Portland Beer Week, of all our summer boozefests, is the geekiest. We’re talking festivals within festivals (Fruit Beer, Rye, Sour), pop-up pubs, brunch battles, chef “snackdowns,” copious bottle releases, and seminars on everything from wild ales to flavor breakdown. (Don’t know what “Randallized” beer is? You can find out on June 11. Want to meet Oregon’s newest brewers? They’ll be waiting for you after work on June 13. Need help navigating the opaque waters of beer branding? Head to the Labrewatory on June 16.)
There’s an art to the madness. And we mean that literally. From the Chef Snackdown poster (right) to labeling for its collaborative Subcontinental IPA (above), the Portland Beer Week imagery circulating about town is nab-worthy all on its own.
“This is the first year that we started to use other artists to freshen it up,” says PBW founder Ezra Johnson-Greenough, the artist behind the event's previous artwork (along with beer labels for Upright Brewing, Burnside Brewing, and others). To create the new look, Johnson-Greenough teamed up with comic book god Michael Avon Oeming, concert poster artist Dylan McConnell, and Loyal Legion owner and former comic book artist Herb Apon.
Johnson-Greenough, a longtime craft beer writer and also founder of exhaustive brew blog The New School, is tapped into Portland’s beer scene like perhaps no other. While we had him on the phone, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get, well, a little nerdy.
ON THE SNACKDOWN POSTER: “The concept is a beer and food pairing event. We wanted to make it more fun, like a WWE-style event where the brewers and the chefs are friendly and having fun—kind of competing, smacking-talking each other.”
ON THE SUBCONTINENTAL LABEL: “It’s incredibly difficult to get a beer label done. I’ve designed over 20 of them myself. [Oeming and I] worked together to come up with this really cool label. And it was a little different for him, too, because it was for a beer, which he had never done. The layout, the form is different. You have to get it approved by the federal government and all these things.”
ON BEER-SPIRATION: “For the last couple years, we’ve been trying to do collaborations with other local artisans. We make a sandwich with Bunk, a donut with Blue Star, and all these other collabs. This year I thought it would be really cool to tie in with the local comic book community—we have a thriving comic book culture here. It’s just really fun to collaborate with these industries now, and it expands what people think beer is all about.”
ON GEEKS: “I think geeks of all sorts are very similar: beer geeks, comic book geeks, even the tech geek culture. You often find nerdy tech geeks are really into craft beer. Comic book artists are into good beer, and vice versa. I basically work in the beer industry now, but I came up in other cultures, like comics and music.”
Portland Beer Week runs from June 9–19 with numerous daily event at locations across town—check the event schedule for details.