Alter Ego Saison by Smartmouth Brewing Co.

Label Approval by | Sep 2015 | Issue #104

While designing the controlled chaos of Smartmouth Brewing Co.’s Alter Ego can, Matt Schneider spent over a month compiling brewing formulas, charts and diagrams.

“I remember going to the public library one day looking for more information,” says Schneider. “As I walked in I realized two things: A) I hadn’t been in a library for over a decade, and B) beer was my reason for coming back.”

Smartmouth has a way of winning people over to the nerdy side. From the metabolic flows of fermentation to the yeast pitch rate formula, “the cans become a resource, and people ‘study’ them while they drink,” says Schneider, creating what Smartmouth president and co-founder Porter Hardy, IV, calls “the cereal-box effect.”

Yeast cells, yeast formulas, a hemocytometer… Notice a theme in the can’s chalkboard-like layout? Each of Smartmouth’s three core beers—Alter Ego, Murphy’s Law Amber Ale and Rule G IPA—showcases one ingredient, “so everyone can find a favorite,” says Hardy.

And while the design may prompt flashbacks to tutors and textbooks, a closer look reveals the brewery’s backstory and sense of humor.

“Sometimes people take a while to see that our logo is both a mouth … and a pint glass,” says Hardy, who, as the can’s shirt-and-tie graphic alludes, left his job as an attorney to indulge his weekend “alter ego” as a homebrewer. Along with some friends and head brewer Greg Papp, Hardy launched Smartmouth in 2012. “Most everyone who works for a brewery could make more money somewhere else, so you have to have fun with it.”

“I personally really enjoy the tweaked philosophical musings, such as, ‘I think therefore I can,’” says Schneider, creative director of the Meridian Group, which worked with the Virginia brewery on their branding.

Schneider had to pore over library books to nail those brewing formulas, but he says the chalkboard look was a “no-brainer,” inspired by the tasting room’s public chalkboards, where equations doodled by med students share space with kids’ drawings and artists’ murals.

The science theme and chalkboard design will return this fall with two can releases—as long as Schneider doesn’t owe any late fees.