Ray Ray’s Pale Ale by Center of the Universe

Label Approval by | Jul 2013 | Issue #78

Two brothers took two very different paths in life: one, an engineer for NASA, and the other a Major League Baseball pitcher. But at some point, their trajectories intersected. “It is the yin and the yang of Center of the Universe Brewing Company,” says CotU co-founder Chris Ray, former closer for the Baltimore Orioles. “Two minds, one belief, and that belief is that our worlds do revolve around one of the greatest inventions man ever accidentally stumbled across—beer.”

Chris and his brother, Phil, parted ways with their former careers and opened their Ashland, Va., brewery in November 2012; they just canned their first batch in May. The brothers know that a beer means more to consumers if it comes with a great story, and they wanted to put theirs right on the can. “We knew who we were, we loved craft beer, and we loved homebrewing,” says Chris. “We just didn’t know how to show it.”

The Rays got their lead from Sly Fox Brewing Company owner John Giannopoulus, one of the nine brewers who collaborated with CotU on their 2011 charity beer, Homefront IPA, which benefits struggling military families. Giannopoulus recommended the team at Virtual Farm Creative, based in Eastern Pennsylvania, and art director Darren Price was assigned to the project. “I think it helped that we didn’t have some longstanding relationship with [Price],” says Chris. “We were able to tell him our story and let his imagination do the rest.”

“It goes without saying, their pre-brewing careers gave us plenty of visuals to work with,” says Price. “The design challenge was getting them to work together.”

Price decided to split the design in half to illustrate each brother’s pre-CotU life. “There’s definitely a groovy, ’50s jazz style going on that helps to keep the feel playful,” Price says. “It’s organized and chaotic at the same time. It’s a can that you can look at and see something different each time.” (One example? Price points to the UFO in the bottom right corner.)

“We asked to get some Orioles colors in their for my guy. I believe they might have been pinstripes originally—not a good idea around here,” Chris jokes. But with a second expansion already in the works, the Rays clearly don’t have to worry about their status among the locals.