Beer Label Breakdown is a four-part series spotlighting Scott Bluedorn, an East Hampton-based artist commissioned by Greenport Harbor Brewing Company to create the label artwork for the brewery's recently launched bottles of Harbor Ale, Black Duck Porter, Otherside IPA, and Summer Ale.
Before the opening of "Message On A Bottle," an exhibition of Bluedorn's work at different stages of the project, we asked him to discuss the four labels. We'll release one part on each of the next four Fridays, with the final part posted on the day before "Message On A Bottle" opens at Greenport Harbor's Greenport location on May 16.
Part 1: Harbor Ale
Official Beer Description: An American-style pale ale brewed with 30% wheat malt and a blend of Warrior, Glacier, and Cascade hops. Light in color, smooth on the palate, with citrus and tropical hop notes. (5.3% ABV) -available year round.
Scott Bluedorn: John [Liegey, co-owner of Greenport Harbor] reached out to design a label based on a pen-and-ink drawing I had previously done called "The House of the Whale" that was featured on the cover of Dan's Papers last summer. The original drawing came out of my ongoing study of whales and colonial architecture: East Hampton's ever-present shingled cottages and windmills, the fisherman shanties I saw on a trip to Nova Scotia; the little house on the whale's back is one of those I encountered in Nova Scotia, though it could easily be from the east end of Long Island as well, as these places share a common maritime heritage. The piece itself was an exploration of this idea of heritage while playing with a recognizable form that isn't quite what it seems at second glance. I'm interested in inducing a 'suspension of disbelief' in the viewer and so there is perhaps a healthy dose of 'magic realism' that often permeates my work.
Since Harbor Ale is Greenport's flagship beer, we wanted a strong image that was very immediate and somewhat recognizable. We had thrown around a few ideas at the start—from cliché sailing ships to giant harbor seals to the Shelter Island ferry—but ultimately we went with the idea of a drawing similar to the Dan's cover. A northern right whale, same as the one in this piece, was actually spotted in Greenport Harbor in 2014 so it felt fitting that this art should adorn the Harbor Ale bottle.
At first, we took the original piece's concept and changed different elements to make it uniquely about the brewery, such as illustrating a working brewery in the belly of the whale and putting the brewhouse on its back. There were a few different drafts of the idea before arriving at a finished illustration, and to give an idea, this kind of work usually takes between 6-10 hours to render by hand with digital finishing touches.
After a long deliberation, however, we decided to actually use the original artwork in its place; it just felt right from both sides. Even though we went with the piece it was actually inspired by, it leaves us with a great second version that is a stand-alone piece in its own right. And that'll make an appearance in the exhibition.
Many of my subjects tend to defy the laws of physics, and this one is a good example of that. Hopefully drinking the beer gives you similar superpowers.