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Strutter by Bitter Old Fecker Rustic Ales
He’s “the most frightening damn rooster I have ever seen,” says Bitter Old Fecker owner and brewer Nathan Hukill. “If roosters had teeth,” adds label artist Keith Neltner, “Strutter would.”
We’ve all met a Strutter. Dominant, aggressive. “Full cock strut, ready to share his talons with any stranger that walks onto the farm without warning,” says Neltner. His rendition of a real-life rooster who once “ruled” the farm owned by Cecil Fecker, Hukill’s grandfather (who also taught him how to brew), was designed to wrap the brewery’s first release, an Imperial IPA brewed with nine hop varieties, five malts and a botanical blend.
“Individual batches are fermented with a different yeast strain, put into their own barrels, then blended at bottling,” explains Hukill. “The labels say something about the entire process. Keith’s work takes hours and hours, and he sweats over every tiny detail in those portraits. I take the same approach at the brewery. … Keith as an artist actually pushes me as a brewer.”
Struck by Neltner’s artwork in the music industry, Hukill sought him out, looking for someone who could capture the “rustic lifestyle” embedded in the Michigan brewery’s roots.
“From the start, it was about respecting each other’s crafts, understanding our creations aren’t instant gratification, and they take time,” says Neltner, who uses mediums like pen and ink to reflect the brewery’s anachronistic aesthetic.
“I had a cast of characters in mind from my grandfather’s farm,” says Hukill, “and Keith took those and created something far beyond what I could have imagined.”
From the dripping fangs of Jet the dog, to the “fattened sow” named Darlin’, each Bitter Old Fecker animal reflects the culture of both men’s lineages. In short, “being unrefined is a good thing,” says Neltner. “Heritage, family and blue-collar craftsmanship make us a proud breed of people.”
“Farming and brewing are not easy,” echoes Hukill. “Making a living as an artist is not easy. So much about the work involved in all three of those things is interchangeable. It’s a life that is often hard, but always rewarding.” ■