Southern Drawl by Great Raft Brewing

Label Approval by | Mar 2014 | Issue #86

When Lindsay and Andrew Nations were building the look of their Shreveport, La., brewery, Great Raft, they didn’t have to look much further than the art hanging on their own walls for inspiration: the hand-drawn, lithographic style in the music posters created by Tennessee artist Justin Helton.

“We felt that the quirky vintage engravings of [Helton’s] poster art visually embodied the spirit of Southern culture that [the Nations] had been working to bring to their brewing process,” says Derrit DeRouen, president of the graphic design firm DeRouen & Co., which collaborated with the Nations on Great Raft’s branding.

Helton’s one-man graphic design studio, Status Serigraph, creates posters for Southeastern bands like The Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show (it was a Justin Townes Earle poster that first clicked with the Nations), but designing a beer can for Great Raft’s Pale Lager, Southern Drawl, was a first for him. “Tying in the old with the new is very much commonplace for myself as well as everyone involved,” says Helton, who uses found engravings from the 1800s, photographs and hand-drawn elements to revamp old pieces of history.

Once the look was nailed down, the team brainstormed imagery that reflects the “Southern Drawl” concept: icons like a banjo, a wooden chair and a grassy field “capture a slower pace of life, reminding us to all ‘slow down, sit a spell’ and enjoy a beer,” says Lindsay. The brewery’s name and logo also celebrate Shreveport’s local heritage. “Great Raft” references the logjam that backed up 150 miles of the Red River, which runs through Shreveport, and the brewery’s logo is a replica of the snag boats used to clear the jam in 1838, Lindsay says.

“Paired with hand-drawn type, the logo is a contemporary take on the more traditional typography,” adds DeRouen. Future cans will also feature Helton’s artwork, each telling a new story and utilizing a different typographic style. “The tap handles, growlers and other supporting elements pick up this thread and play off of Southern folklore with the visual style and culture of the steamboat era,” DeRouen says.

This throwback to Shreveport’s roots is important to the Nations, who want to respect that heritage while still “evolving to build on the rich history of our area and breathe new life into what was once a strong beer community,” says Lindsay. “Everyone can get carried away with their day-to-day routine, but there’s always time to relax and enjoy a cold, clean lager.”