Ah the annual stouts. Being a Chicagoan, I’m no stranger to standing in line with a ticket in hand, waiting for my chance to buy this year’s local darling. There’s a short list of “must haves” that draw a lot of attention. I’m sure you can name two of them immediately, but has this third one popped up on your radar? If not, let me introduce you to Surly Brewing’s Darkness Russain Imperial Stout.
Not only is Surly Darkness a limited annual batch, but the brewery chooses a new artist to illustrate the label for each release. Taking over for last year’s formidable label art by Josh Lemke is Erica Williams of Minneapolis, MN. And not only that, but they are also downright meticulous about giving the artists credit. You know I love that!
“Someone sent me a tweet to a post on the Surly website about them looking for their 2014 artist and said I should check it out. I visited the post and basically sent an email that just said “Hey, I draw things go check it out” and gave a link to my website. A few weeks later they contacted me and said they wanted me to be their 2014 featured artist. We met at the Surly Taproom, talked about the project, and a little while later they announced it was me. I guess they had over 100 local artists apply so it was nice to know I had managed to overcome a lot of strong competition to get the job. ”
“I went with a harpy as the creature for 2014 because of the alluring quality associated with them. The idea that a beautiful and dangerous creature could persuade ships off their courses and seduce the crew felt fitting for a rich chocolatey beer like Surly Darkness. I was also really pleased with the idea that as the first female artist to create a label for Surly I got to use a powerful female figure as the main element in the label art. ”
What I love about Erica’s harpy is that she seems to be lifted from the pages of my beloved D&D Monster Manual (pre-1985). It just has this fantasy game manual style to it that makes me wonder if there’s a 20-side die rattling around inside. It has an Erol Otis quality to it I can’t get past.
Erica is an AMAZING pen and ink illustrator. Most of the work on her website is wildlife and nature with gorgeous detail and stunning linework. She is mostly self-taught having “found that doing it as a job really was the best learning experience. If you draw every day you are guaranteed to learn a lot quickly… I do a lot of posters for bands and other events, as well as album art, t-shirts, packaging, and all sorts of things really. I switch between screen print oriented work with gouache and ink original pieces for the most part but I like exploring other media when I get the chance.”
I loved the 2013 Surly Darkness. Hopefully I can get my hands on some when the 2014 batch hits the shelves!