In this second installment of my Visual Art of Craft Beer Series I will discuss some of my favorite pieces of eye candy associated with Belgian breweries. This is actually somewhat challenging considering that a lot of Belgian breweries have been around for a very long time and few have done much to update their look. In many ways, this is part of their charm.
A lot of the art I have chosen is highly simplistic, yet all together representative of the quintessential, old world elegance and history of Belgium. Some may seem arbitrary to those most familiar with Belgian beer, but from the outside looking in, represent an approach that is nearly alien to Americans. All have the je ne sais quoi of Belgium.
Due to limited space and bandwidth, in many cases I will be unable to insert an exemplary picture of what I’m writing about. I have posted at least one example of all breweries mentioned on our Flickr page here.
When it comes to traditional imagery of Belgian beer, nothing is more obvious than the monk brewer. I find it to be obligatory for me to include one from this category. One of the most omnipresent and doubtless…jolly of them all is the shiny globed monk of St. Bernardus. Unmistakable and ever smile inducing. If there was ever a face that could urge me toward the monastic ways, the rosy cheeked, beer bursting chalice brandishing fellow in robes possesses it.
Nothing speaks of classic, old-world elegance and history like the label for Haacht Gildenbier. If I didn’t mention this one, DSR may de-friend me. If you are unfamiliar with this beer, its label, and our great affinity for it, please check this article from a while back.
Speaking of trying not to be de-friended by my fellow Beer Blotter brethren, It would be suicidal (and honestly, just asinine) of me to not mention the work of Cantillon. Quite possibly the king of all lambic producers, Brussels’ Cantillon Brewery has a super classic, silhouette style logo that screams of legendary Belgian innkeeper lore (seen at the very top of the article). My goal in life is to be old, bald, beer-bellied, and dead after falling backwards out of my chair. Of course, I’d be drunk on Cantillon.
Not only does Cantillon have a great logo, but their bottle designs are highly refined as well. Always adhered to a long-necked, green wine bottle, the rectangular stickers almost always display a fine painting or drawing that in some way reflects the bottle’s contents. Again, the word “classic” comes to mind. It just seems to be most appropriate.
One unique packaging phenomenon that is somewhat alien to most Americans is what I call the tissue-paper cacoon. Though there is often a traditional label within the wrapping, the initial presentation is literally a 750ml bottle completely encased in paper. Three examples of breweries that use this method are De Ranke, Liefmans, and Glazen Toren.
While on the topic of somewhat abnormal gates of entry into this article, I present to you one of the greatest pieces of beer glassware ever designed – the much heralded Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet Glass. Most of you have probably seen it before but maybe you didn’t realize that it was the work of Belgium’s Tripel Karmeliet. The heraldic lily that is laser etched into the bulb of the tulip is said to be strictly decorative. I call it strictly genius.
And in other glassware news, the Drie Fonteinen gueuze glass is so simple yet holds so much mystique that I must include it here. The shape of the gueuze glass in general is very unique in the beer world, but in life in general, it’s really the shape of a very standard water vessel. It’s one of those things where something extremely common is used in a new and exciting way and your perception of it is changed forever. The three fountians logo is so small and faintly etched into the lightly tapered glass that it’s nearly invisible unless held in the proper light, yet every time I see it I am completely flooded with emotion.
Quite possibly one of the most iconic and widely recognizable logos in Belgian beer is the pink elephant of Delirium (Huyghe). I don’t have much more to say on that subject but I felt it needed to be mentioned.
Ok, I think it’s finally time to discuss my personal favorites. First up, the snail man of Caracole. I figgin’ love that guy. It’s my number one favorite logo from Belgium. The label to the beer by the same name is great, as is the Saxo label. The subjects remind me of characters that may play roles in The Wind in the Willows, and that brings me great comfort.
Probably my second favorite Belgian beer logo is that of Brouwerij Den Hopperd Kameleon. I do not believe that this brand is distributed to America. I first imbibed it at The Bier Circus in Brussels. I was so enamoured with the logoed glassware that I ended up walking away with it. To this day it is one of my favorite glasses.
The last few that I’d like to mention are De Dolle, Fantome, De Bie, and De La Senne. The De Dolle and Fantome labels are almost humorously elementary in many ways, but they are very distinctive and therefore highly successful. My personal favorite of these two brands is the Ara Bier label with the beer drinking pirate parrot. Classic!
All of the De Bie labels have cartoon like bees on them. Amongst the best are the one with the stripper bee on it and those with the shit faced bees. It’s just ridiculously fantastic!
De La Senne may be one of the most “American” breweries in Belgium in not only beer styles but in art direction. Their hard line labels are modern but have a vintage propaganda poster feel to them at the same time. They’re slick yet simple. A recipe for success.
We love art at Beer Blotter. Brewing art, sound art, visual art, performance art…we love it all. Let us know if we missed any great brewery labels/logos from Belgium.