’s all abstract design based. I also take time to think about where the animation loop point will be. Will it require an object to be moving through the frame or can it be moving while I place. 

What has been your most challenging project and how did you overcome the challenge?


Every project has its challenges but I think the most challenging project to-date has been Slumbrew’s Porter Square Porter. The label for that beer mimics a piece of artwork outside the subway T station in Cambridge. The kites slowly rotate around and flip as the breeze rotates them around the pole. I knew that in order to accomplish replicating that movement on the label that I’d need to create the kite sculpture as a 3D object. I watched some Blender tutorials and taught myself (very crudely) how to design and then color a 3D object. I was very pleased with the final look. But I haven’t touched anything 3D in Blender since then!


If you could work with one brewery, who would it be and why?

I’ve either already worked with some of my favorites or animated labels on my own time for them. If there’s one brewery I’d love to be in contact with it’s Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio. They were my first craft beer experience back in college and they will always hold a special place in my heart. 

What was the beer that started you down this craft beer rabbit hole?

Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Fitzgerald Porter. That beer is the definition of a perfect Porter in my mind. It was a stark contrast from the “Nasty Naddy" (Natural Light) that everyone drank at Ohio University.


What are you drinking right now?

Our local brewery Night Shift is killing it in the beer scene around here. Their rotating Morph IPA changes each two weeks and somehow gets better every variation. Plus, unlike some other local breweries, Night Shift excels at styles other than IPAs which helps keep things interesting. I’m not saying I don’t care for New England IPAs but the style is definitely becoming old here in the Boston area. 


What do you wish you were drinking right now?

A Heady Topper by The Alchemist. That beer never gets old for me.

Make sure you check out more of Trevor’s amazing work here:

Creatives in Craft Beer with Harvey Shepard of Oh Beautiful Beer

For this installment of Creatives in Craft Beer, we interviewed Harvey Shepard, the creator and curator of Oh Beautiful Beer, a blog that showcases design in the beer industry.


Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Harvey Shepard. I’m a Seattle-based graphic designer with an unhealthy beer label obsession.

What draws you to craft beer?

It’s the people. The craft beer world has an element of camaraderie that would seem completely out of place in any other field.

(And it doesn’t hurt that there’s some really, really incredible beer being made.)

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.20.47 AM.png

How does craft beer inspire you?

I think it’s hard to not be inspired by craft breweries. They seem to be a group that’s never totally content. They are constantly pushing boundaries and coming up with new and unique challenges for themselves.


What about design pairs well with beer?

Brewers put so much passion, creativity and craftsmanship into their beers that it’d be a shame to not extend this to the labels.

Why collect or curate these designs?

Wine has always had the reputation for having the great labels. Originally, I just wanted to show people that beer could be beautiful too. Bringing attention to the talented designers behind these labels was an early priority as well.

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As the site has evolved, I’ve tried to focus more on the storytelling aspect of the design. This is something I was able to get much deeper into when I wrote the book version of Oh Beautiful Beer.


What is your favorite label design? Packaging? Logo? Tap handle?

I get this question a lot, so I really should have a good answer prepared. It’s always tough to pick favorites, but let’s give it a whirl so that I don’t have to give some terrible version of “it’s like picking your favorite child”:

Bottle: Mikkeller’s It’s Alive

Can: Fullsteam Common Lager

Packaging: Boulevard Brewing

Logo: Coppertail

Taps: Fort Point

What trends are you seeing in beer looks?

I’m seeing a number of trends developing as brands work to tell their story and stand out on the shelf. Some breweries, for example, are getting more innovative with their packaging. Just as brewers are using unexpected ingredients and methods, their packaging is utilizing new materials, containers and printing methods.

Ultra-minimal labels are also getting more popular. Nothing stands out on a noisy beer shelf like white space. On the opposite end of the spectrum, design with a handmade aesthetic is getting more and more popular. This look immediately tells the consumer that these are handcrafted beers—a far cry from the Big Beer machine.


Geometric patterns on cans are also on the rise. As a craft beer lover that grew up with tangrams, I couldn’t be happier.


Another trend that I’m finding super interesting is the rise of lifestyle beer brands. Breweries are targeting specific audiences based on hobbies that they identify themselves with. Current examples I’m seeing on the shelf include hiking, biking, comics and video games.

What was the beer that started you down this craft beer rabbit hole?

While I live in Seattle now, I’m originally from Massachusetts. Like everyone else from my home state, my first step up from that macros was Sam Adams Boston Lager. It was a “Wait, beer can taste good?!” moment that seems ridiculous in retrospect.

What are you drinking right now?

Fruitlands gose from Modern Times. They just started distributing in Washington and I was quick to fill my fridge. I was very satisfied to discover that their beer is just as incredible as their design.

They employ what has become my favorite naming convention, as each beer they release bears the name of a defunct or fictional utopian project. Some quick research tells me that Fruitlands was actually started in Harvard, MA by Louisa May Alcott’s father. Members only ate food that came from trees or vines. Unsurprisingly, it only lasted 7 months. I’m glad the beer has enjoyed more success than that.

What do you wish you were drinking right now?

As I write this, my wife is texting me from Trillium’s taproom in Boston. Don’t tell her I said this, but I’m suuuuuuper jealous.

Make sure you give Harvey a follow/like/subscribe at these awesome places:

Creatives In Craft Beer with Adam Owens

Interview with Adam Owens

The third installment of our Creatives in Craft Beer series features Adam Owens. Adam is a filmmaker and photographer in Fort Collins, CO.


Who are you?

Adam Owens | instagram @igobyao


What draws you to craft beer?

The craft beer community - full of nice people that love beer! The craft itself - Although I have not tried home brewing, I’m fascinated by the process of brewing beer and how subtle changes during productions can massively affect the taste and color of the finished product. The art and design - everyone loves beer names and labels! Breweries know a lot of people will try new beer if the label is attractive enough, I’m sure other science is involved behind shelf appeal strategy. Lastly, I’m drawn to craft beer because hops! I’m a hop head and gravitate toward IPAs and Pale Ales mostly. Hops are the ingredient that moved me from domestic beer to the vast world of crafts. 

How does craft beer inspire you?

I love photographing beer and also producing short promo videos for beer. I’m often inspired by the vibe of the beer. From the name and label to the way it tastes to how audiences react to it inspires my approach for photographing or shooting video of the beer.


Talk about your favorite image/video that you have created. What was the inspiration, what was a challenge you overcame to create it?


Definitely my video for Sour Wheat Ale with Kiwi by Acidulous Brewing. All I wanted was fresh, wet fruit slices flying through the air in slow motion. First challenge was slow motion. I had to settle with 120fps which is the best I could get out of my Sony A7sii. Secondly water! I cleaned a 10 gallon fish tank and shot through it from the side, from the top, and from underneath. Lastly I wanted it all on black. The trick with black background is getting it completely dark. Thats difficult when you need a lot of light on the subject. I accomplished this by shooting outside. The sunlight exposed my beer perfectly and with a combination of poster boards and collapsable reflectors I was able to block the sun from hitting my black fabric in the background. I am happy with the final result and can’t wait to get my hands on a camera with a higher frame rate.



This was a hard one for me to pick so I went with my gut. Ballast’s Points Double IPA, Watermelon Dorado. Inspired by the watermelon ingredient. Main challenge was getting the infinite blue background. I rolled out a long strip of blue wrapping paper. I took a door of it’s hinges and laid it on a small table. This way I could get some depth between the bottle and watermelon and it also enabled me to get that infinite blue gradient background. Lastly, I wanted the beer in the bottle to glow. I put a small LED behind it and composited the beer glow into the final picture. It is still one of my favorite pictures.

If you could work with one brewery, who would it be and why?

Odell or Melvin or Finkel & Garf. I’ll choose Odell because I live in Fort Collins, CO and it’s my favorite place to go. Every Saturday locals and visitors pack the brewery. The brewery caters to dog-owners (which I am) and families. The customer culture at the brewery is lively and exciting. I’d prefer to bartend and help people decide on the perfect beer for their craving. I’d also have no problem working behind the scenes and learning how Odell makes the most delicious beers. The use of hops in their beer is my favorite - always great and consistent.


What was the beer that started you down the craft beer rabbit hole?

I’m from Manhattan, KS so Oasis by Tallgrass. Oasis was an Imperial ESB. The color was dark, the ABV was high and the hops were aggressive. That lingering hop taste led me to crave IPAs. Soon Tallgrass released Ethos, an IPA that included 6 different hops and was my go to beer until they sadly discontinued it for a whole new lineup. Now I drink Odell IPA, Melvin IPA, Ska Brewing’s Moddus Hopperandi, and more!


What are you drinking right now?

My favorite beers recently are in this order. Denver Beer Co’s Red Rye IPA, Odell Comet IPA, Odell Black IPA (Mountain Standard) and Joseph James Rye Pale Ale. 

What do you wish you were drinking right now?

Denver Beer Co’s Red Rye IPA and/or Melvin’s Hubert Pale Ale. 

You can find more work from Adam here:



Creatives in Craft Beer with Jeremy Backer

Continuing our series of interviews with creatives, we chatted with Jeremy Backer. Jeremy is behind the design work with our friends at Ex Novo.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jeremy Backer. I’m a graphic designer, craft beer enthusiast, home brewer, aging snowboarder, and weekend van-lifer living in Hood River with my wife Elizabeth and our two amazing kids Bennet and Jackson. The unwavering support and love from my wife and kids is why I am where I am today in my career. I’ve been designing professionally for a little over 6 years now, working for design agencies and in-house for a few companies, but have always done freelance on the side. I’ve always tried to incorporate my passions into my freelance gig and about two years ago I made the dream a reality when I hooked up with Joel and the Ex Novo crew. Since then, I’ve focused my “Design Company” primarily on craft beer clients. It’s been super rewarding and rad to combine these two passions. I still pinch myself sometimes.


What drew you to design?

Growing up in a small mountain town in Colorado in the 90s, design wasn’t really something people talked about or even knew about. We knew things like logos and ads existed, but it never occurred to us that someone actually had to make those things. I was always interested in the artwork on album covers, snowboard graphics, and pop culture, but it didn’t occur to me that one could actually make a living creating those things. It took moving away to discover design and that it was something people actually did for work (it still doesn’t feel like work). I moved with my then fiancé to Portland in 2009 and quickly discovered the amazing design community here. PCC has a great program and two years later, I had my degree and was no longer a line cook.

What drew you to craft beer?

I was working in Boulder as a line cook in the early 2000s, and breweries like Boulder Beer, Avery, Left Hand, New Belgium, and countless others were really gaining ground. I remember the house I shared with too many people had a shelf that went around the living room where we collected all the bottles we’d tried, trying to do the full circle around the room. While we maybe didn’t appreciate the subtleties of the actual beers at the time, it definitely sparked in me a love for craft beer and a curiosity to discover more. Over the years, I’ve found that the one constant in this industry is the amazing people and their dedication to preserving the world of craft beer. It is the most inclusive, friendly, approachable industry and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Where do you find inspiration?

At the bottom of a beer glass!


Talk about the process behind designing a logo/branding/label for a beer company.

Every business has a story that makes them unique. Breweries are no different. It’s my job to help bring out that story in easily digestible nuggets through design and storytelling. When I start doing work on a logo or label, I ask the clients to send me examples of designs they love and ones they hate. This helps me get a feel for what the brand should or shouldn’t look like. Then, I go to my cave and bring up dozens of inspirational images (the internet is a beautiful thing) and present these to further drill down to the core of what we’re going for. Next step is rough comps, where I put together a few ideas and present them mocked up on labels, signs, whatever the real world application will be. A flat design might look great in a PDF, but seeing it on a bottle, can, sign, or truck gives it context and shows where it can be improved.

The great thing about making artwork for breweries is the owners and brewers always have an amazing sense of humor and a knack for what looks good. The craft of design and the craft of beer go hand in hand pretty naturally. Brewery owners like Joel at Ex Novo and the the guys at Level are very involved, have a good eye for design and an appreciation for the process that you don’t always get from clients in other industries.

Another thing to note: brewers are typically hilarious people and the names they choose for the beers make my job that much more fun.


What has been one of your biggest challenges - design-wise, beer industry-wise?

Design-wise, working for yourself has lots of benefits, but sometimes as a designer it’s easy to feel secluded and in your own head when you don’t have coworkers to bounce ideas off of. I’m lucky to have a core group of designer friends that I can shoot off designs to for their feedback, but it can definitely feel like you’re designing in a vacuum.

Beer Industry-wise, there’s so much good design in craft beer these days. It can be easy to look at the work of Emrich Offices or Helms Workshop, to name a couple, and feel disheartened. The trick is to draw inspiration from and not pine for that talent. Everyone has their own unique look and I’m still working hard to fine tune that for myself. Also, owning a brewery is not a cheap endeavor. Sometimes it can be tricky to sell the clients on a specialty style of printing or running one-off designs that might cost more.

What beer got you hooked on craft beer?

XXX Pale Ale by Mountain Sun/Southern Sun Brewing in Boulder, Colorado. This was my first job at a brewery, and my first real introduction to the craft that goes into every beer. Even as beertenders and cooks, we were encouraged to learn about the brewing process and were often invited to classes and workshops in the brewery. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that place, as it’s where I met my beautiful wife! We both worked at the pub for about three years and found our love for each other through craft beer.


What are you working on now?

Some really exciting stuff! I’ve been continuing to build out the Level Beer brand as they gear up for their big opening in 2017. Now that the brand is locked in, we’re moving on to website, packaging, apparel, and collateral designs. In addition to that, I’m helping Final Draft Taphouse in Vancouver build out their brand as they also gear up for their opening next year. And Ex Novo always has fun projects for me to help out with! I’m working on creating some of my own beer-inspired designs and products in hopes of opening up an online shop early next year and to attract more breweries and beer clients. 2017 is gonna be huge!


If you could work with one beer/beverage company, which would it be and why?

Oh man, there are so many! But if I had to choose one, I’d love to work with Immersion in Bend. They’re relatively new, have a solid brand/design aesthetic, their beers are delicious, and they have an amazing Brew-It-Yourself program for home brewers like myself! I would love to expand my client list outside of Portland, and Bend is such a great beer town it would be awesome to TAP into that (I’m a dad, these are the jokes we make).

I’d also love to collaborate with other designers in the craft beer industry, such as Jordan Wilson Designs. He’s been crushing it with Old Town Brewing. You should talk to him next!



Creatives in Craft Beer with Matthew Ward AKA Bend Brew Daddy

Over the next few months we are going to be highlighting creatives in the industry to find out what makes them tick and discover why they create in the craft industry.


Our first interview is with Oregon photographer Matthew Ward, known better as Bend Brew Daddy.

Who are you? 

My name is Matthew Ward. I am a stay-at-home Daddy to Zoen, the most beautiful almost 5 year old boy, and the proud husband of an amazing woman, Lisa. I’ve been holding a camera since I was 2, and have always been drawn to photography. All types… nature, landscape, product, event, wedding… but nothing really clicked until I put a beer in front of the lens. It was then that I realized that I might be onto something. With the craft beer scene exploding, I decided to jump in! Created an Instagram account Bend Brew Daddy, started tagging breweries in my photos, and Bam! I took off! Fast forward almost four years… Bend Brew Daddy is a company. Lisa and I run the business from home. We specialize in beer photography, and craft beer accessories, tile coasters with my photos on them, and swag! We set up booths at beer festivals and are building our online store. We hope to expand, and turn BBD into a lifestyle brand, as well as a craft advocate. 


What draws you to craft beer? 

I’m drawn to the people, first and foremost,… both brewers and connoisseurs of the craft. People like you! :) I’m drawn to the creativity and the styles that are born from experimentation. There’s so much going on in beer. There were so many styles to begin with, and now with the art growing, and brewers collaborating, and the knowledge being tossed around. I mean, I had an India Pharmhouse Ale by Alesong the other day. Have we even heard of that before? But it was delicious, and properly described. Hoppy and Phunky! 


How does craft beer inspire you?

Just looking at it. Beer is sexy, especially in proper glassware. But the bonus is that I get to drink it after shooting it! I’m also inspired by the people behind the beer. If they didn’t create the beer, I wouldn’t be taking a photo of it. I’m grateful for their craft. Art inspires art! I even use that hashtag. #artinspiresart

Talk about your favorite image. What was the inspiration, what was a challenge you overcame to create it?

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Wow… I have many photos that I love and challenges I’ve had to get “the shot.” I guess I would talk about the Hop Henge shot. I’m a big fan of Hop Henge by Deschutes, and I had just bought 8 bottles of it! When I was planning the shot, I realized that I could probably recreate Stonehenge out of the bottles. Problem… the sun was setting fast, and I was having issues keeping the bottles in place atop the other bottles. Double stick tape to the rescue! I’ve never used before or after this photo shoot. I felt like I was cheating because I really wanted all of my shots to be real. It wasn’t until after when I was processing the shots on my PC that I saw what I had created. With the sun setting in the background and the perfect amount of light on the labels to make it an incredible photo, regardless of what was in those bottles.

If you could work with one brewery, who would it be and why? 

Easy… Silver Moon Brewing. It’s been a personal favorite, even before I started BBD. And the fact that they were one of the first breweries to recognize my work. They also hosted my debut, and I decorated their brewery with my photos. I’ve also done website, product and other photography, as well as label graphics and other artsy jobs. Most recently, I created the Ghost Fields Rye IPA label. Silver Moon also has amazing people, both in ownership and brewing team and taproom team. Our favorite place to go! It’s great to see the 3rd oldest Bend brewery getting some love again!


What are you working on now? What is your dream project?

I’m working hard on getting my website ready for the holiday season. Other than that, I’m working on the BruSquare product line. I have over 80 different photos in the collection, and we are adding some really cool ideas for storing and displaying them. We’re also gearing up for a big year in 2017. We’ll be at a lot of upcoming festivals and will be taking a lot of beer road trips. Our plan is to release a 2018 calendar, as well as expand our reach into the craft beer and beverage market. My dream job… would be to stay at home building our family and business! If we could make this business our lives, it would be a dream come true. And really, right now you could say I already am living the dream. I work with breweries and the people who run them. I take pretty beer pictures, and I get to hang out with my growing boy! Sounds dreamy to me! 

What was the beer that started you down the craft beer rabbit hole? 

So many rabbit holes in craft! But I’ll stick with the main one… Anchor Steam. I grew up in the Bay Area, so Steam was flowing hard!


What are you drinking right now?

A can of Sticky Hands by Block 15 in Corvallis. I love everything they are doing over there. Monthly releases of amazing beer, and fresh cans of Sticky! If I wasn’t drinking this, I’d be drinking Silver Moon, Crux or some other really good beer!

What do you wish you were drinking right now?

Cantillon… anything from Cantillon! Never had it, and I want it! Also, Treehouse Brewing, Monkish, Rare Barrel… things I can’t get in Bend! Please!? Pretty please?!

You can find more photography from Bend Brew Daddy here:


BruSquare Tile Coasters: