Monsters by Alchemic Ale
The latest advancement in public art: bottle-art agencies. Tim Leanse and Sam Rowell, of Noble Union Imports, are combining their multifarious jobs to create Alchemic Ale, a series that pairs beers with original artwork.
Beer importers by day, Leanse and Rowell keep a foot in the arts world, where they’re known as former owners of a screenprinting studio and a record label. In fact, Alchemic Ale launched with a release from their friend, zine artist Ron Regé Jr. “We thought that it would be fun to put out an issue of the zine that came with an actual beer,” Leanse explains. “The series was really inspired by the overwhelming interest of [that] first bottle, Yeast Hoist.”
Each beer in the series is released in earthenware, 750-millileter bottles screenprinted with an artist’s work. “It is really a labor of love to bring people beer in these bottles,” Rowell says. “They are heavy and difficult to fill, and when you add the printing—it takes us abut a year to put a project like this together.”
The second installment in the series is October’s release, Monsters, illustrated by Mat Brinkman, a comic book and record cover artist, and creator of the Cave Evil board game. The beer will be Bokrijks from Brouwerij Sterkens, a favorite in the Noble Union portfolio—although, Leanse notes, “In the future, each edition is going to feature a beer that is brewed exclusively for that bottle.” (Next up: Blind Ambition, featuring a design by artist C.F. and a Blonde Bière de Garde “brewed exclusively for the bottle” by Southern Star Brewing Company of Conroe, Texas.)
Monsters features two, well, monsters, stacked in a totem pole-like formation, “heralding the drinking of beer,” as Brinkman puts it. That’s one interpretation of the image. Rowell argues, “I see the three-eyed ghoul as some sort of Lovecraftian beast made up of horrible dead parts under the control of the bat creature on its head, who is getting ready to tell him to do something terrible.”
“Dungeon grog crock,” Leanse throws out. The Alchemic Ale series is also tricky to pin down. “It’s not a typical product line,” Rowell says. “The continuity is in the concept.”
“Artwork and packaging influence our experience of beer, for better or worse,” says Leanse. “Instead of trying to escape that reality, we’ve decided to embrace it to the fullest extent.” ■