Monday, April 29, 2013


One of the things recent design got right, I think, is the realization that beer making as a craft, in the United States, has finally gotten back on track. I mean, the Colonists realized the importance of beer, the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians made it and as far as we can tell everyone drank it. Why you might ask? Because it was simply safer to drink than water.
Art by Chris Searle

Cruising through the Etsy store I happened upon this poster for sale. I laughed out loud because I have been saying for years now that "Life is too short to drink crappy beer." Chris Searle hit the nail on the head. He managed with a piece of art to say what I had thought. When I showed this to a fellow who appreciated a good beer more than me, he heartily agreed. Here is a perfect example where art not only imitates life, but reflects the feelings of life.

There was an article a few years back that said the making of beer saved civilization. As more and more people peopled the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, the birthplace of civilization, though the Chinese might object to that, the risk of pollution grew. In fact, no one was very willing to drink the water even then (meaning up to 6-7,000 years ago) because it was unsafe. I mean like FATALLY unsafe. It was where people bathed, pooped, urinated, washed and who knows what else. Trust me, we have no corner on the market for pollution.

However this happy accident happened, the use of wheat fermenting in water, it created enough alcohol to purify the water and make it safe to drink. It was centuries before distillers realized that yeast could speed up the process and even later, like a century or so ago, that hops gave it distinctive sharp, bitter and sour flavors.

Europe seemed to be in the forefront of brewing beer and those distillers made their way to the new world. When hops were discovered, they were able to create even better brews than ever before. So rather than a rather dark, sweetish beer, of varying quality and taste, we have a whole range of beers ranging from "light" beers, to lagers, amber ales, IPA's, stouts and just about everything in-between. Beer making was so popular and its use so widespread that Benjamin Franklin was moved to say that "beer is our proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Prohibition was not kind to anything alcoholic and beer seemed to take the hit the hardest. While they smuggled whiskey and scotch in and made bathtub gin, beer took it on the chin. Hundreds if not thousands of small breweries closed and few were able to make the transition to something "wholesome" to sell. When prohibition was repealed, beer was universally made with an alcoholic content of 3.2%. If it was higher, it had to be called something else. The flavor of such a brew was but a shadow of itself.

In their eagerness to complete breweries sprang up again but unless you had really special taste buds, the difference in taste from one side of the country was minimal if not non-existent. However, in the 1980's the great grandson of a brewer in the Boston area found the family brewing recipes and started a small brewery to test the waters. Today, Samuel Adams, probably the biggest of the craft brewers, found that there was indeed a market for something better. Not to be left in the dust, a generation of men and a few women who had visited the continent and tasted what beer should taste like, began to experient themselves and the craft brew market of less than 1% or all beer sales has grown to something like 7% of all beer sales.

If you think I am deft, or drunk, you needed to watch a short lived cable show about brewmasters. There were only several shows aired, but the first highlighted the owner of Dogfish Head Brewery in DE. Honestly, that is the name. It told the tale of how they crafted a special beer for Sony Records called "Bitches Brew" to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a Miles Davis now classic jazz album.

As I watched him mix this concoction, not really knowing what would result, I was struck how that was the way I designed a new project. A little bit here, a pinch there, maybe something added here and taken away there.

We design the things we live by, each and every day. At work, at home, in our heads, in our play. Never forget this and keep a sharp eye on things around you. Oh, and for those who do imbibe, take a little adventure and drink a really good craft beer. Once you do, the Coors, Millers and Bud's you drink won't have much of a flavor.

Visit TheArtofChrisSearle on He has much fun artwork. Don't forget to visit I am always adding new things as well.

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