Spiteful Brewing is brewery based out of Chicago that if you're outside of the local area may be off of your radar. I have had the pleasure of enjoying their beers for the last 3 years thanks to regular trips to Chicago. With each visit the brewery continues to grow in size and their reach and amount of beers available increases as well. One thing of note that has always stood out to me was the label art and the unique sense of humor from the brewery.
With that in mind, it was only logical to try and connect with Spiteful. I had the pleasure of speaking with Luke Snobeck their Art Director and employee #1 about the process, the beer and their labels. I'm excited to see them grow and look forward to my next trip to Chicago to enjoy a few of their great beers and see what Luke has in store for his next label.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Well again, thank you for being part of it. We have Luke Snobeck here with us today at the 16oz. Canvas, Art Director at Spiteful Brewing based out of Chicago. If you have yet to check them out please do so. Luke, can you give us kind of little bit of background, how did you team up with the brewery and, your background as an artist, where are you coming to us from?
Luke: I grew up in Minnesota and I went to school at St. Cloud State University and I studied painting there. I got my undergraduate there, BSA in painting and then after I graduated there I moved to Chicago.
And then how did I come up with the brewery or how did I meet those guys?
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah.
Luke: So, once I moved here, my first job I got I was a bike messenger downtown and that’s where I met Brad Shaffer at the – one of the co-owners of Spiteful. He was currently a bike messenger as well and he had plans to open a brewery, so he quit that and just focused on the brewery side of what he wanted to do and I continued working as a bike messenger and Spiteful kind of, you know, came into be a real thing and I did a couple of labels for him while I was still messengering and I continued to help him out with artwork, for after I think about a year, after they were up and running and had beer on the shelves and then when they were able to afford an employee, I was the first one that they brought on.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: That’s a pretty good, honor distinction to have,to be employee number one.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Now, what was the first of those early labels that you did do?
Luke: The first one I did was Ghost Bike Pale which was in a bomber which was all that we did for the beginning I think two and half years that we opened up and then we started doing cans. That was the first one I did myself and then he had other friends that would do artwork and get handed off for me – to me and I would like bring it into the computer and color it and do the layout and everything and send it to get printed. So, even if I didn’t do the full label, I was involved most of the early on ones with coloring and layout.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: There's also several of the labels and the beer names, you know, homage to the bike messenger life right, you have the messenger, IPA. I believed there is one bike messenger and then even just the alley time right with all the bikes. There’s probably a few other ones.
Luke: Yeah, the alley time is -- came from when we were messengers. We always used to go to this one alley and drink Highlife or yeah, it was mostly Highlife that we drank in there. Highlife and Ice House in this alley because no one would bug us so we’d get off work from a long day and just go the alley and have a beer and just get on the radio to each other and say alley time. Yeah, alley time and meet everybody there.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Oh great, it’s awesome.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: So, how was it being a bike messenger? Did you have the certain things you were delivering?
Luke: Kind of. So, a lot of it was stuff for lawyers and architects, blueprints and stuff and then lawyer stuff being ran back and forth that I had to have actual physical signatures on it. We would just show up downtown and just check in and checking on the radio and then we would just start getting work handed to us as it came in. So, the day was pretty much totally random for what we were doing.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah. Now, are you still doing art on the side, do you still paint?
Luke: Yeah, I still paint. I draw more than I paint now and I am drawing with this comic book club called the Trubble Club in Chicago here, so local artists that focus on comics and I really like to add like a humorous side and some text in my artwork so I think that fits in pretty good.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Oh yeah, I think, you know, several of them have that, you know, four pane story board style on the labels. I believe it’s the For Wiener series
Luke: Yeah, yeah, exactly yeah, it’s the Wiener series and the first one was Selfies are for Wieners and I liked the idea of four panels. So, we just decided to keep that for the rest of the Wiener beers.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I think that was one of their first times. I mean I had Spiteful and GFY and I have to crack it open, I think I have a Barrel-aged God Damn Pigeon pPorter in the basement but that was like I think that was like when I comeback to town. I was like oh, what do they have -- like that was the first time I, you know, I go to several of the spots and I remember going in and saying what’s new from Spiteful and they’re like we have this new one and just like the guy was laughing as he was telling it to me. I mean like that’s the name of the beer, he is like yeah, Selfies are for Wieners and I was like all right, cool. Let’s get one of those.
Luke: Yeah. We all have a pretty strong dislike for selfies at the brewery.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Oh yeah, I definitely -- yeah, if anyone hasn’t checked out the website spitefulbrewery.com, what I like is all the artwork is up there for a lot of the beers and it’s definitely, it’s pretty – you get a good sense of the vibe of the brewery I feel and it’s probably a little bit, you know, muted a little bit but yeah, it’s definitely a little anti-corporate which I really think is awesome and I think you guys have an opinion. And how do the names of the beers come up, do they have any correlation to the style or is it more like let’s talk about a topic and then we’ll figure out what we are going to make as the beer later.
Luke: Yeah, it’s more topical for the name of the beer instead of the direction correlation to the style, but when I do a label I base that off of the name and then seems like the color palette that I chose is more based off the style like if it’s IPA or a pale ale or something light, I’ll chose a lighter color palette and if it’s a darker beer I’ll chose, you know, some more of neutral darker colors generally.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, Luke you got them that actually is a subtly I probably never would have picked up on so that’s very interesting. So, how far out between the brewing and the artwork, how is that process for you?
Luke: So, I'll get the name of the beer maybe three or four weeks before I have to send it into print and I send it into print a week after it gets brewed. So, the printer has enough time to turnaround the proof to me and get it printed and sent out so yeah, so usually I have three or four weeks to make a label.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Okay. And one of the subtleties or the things, the stories behind each beer that are on the label, is that also you or is that kind of the team? How is that because they’re pretty hilarious. So, who comes up with --
Luke: In the beginning, it was more of a group eforrt but lately it’s been -- I’ve been doing pretty much all of it and then sending it back to the guys to get some edits and stuff, but in the beginning we'd all try to work on it and we’d all be going in different ways and it was just kind of took longer than it should so.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I can imagine yeah, many sessions trying to -- because really it’s basically, you know, a short paragraph so you’re trying to yeah, get it all in there and probably one of those ones too many cooks in the kitchen so that kind of make sense.
Luke: Yeah, exactly. So, it kind of all got dedicated to me at one point and then I would kind of give it a genereal feel and send it out and people would have some suggestions or edit and sent it back and I would refine it, but that’s actually one of the harder parts of working on the label for me – Yeah, like four or five sentences and then it’s hard to start a story and end the story in that amount of time and have it be funny -- or try and be funny.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Right, yeah. And as an artist you’re probably like I am telling my story with my art and now, I have to actually tell it in a verbatim, you know, it’s kind of yeah.
Luke: Yeah, exactly.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: And image is supposed say so many words, now you have to say in, you know, in these six to eight sentences probably actually less I think yeah.
Luke: Yeah, it’s probably yeah, probably around six but it’s fun. It’s a good challenge. I enjoy having that little -- that little blurb on the side.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: I guess yeah, it’s unique, you know, and I think it adds -- it adds an extra element to that when I was, you know, going through some of them I didn’t realize as much as went into it or the little stories. So, I do appreciate that and it’s great to know that that’s you. So, when it comes over with it, the name has kind of what the premise was or where the mindset was with it.
Luke: We do the side blurb based of off the name, yeah the name would be first and then we’d come up with the text on the side.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: So, we talked about the for, there’s the for Wiener series and how many of those, is it ongoing or there’s ones playing for the future, is it when kind of pop culture or things become “norms” that people have their opinions about, you know, I think there’s, you know, man bun, hashtags, group text, corporate life is one --
Luke: There is a networking.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Networking right yeah, yeah okay.
Luke: I think you got them all.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Nice.
Luke: I think we have one coming out soon but that we’re trying to keep it more of like our fruited IPAs that’s kind of our more adjunct IPAs, that was kind of first series I was doing that with. All of those beers have a like Selfies, it’s honey, networking is passion fruit. I can’t think of exactly which – what the other ones are but --
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Man buns is kiwi.
Luke: Kiwi, yeah. See those are ongoing things and kind of this something comes up and, you know, just conversation around the brewery like oh, that’d be fun to, you know, poke fun at in the beer label and we’ll do a beer based on that. It’s kind of one of those that can’t really be forced.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Right, yeah it’s -- they speak for themselves and I think to your point right if every new beer you guys came out with became the for Weiner series it would kind of lose some of it's, you know, street cred.
Luke: Yeah, for sure.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: So, for those that, you know, scored at home, how would you describe your aesthetic and your process?
Luke: Ecstatically as far as like label wise generally in the beer world I’d day it’s a little bit raw and somewhat unrefined as opposed to like regular like graphic design mentality of making the label where it’s all clean and symmetrical and made in the computer. On my labels, I do are all hand drawn and then I’ll scan it in and do the color and layout and as I usually use Photoshop for the labels. I use Illustrator too but I tend to use that more if I’m doing like a event flyer or something that’s more text based, but yeah, it’s a little bit kind of rough around the edges sometimes if that make sense at all.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I think that yeah, it’s not – yeah, I think they are not refined is the best way to put and, you know, the hand drawn has a little cartoon aspect to it. It reminds me little bit of Mike Judge, you know, from I think like--
Luke: Yeah, King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I think it’s and I think that there is some yeah, I think, you guys must love the Simpsons, there’s a Disco Stew Beer. I definitely feel that you guys are a good bunch over there.
Luke: Yeah, we’ve got a few Simpson reference beers, we got that one and we have Cleetus the Slackjawed yocal and also we did a 16 ounce four-pack called you don’t win friends with salad.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yes, if you don’t know that song -- yeah, if you’re listening to this and you don’t know that you should just pause this and go Google that and then you’ll be able to get that song out of your head. Yeah, that comes up sometimes but it’s like oh, tonight we’re having dinner and like oh, you know, what’s for dinner, oh, we are having a salad with this and I’m like oh, and then I got my kids singing that one and the wife was not appreciative.
Luke: I can imagine.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: And even yeah, I had just pulled up the Man Buns are for Wieners and it has like kind of Bart Simpson, you know, writing on the chalkboard. I mean I know that punishing kids to write on a chalkboard was not a Simpsons, you know, origination but it’s when you see a kid writing on a chalkboard the first thing you think of is, you know, Bart Simpson, at least I do.
Luke: Yeah, Simpsons definitely had an influence behind that that part of the label for sure.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Excellent. And are you Lunch Beer Luke, I have to assume so unless you have multiple Lukes at the brewery?
Luke: I am yes, the one and only. I used to have a beer at lunch pretty much everyday, but I slowed that down.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah and your Lunch Beer Luke is a double IPA which is, you know, that’s a pretty -- it’s a good lunch commitment right there.
Luke: That is. Yes, only one of those at lunch.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, exactly. Now, yeah that would be hard for me as I think working at the brewery and especially the -- all the new beers, you want to try and see what that tastes like, then you have your favorites. Is there a favorite, you know, that, you know, your favorite Spiteful or your top that you’re excited when that comes back around?
Luke: I really like the beers that put out in the six packs so alley time on the Spiteful IPA because they are more crushable you can, you know, drink them all day along, have the feeling going and, you know and not feel them too much. I generally like hoppier beers just personally myself. Just drinking a few. I'll have a stout or a porter, but if I am going to drink a few beers I like IPAs or Pales Ales.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I agree I mean, when I am in Chicago, I definitely always grab a six pack of the Spiteful. I mean, I’m only here for a couple of days, but I have the hotel room beers. They are much better than ones usually served at the hotel.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: I’ve come to love that and the can is very distinctive. I can just see it when I'm coming in and boom there it is.
Luke: The diamonds really stick out.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, exactly, and it’s still is really a great look. It has hand drawn feel too, but still has that kind of repetitive pattern that fits around the whole can. I think it’s really nicely done.
Luke: Yeah, thanks.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Oh yeah, I appreciate the artwork, and I think with technology and, you know, the ability for people to can easier than they have really ever been before, I think it’s just a great -- it’s just kind of a -- I think it’s the turning point. I think you’ve seen more craft beer in cans in the last two years probably than you’ve seen I think ever. And I think that’s great. I mean, from a distribution standpoint, it’s much easier to keep in the truck, you can fit more in the truck. And so, and then mother earth is happy too.
Luke: Yeah, absolutely and the beer stays fresher as well. It’s all around package so we can, you know, bring it to the beach, where don’t allow a glass. Well they probably don’t allow beer either.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Well one out of two, right. Yeah, you say to them, hey, it’s not glass.
Luke: Yeah, I got that going for me, come on.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I think. And it’s using some kid who is like, you know, on his college break working there. So, I mean it’s not really this like massive shakedown. It’s like, come on, all right. Yeah, we used to go to lot of music festivals and that was really the problem, every summer you have like two or three beers you could choose from, and then it just kind of exploded. We are here up in, I am in Connecticut and so, we are in the New England area. I think one of the first non, you know, “traditional” was like magic had number nine did that, and I was like oh, wow, okay. And they just like just started popping up like crazy and now everybody does it.
Luke: Oh they starting canning?
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, it was number nine, it was one of the first ones they canned. That was traditionally a bottle beer. I mean, I know that Oscar Blues, you know, with their IPA, they were one of the first ones to do that, you know, early 2000s. But it really wasn’t a universal thing for a long time. So, I think the canning is, it’s pretty great.
Luke: Yeah, and then Oscar Blues did that larger format can too.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: You also have different series' intertwined - the God Damn Pigeon Porter has a slew of variations. How does that go? Is that just something that everyone is just trying to, you know, evolve or play with or try different tweaks on it? I mean, there is the whole section on the website that just it’s all of the God damn --
Luke: Yeah, dedicated to that. Yeah, I mean we have a lot of those variations, and it’s probably our favorite beer to play around with the base style, with the base beer and adding adjuncts to it. It was pretty much if anybody has a good idea, and if it’s doable for the recipe and we think we can pull off that flavor profile for an idea we’ll give it a try. Yeah, all those different flavors that just kind of came up from us, brainstorming and like, oh, I’d like to try that in a beer. Well, you know, why don’t we try it, kind of that sort of thing.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Now, for folks who don’t know about Spiteful, on a regular basis, how many different beers are being brewed, you know, at the brewery?
Luke: It’s a good question. So, we have I think we have seven five barrel tanks, and they have five seven barrel tanks. And then -- so, we package on Monday and Tuesday, we package three tanks, and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, we brewed those backup. And I think now monthly, we are coming out with two or three bombers a month, and then the rest of the time the tanks are mostly dedicated to the cans - Alley Time, and Spiteful IPA, and God Damn Pigeon Porter, and Working for the weekend. I don’t know if that answered your question very good or not but there’s a lot to think. We’ve got a lot of tanks.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Right yeah. I think it’s interesting just to see that process. It’s usually more tanks and less space, and, you know, it’s like a dance going from each and making sure that there are certain days and you know -- I always find it impressive how it’s, what's able to be done with the space, and knowing when these beers are going to come out
Luke: Yeah. Brad really has the schedule dialed in to a tee. It’s always packaged three tanks and then brewed those three tanks back up at the end of the week.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: You are employee number one, how many folks are on the Spiteful team now?
Luke: We have two other employees besides me. So, Brad and Jason are the co-owners and then Andy, he is the brewer, and Calvin is our sales, distribution and marketing guy. So, right now, we do all self distro.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Right. That was actually, you know, hi-fiveThat was my next question. One of the things I loved when I first was introduced to the brewery was that the fact that, you know, I checked multiple occasions and everyone said that you guys -- I think it’s some alcohol law that based on the amount of alcohol made, or something that you are able to self-distribute in Chicago. And then you guys would, you know, hand deliver it to the different stores. And so, I just thought that was really intimate, and I thought it was really great, which made it more, which you can tell the people at the different stores I would visit, you know, it wasn’t just another brewery that was on the shelf.
Luke: Yeah, it’s great for us too because we can sort of hand pick what’s stores you want to be in and we are in control of the beer from the time that it leaves the brewery till it gets to them. So, we know exactly what’s going on with it and, yeah, I think it’s lot better that way even though it’s more work.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, definitely. I don’t want to minimize the actual work but it definitely goes a long way. I’ve heard, you know, many a story of it goes to distribution and so and so jacks the prices up--
Luke: And we have no clue where it goes, yeah.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Right, it doesn’t have that, yeah, -- it doesn’t give you much control. And I think that while you have that, I think it’s important, and you obviously come to learn who is, you know, a genuine supporter and, you know, what markets you are stronger in, you know, because Chicago is a great beer town and it’s very -- I have to imagine it can be very competitive. So, I think it’s important.
Luke: Yeah, absolutely.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: So, obviously there is a great brew that you are having at the “office”, but what do you drink that is not, you know, Spiteful? What’s in the fridge?
Luke: My other favorite in town is Half Acre.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Great, yeah, I like them a lot.
Luke: Those big ones, but GoneAway is nice and have a beer from that. I drink that all summer long, whenever I see that out. Yeah, got to go with Half Acre.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Excellent. And early you mentioned kind of, you know, labels and the name of the beers have, you know, either tongue and cheek messaging or have a vibe to them. The Dumb Donald, is that given kind of the current climate -- is that something that may come back again, or how was that received? , you know, was that -- yeah, I think it’s great.
Luke: I don’t know if it would come back again. I would say don’t get your hopes up probably too soon for it. It was received really positively and also really negatively. There are some obviously still which shows certain -- but situation the with him is, some people that really like it, and some people that hated it. I thought it was funny.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, I thought it’s funny too. Like I said, I was researching, and I didn’t even realize that it come out. And so, I was trying to find out when it was releasing and I think it was in the summer time. So, I was just, you know, some of these labels don't take themselves too seriously. In my mind, it was like, oh, that will be a great series. I think it might be too easy, you know, but like fishing a barrel. But yeah, I think it was a -- because then I saw the label first before I saw the name, and I was like that looks, oh there it is, okay, that’s what it is.
Luke: That make sense now.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, exactly.
Luke: I like that one too. I would like to bring it back, it’s a really good beer.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah. Does that happen often? It seems that there is so many beers. Are they usually one offer, you know, one or two offer. Is that happen that lot of beers get brought back again? How does that process go?
Luke: They usually get brought it back, but it’s more of like seasonal, you know, stouts and Pigeon Porter in the winter, and then the IPAs and the Bombers in the summer. So, they usually -- they all pretty much make their way back in the rotation. It might just take a little while.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: That’s great, that’s always the worst when you really like a beer, and it’s like, oh, that was the one off. And it’s like oh, great.
Luke: But they are coming back around.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: And I have to ask, who is Collin? Is he a friend of yours that’s going the corporate rout? Or he is just kind of the mascot for the corporate lifestyle?
Luke: He was a long time childhood friend of Brad and Jason’s, who I think Brad went to college with too, and yeah, he’s gone the corporate lifestyle, and they just really like to pick on him. Thought it would be really funny if they made a beer series dedicated to making fun of him and I mean, he doesn’t like -- appreciated some of the labels but, yeah, that’s Collin, corporate Collin.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, he’s got to have some thick skin for that. I think it’s one thing to have your friends bust on you on a reply email chain, but he’s a beer icon now. So, I was going through and, I was like wow, there is lot of Collin jokes, poor bastard.
Luke: Yeah, I think we’ve got maybe size 5 beers, with his face on the label.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Well, Colin if you are listening I feel for you so I appreciate you being having the thick skin.
Luke: Copy that, he definitely take a joke.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, exactly if he can’t, then he is just then -- I don’t know but -- then he’s really been picked on. It’s always funny if he is like he’s got to be kind of upset with it but not crying upset with it.
Luke: He was doing fine.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, exactly, suck it up, Collin. You’re fine.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah. So, at the brewery or when you are creating the labels, is there music or is there artist that you are listening to while you are creating? In my formal life I was a radio DJ and if you saw my face you’d get that but like is there somebody that’s kind of your of style music that, you know, helps you in the creative process or you are a silence kind of guy?
Luke: No, I like to listen to music and I enjoy silence too, I’ll go back and forth but definitely like to listen to music. But I mostly kind of pretty much all listen to hip-hop.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Okay.
Luke: Couple of my favorite artists I listen to while I am working on Aesopp Rock, and I grew on a lot of Kool Keith I think they have more abstract based lyrics and I think that helps with my workflow a little bit, but those are always my two go-to.
Are you familiar with either of them?
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Yeah, Kool Keith. So, in terms of the barrel-aged stuff is there anything new, or kind of that you are working on that folks will be excited about or you are excited about? It’s a very leading question, Luke. Obviously you are excited about all the beers. You love Spiteful, but --
Luke: Yeah, I don’t think we have anything brand new in barrel age right now that I know of. I don’t know, sometimes there will be a mystery barrel or two that surprises me when it’s time to get packaged.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Oh that’s pretty cool -- I like that.
Luke: Yeah, as far as I know right now, I don’t think there is anything brand new in the barrels that we haven’t released yet.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: All right well, I am hoping at some point there is a re-release of the GFY coffee, that sounds amazing. So, there are a few other ones , I’m looking at all the artworks, I was like oh, man, hope they release that again, that will be great, but that’s totally selfish.
Luke: Yeah, actually GFY Coffee will be coming down like the middle of the next month or the end of next month, but not barrel-aged just regular.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: That’s fine with me yeah, that’s fine with me that’s a great beer so, definitely a great news.
16oz. Canvas - AJK: Probably be gone by the time I get back but anyway neither here or there.
All right, I thank you very much. I really like I said before I think that the artwork you do is great. I think there is a good energy there. I think they are doing something really unique and not taking themselves too seriously, but putting out a great product which I think is, you know, is very unique. And I think that what you are doing from an artistic standpoint is really capturing that essence. And I think it’s really cool, and I like the fact that you are writing the stories. If you go to the website, you can see a good amount of labels. So that part has to be hard. To your point earlier that has to be one of the most difficult parts of the process, you know, it’s like to write that, and then everybody sign off. So, I think you are crushing it.
Luke: Yeah, thanks I really appreciate it.