For anyone paying attention, or those of us lucky enough to be witness to the rapidly erupting Chicago craft beer scene, you’ve certainly noticed the mind-blowing beer label illustrations featured on Half Acre Brewery’s amazing bottles and cans. You might be surprised to know that all of these gorgeous and often very weird images come from the same man.
Phineas Jones gets bored easily and the wide variety of styles seen on Half Acre Brewery’s labels are a clear indication of this. Jones uses a variety of styles and materials but most of the label art was made digitally using a a 22″ Cintiq. There’s the 8-bit-inspired, dessert-slurping monkey, Ray-Ray, from the Ambrosia label, the pastoral scene-gone-awry Quakerbridge Barleywine, and the Godzilla-style showdown depicted on 2012’s Big Hugs Imperial Stout – you’d never guess these labels came from the same person. Cipher Belgian Blond looks like op art gone quilting. Vallejo, a paint-by-numbers landscape project.
A printmaking graduate of Colorado State, Jones says his “professors would be mortified” if they saw the work he does. His early influences include Francis Bacon and Mauricio Lasansky. He has a background in gig posters and even worked briefly at Playboy.
Not Quite Two Rooms
The label art for Half Acre Brewery is a collaboration between Jones and founder Gabriel Magliaro, but the concepts originate in Gabriel’s head. “Phineas is great about doing his best to nail down my over active imagination” says Maglaro, “I also come from a creative background, so I’m not totally pie in the sky, but there’s always a varying sized crevasse between two people thinking about one idea. I like to think of us as the beer label version of Bernie Taupin and Elton John, minus the extra curricular activities.”
The label art often seems to tell a story, but one we’re not totally in on. According to Magliaro, “Usually the labels do have story behind them. We go through varying degrees of effort to communicate that story.”
Phineas Jones has been designing Half Acre Brewery’s beer labels since 2009. His first, their annually-revisited Big Hugs Imperial Stout, is still is favorite because the illustration was “conceptually his”. This first job led to his full time position as Half Acre Brewery’s Senior Visual Confabulator (his official title). The concepts behind the illustrations for Big Hugs have evolved with each release and in Jones’ words “tells a story”. Big Hugs 2011 is at the top of the list for Magliaro with Double Daisy Cutter coming in a close second. “The double headed donkey has staying power in my mind.”
The StickyFat American Black Ale features a large drooling bear and is another example of label art that leaves you to wonder what the story is. The latest incarnation was released on October 11. “Large and potentially destructive animals are a passion for both Phineas and me, so this one clicked from the onset,” muses Magliaro. “He’s a gooney bear lethargic and dazed from his consumption of the gooey hops… Phineas switched the treatment last year and gave him a blonde mask, so he’s really something at this point.” That seems to be all the story necessary. Except for this one, that is.