SOUTH BEND – The adage goes, "Don’t judge a book by its cover."
But what about a beer by its label?
The artwork on craft beer bottles is as diverse as the breweries themselves. Even Greenbush Brewing Co. head brewer Jake Demski says that although the beer is his top consideration, a good label can influence his purchases.
"I may say, ‘That’s a cool label,’ and I might try that over something with a plain label," he says.
Demski thanks South Bend graphic artist Ken Holewczynski for Greenbush’s bottle designs; he’s created the bottle labels since the brewery’s opening in 2011. Apparent in his labels are his many influences – from vintage cartoons to horror films, the Addams Family and Mad Magazine.
For example, the pattern in the background to Greenbush’s barrel-aged One and the Same is the same as the carpet in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s "The Shining."
"I’ve been lucky that they give me a lot of leeway," Holewczynski says. "I like to incorporate a lot of images. I love science-fiction, comics, horror and cartoons. They get all mashed together on a beer label."
When the company started, many of its first beers had aggressive names such as Anger, Penitence, Distorter and Doom Slayer, and Holewczynski created dark labels to match. Still, as the brewery has grown in complexity with its beer offerings, the designs have grown in complexity, too.
"Personally, when we do a new beer, it all works together as a cohesive unit," Demski says.
Holewczynski didn’t set out to be a graphic designer, but he had a natural talent for art, plus a drive to teach himself the technology as he goes means he gets to do what he loves. Beer labels are just a part of that, with his day job at Round 2 and his side work on comics and other labels.
"The tough part is that it’s just one image," Holewczynski says of craft beer labels. "It’s usually the things that pop into my head first."
He might do some back-and-forth with Greenbush, or they might give him free reign over the design.
"I might get a week, I might get just a few days," he says about design time.
Holewczynski has gotten some recognition for his label work – his design for Unicorn Killer, Greenbush’s pumpkin beer, was named among 19 of the creepiest labels by a beer label blog named Thirsty Bastards.