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 3: Black Duck Porter
Official Beer Description: A black ale that puts the flavor of the malt front and center. It has a mild hop character that balances strong notes of cocoa and hints of coffee. A full-bodied roasty treat that finishes dry. Pairs well with chocolate, BBQ, as well as fresh shellfish. (4.7% ABV) -available year round.
Scott Bluedorn: Black Duck Porter is DJ's [Swanson, Greenport Harbor's brewmaster] favorite beer, and a really important brand to the brewery. Like Harbor Ale, John [Liegey, Greenport's co-owner] had a pretty solid idea of what he wanted directly based off of my “The House of the Whale” drawing; he wanted to do something kind of similar but with a duck. The story behind the beer is that it's named after “The Black Duck," a rum-running boat out of Newport, Rhode Island during Prohibition. One time, the bootleggers ran into the coast guard who gave chase and shot the boat up, killing them and creating national headlines that created a kind of fever pitch that brought pressure on the authorities to eventually repeal Prohibition. So the Black Duck is kind of a cult hero and messiah in the drinking world.
Since I love dark beers (including this one), and because of the name's origin, I wanted to do something kind of dark in terms of subject matter. But through the trial we ended up with an image that was a bit lighthearted and fun. Initially, I went with something "noir” to reflect the era and subject matter of the Black Duck, besides its obvious name. John pointed towards some quirky gangster-era imagery, and I did a few versions of a duck with a bowler hat a la Nucky Thompson of Boardwalk Empire. I still think those came out well and you’ll see them in the exhibition, but I also came up with a few concepts that went along the lines of the animal-machine hybrids of the others, and that seemed to work nicely so eventually we ended up with the duck-rum-runner hybrid as the final.
This one came fairly quickly after deciding on the final ‘Duck Craft’ you see on the bottle. This is where the idea of the cutaway view of a working brewery first came about, and I sketched a version of the duck that is similar to my whale version that was much more finely rendered. Either could have worked, but I like the way the final came out. I hope this illustration catches the eye and draws you to an exceptional porter, one of my favorites of the Greenport Harbor line.