Stillwater Artisanal its start in 2010 when founder Brian Strumke—an internationally renowned electronica DJ based out of Baltimore, MD—left the scene and focused his creativity on designing modern spins on existing beer styles. But unlike most operations, Brian prides himself on his vagabond lifestyle, and is one of the country’s leading gypsy brewers; rather than founding a brick-and-mortar establishment, he uses other brewery’s excess capacity to craft his brew, a relationship that also naturally leads to collaborative efforts. Stillwater’s artisanal impulses naturally extend to the brewer’s labels, an aesthetic first influenced by tattoo artist Lee Verzosa and—as of 2015—the work of design artist Michael Van Hall, who has lent a more contemporary aesthetic that has made Stillwater’s bottles and cans really stand out on the shelf. Visitors to Baltimore should also note that, while there’s no official Stillwater Artisanal brewery, the beer-centric Of Love and Regret much operates as the brewery’s unofficial home, with loads of Stillwater beer on tap. But it doesn’t take a trip to Baltimore to appreciate the brewery’s artwork. Here are seven of our favorite Stillwater Artisanal labels.
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This label traces back to tattoo artist Lee Verzosa's affection for traditional illustration, digital collage, and photography. The beer style—a dark farmhouse ale—typifies Stillwater's approach toward the unconventional.
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Myths and legends, rituals and celebrations… At 8.4% ABV this burly stout comes dark and rich, with a hint of smoke and a label that delivers a not-so-subtle nod to an hedonistic pageantry.
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This can design marks a turn to the simplistic for Stillwater, an apt solution to house the rice-brewed, modest-ABV sake-style saison.
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Another label design influenced by classic illustration and tattoo art, the Debutante is a collaborative ale made by Stillwater and The Brewer's Art, another Baltimore beer institution. The rustic farmhouse uses spelt and rye, along with a blend of heather, honeysuckle, and hyssop.
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This label from artist Michael Van Hall layers in pop art's bold use of colors and graphics, a decidedly modern shift from the more traditional aesthetic of Stillwater's first beer labels. The beer style—a farmhouse session IPA—echoes Brian's former life as a DJ, and his present role as a rockstar brewer. Crafted in partnership with Other Half.
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"Readymade" refers to artist Marcel Duchamp, who took ordinary objects like a toilet or a bike wheel and placed them in a museum setting, sometimes with minor modifications, to push against the concept of "only visual" art. This label recalls the early promo materials from Braun as well as Alfred Stieglitz's photo of Duchamp's famous "Fountain" readymade. A similar graphic was used with Readymade: Projector (an imperial rice IPA).
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When the Light Gose Out
Made in collaboration with England's Siren Craft Brew, this beer displays yet another punny play on "gose"—a trend that's almost as popular as this beer style. But Stillwater's spin on this gose—like the label itself—breaks the mold, using volcanic salt with brett fermentation to create a black version of this German classic.