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By now, you’ve probably heard a few whispers (or, dare we say–hoots) about Blue Owl Brewing.
Helmed by Brewmaster Jeff Young and CEO Suzy Shaffer, both formerly of Black Star Co-op, the new operation is set to open in a recently acquired space in East Austin before year’s end.
Drawing on a technique Young began to refine at Black Star, Blue Owl’s forte will be classic, sessionable styles with one major twist—sour mashing. And, as if that weren’t enough to excite the palates of sour beer lovers around Austin, Blue Owl will be putting their flagship beers into cans.
While Young and Shaffer are keeping many of the details of Blue Owl close to the chest until the fermenters are full, they were excited to share one important (and fun) element of the new brewery with us—their branding, including can designs for the first two beers.
It took Young and Shaffer around two months to land on a name for the brewery that they were happy with, and just as importantly, that hadn’t already been claimed by one of the other 3000+ craft breweries in the United States.
First, they decided to incorporate the owl because of its popular connotations, it was something Young could relate to.
“They have a smart, kind of nerdy thing to them,” Young said. “I always liked that because of my own personal nerdiness.”
With a background in chemistry and a passion for naming beers after math principles, this resonance makes sense, but that wasn’t Young’s only tie to the owl.
“It does turn out that according to the Internet my spirit animal is an owl,” he joked.
It’s true. According to the almighty Internet, three independent totally, completely, absolutely accurate personality tests across a variety of platforms (we’re hoping one was a Myspace quiz) all found that the owl is pretty much the embodiment of Jeff Young.
After some exploration of different colors and polling some friends, the pair eventually landed on Blue Owl Brewing.
When it came time to give Blue Owl Brewing a look that captured the spirit of the beers they wanted to brew, Young and Shaffer really resonated with the art of screenprinting. Sure, East Austin boasts many, many screenprinting shops, so that tradition was part of it. But, on a more core level, they liked the idea of screenprinting being a fusion of handmade artistry and a machinery process, resulting in beautiful imperfections, off-set creations birthed from a set, controlled framework. For Blue Owl, this embodied the spirit of their sour mashed session brews.
That’s why they went to Jessica Deahl.
“It was her poster design work that drew us to her,” Shaffer said. “She just really meshed with us.”
Deahl, (who, full disclosure, recently started contributing to Bitch Beer) cut her teeth in the Los Angeles poster design scene, illustrating movie posters for gallery shows immortalizing the works of filmmakers like Wes Anderson, and gig posters for bands like Yo la Tengo, City and Color and Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy.
Deahl moved to Austin in 2012, and being a craft beer lover, it wasn’t long before she started drinking in the same circles as Young. So, when Blue Owl needed the help of a poster artist, she came to mind pretty quickly.
Deahl, Shaffer and Young collaborated on Blue Owl’s logo, going through a few iterations before Deahl crafted the iconic Great Horned Owl seen above.
“Once we had the logo, we pretty much had the idea of what we wanted [for the cans], “ Shaffer said.
What they wanted was something clean and classic to embody the drinkability of their beers, but with a unique pop of color and pattern to differentiate each beer from one another, to be eye-catching on shelves, and to mirror the quirky twist of sour mashing.
The can designs below are for the two brews that Blue Owl will launch with—Spirit Animal (a sour pale ale) and Little Boss (a sour session wheat aka Berliner Weisse). The brewery will quickly follow these up with a yet-to-be-named Sour Cherry Stout and a Flanders Brown.
“The names themselves are almost like pop music—simple and recognizable,” Young said.
This principle carried through to the cans.
“It was all about putting the least amount of words possible on there to say what each beer is all about,” Young said.
While Blue Owl is still awaiting TTB approval on the can designs, they were kind enough to share what they hope to be their final iteration with us.
Feast your eyes on these cans now, because it’ll still be a few months before you’re able to feast your palates on Blue Owl Brewing’s beers.
(click designs to enlarge)