beer belongs with art
The Beer Belongs advertising campaign, which ran in a series of 132 ads from 1945 to 1956, was one of the most successful American ad campaigns of all time. It was seen by millions of Americans and is quite possibly the reason why so many of us have beer in our homes at any given time. Read more in part one of this series here.
“The leading commercial artists of the times were used including Douglas Crockwell (he did seventy paintings) Steven Dohanos, Haddon Sundblom, Mead Schaeffer, John Gannam, Fred Siebel, Pruett Carter, Ray Prohaska, Austin Briggs and Glenn Crober.”  The style of these artists was just as recognizable as the upbeat, bubble-gum pop sounds and scenes of a Target TV commercial today.
Douglass Crockwell is best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers and also for his imagery surrounding the Works Progress Administration. But his longest-running and largest collection of work in his entire career was Beer Belongs. A large portion of his collected works are on display at the Hennepin County Library here in Minneapolis.
Thinking about art and advertising, a sort of symbiotic relationship comes to mind. Who reaped the benefits of the last century’s iconic soup ad – Campbell’s or Andy Warhol? Art in advertising can, to some, seem cheap — like selling out. Like accepting a position designing billboards for Sketchers after graduating from an indie art school. But think of it this way: art in advertising reaches the masses. I discovered one of my favorite (musical) artists of all time because she sang in a commercial for Old Navy sweaters years ago.
In Minnesota, and several other robust beer communities I have visited, there is a very strong relationship between beer and art. I’m not speaking so much of advertising, but of the beer itself: work from a small or relatively unknown artist can, literally, end up in the hands of consumers.
Take for example Surly’s practice of hiring a featured artist annually, in addition to their artist-in-residence, Micheal Berglund. The chosen artists become known for their legendary Darkness bottle art. Last year’s artist, Erica Williams, turned heads with her intricate drawings, fanciful imagery, and downright bad-ass Darkness bottle. Artists are given a unique canvas and garner a broader audience. The benefit for breweries, beyond appealing design, is popularizing their image, vibe, and vision.
Some very iconic imagery comes from within Surly, and many of their artists continue to be well-known today for much more than beer bottles.
It is almost impossible to visit Minneapolis without seeing something from Adam Turman, be it a mural, print, postcard, or T-shirt. His name has become synonymous with Twin Cities art, and he is responsible for this year’s State Fair commemorative art. His work frequently features beer, along with bicycles, and iconic Minnesota imagery. He has murals at a few breweries, too, including 612 and Sisyphus in Minneapolis.
Local artist Chuck U designs the whimsical art on the hard-to-read but fun-to-see cans for Indeed. The images are unforgettable for those who enjoy the beer. Some of my favorite beer art comes out of Blacklist Brewing in Duluth – the brewery partners with local artists and serves their beer at the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe, among other places. They have released some of the most beautiful labels on the market today. But, of course, there are far too many artists in beer design to name individually.
The partnership between art and beer has become a given to today’s craft beer drinker. But I can’t help but wonder what Douglass Crockwell and his contemporaries were thinking when they were approached to illustrate beer advertising. Would the United States Brewing Foundation and the creators of Beer Belongs be surprised to see contemporary art on the beers themselves?
1. Benson, R. (December, 2012) Past Print. Retrieved from http://westread.blogspot.com/2012/12/illustrations-from-past-decades-9-beer.html
1. Brooks, J.R. (November, 2009) In this friendly, freedom-loving land of ours – beer belongs…enjoy it! All About Beer. Retrieved from http://allaboutbeer.com/article/in-this-friendly-freedom-loving-land-of-ours%E2%80%94beer-belongs%E2%80%A6enjoy-it/
2. Brooks, J.R. Beer Belongs – Enjoy It! Brookston Beer Bulletin. http://brookstonbeerbulletin.com/beer-belongs/
3. Houghtaling, A. (2014, April 10). The Ads that Shaped American Beer Marketing. Retrieved from http://punchdrink.com/articles/the-ads-that-shaped-american-beer-marketing/
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: All image credits go to the associated artists listed here.