A couple of weeks ago I went on a beer blogger road trip. That’s right! A few of us including Nik White of Chicago Beer Pass and Nick Costa of The Hop Review jumped in a minivan and rode down to Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington houses the wellspring of Indiana University pride, and the source of some of the country’s most delicious sour beers, Upland Brewing Co.
Upland just added a brand new building to their facility called the Wood Shop, a capacious building chock-full of barrels stacks and a few foeders all dedicated to their sour program, which was the focal point of our road trip. This expansion is great news; with this additional space and equipment, Upland now has the production capacity to produce more sour beer for more places including Chicago. Huzzah!
Upland also underwent a recent brand update. In addition to giving their core portfolio of beers a new look & feel, the brewery has also given their sour beer labels some special attention. For this project Upland worked closely with prolific Minneapolis art director, typographer, and visual artist Michael Cina, whose more painterly works have a mysterious and mystical quality that demand a certain reverence. He mixes dark with light, smooth with rough, and manages to create emphasis, contrast, and balance all by blending beautiful combinations of seemingly living colors.
We were honored to get to see the original works of art up close and next to the beer labels into which they were each incorporated. By putting such sophisticated art work on their sour beer labels, these beverages not only stand out on the shelves, but they demand a respect and care that design of a lesser quality just can’t conjure. The use of literal blended liquid paintings to label and visually describe Upland’s consumable “blended works of art” (the official sours tagline) couldn’t be more fitting.
As you may notice, the original colors of the artwork were altered in some cases to not only reflect the flavor profile and composition of the beer itself, but to provide a nice background of contrast for the gorgeous gold foil typography positioned on top of the design.
During our Wood Shop visit we also got to try some of the unblended products straight out of the foeders and barrels. Sours beers are typically a blend of a few different barrels’ or foeders’ contents. Each wooden barrel contains a different microcosm of various beer-souring organisms, so each barrel produces a slightly different flavor profile when the beer emerges. In order to produce a balanced, pleasant beverage, a lot of testing and quality assurance (AKA beer-sampling) goes into sour beer blending. We got to try beer from one of their original foeders, a newer foeder, and from one of their barrels. I decided to illustrate each of these unique, unblended samples:
From left to right, Samples 1-3
Sample 1 was a 6 month old beer from a Wood Shop foeder: soft cheese, brett funk, wine grape skins, pineapple, barnyard and citrus peel
Sample 2 was an 8 month old beer from a brewhouse foeder: bright and funky overall with apricot, lemon, pears and mango
Sample 3 was a 1.5-2 year old old beer taken from a Wood Shop barrel: raisins, green grapes, balsamic, raspberries, overripe peaches and dead leaves
If you’re in Chicagoland, keep your eyes peeled for these beautiful bottles full of scrumptious sours. They’re popping up all over the city. Also something to note, Upland has a not-to-miss-for-sour-lovers event, the Sour Wild Funk Fest held in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 1st so check that out!
I’m super grateful for the generosity shown to us by the team at Upland, especially Doug, Amber, Dusty, and Pete, who really rolled out the red carpet for our band of bloggers. Also major thanks is due to Kevin from Lakeshore Beverage and to Matt of Matt Tanaka Marketing for making this awesome adventure possible.