How cool would it be to work for your favorite brewery in your hometown? Well that is what Brett did and it's a great story. He went to school for Sculpture and was creating in his home studio with his wife, but had gone to work doing something that wasn't his passion. He made a great life decision that he was going to work for Founders Brewing one day and he did, he made that dream a reality. This week's interview gives a unique look inside a great brewery - Founders Brewing. Learn about Dave's process, his background and his love of Rockabye Baby Radiohead.
AJK: All right. Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the 16oz canvas. Thank you for joining us and we’re very pleased and excited this week to bring to you Brett Haberkorn. He’s the senior graphic designer for Founders Brewing company. So, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today, Brett.
Brett: Yeah, thank you, my pleasure.
AJK: Awesome, awesome. So, yeah, we’re just chatting, Brett’s up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, right where the Brewery is. So, that’s -- that’s very convenient. That must have been very nice for you.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s a great city, a great brewery, yeah. Well, love working there and love the town, so --
AJK: That’s awesome. So, you’re a born and raised Michiganer? I don't know what you guys call yourselves?
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, born and raised in Michigan, originally up in Cold Water, Michigan, went up to Grand Valley State University for school, so got my BSA there at Grand Valley State, in sculpture, actually. So, yeah, got my BSA there and then just loved Grand Rapids, wanted to hang around and you know, went through a few jobs and kind of landed my dream job at Founders, so.
AJK: That’s excellent. Now, take us back -- you said you went to school for sculpting, so you are -- art has always been kind of an important -- art and design has always been an important part of your life?
Brett: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, even as a kid, you know, growing up, I, you know, always, you know, I was tearing things apart and put them back together and designing things and painting and drawing and, yeah, just was always just something that I wanted to do. I just always -- I always had to keep busy, you know, always had to, you know, the idle hands -- But, kind of led me to Grand Valley and I jumped into art program and absolutely loved it, fantastic program. It’s, you know, shaped who I am today, I believe, as an artist and you know, really helped me out. I guess that I, you know, that my degree in sculpture -- you know, loved building things, to applicating things of that nature. So, you know, of course, after graduating there wasn’t a lot of sculpture jobs out there, so I had to --
AJK: Wait a second --
Brett: I had to -- yeah, right? So, took the plunge into graphic design, so, you know, had some of that in schooling a little bit and went a job at a hand tool company. So, that kind of played into the sculpture, you know, field, it was like hand tools and things. So, I started doing packaging design for them, and the packaging design, I think, really kind of lent itself, you know, to sculpture, because you know, you're building things, you’ve got to fold things up, these things have to exist in the physical world and you know, really just kind of helped me out there was that I had that sculpture background.
AJK: Yeah, yeah, it’s very -- the packaging is very engineering based too, like you're trying to figure out -- it sounds great. It looks good, the computer with the one dimension, but when you have to fold it and how it lays out and sits on the shelf in the factory or store. It’s interesting.
Brett: Yeah, absolutely. It’s something people pick up and, you know, look at so it’s turns out quite nicely.
AJK: Right, yeah. I heard a weird story on the radio the other day, it was about, like, at first glance I was like, this is going to be terrible, but it was about how they were studying ladybugs and how their wings are able to move so fast and open and close in what -- and the way their body structure is, because they're tensing at one tenth of a second when they can open their wingspan and then less the second to close it. Like, keep themselves safe but till be powerful. And they said that, from kind of a you know, packaging and engineering perspective, that they were just like in amazement of how they were able to utilize that, and there was like these, you know, underfolds that like kind of helped them with that. It was pretty amazing, I was just -- I just thought it was like one of those -- a box and trying to put it together. So, it was pretty cool.
Brett: Right, yeah, yeah. That’s incredible, I’ll have to check that one out.
AJK: Yeah, it was a plug for our Pollock radio friends over at NPR, so that was a -- that was good, it was nice. Excellent, so, you’re pretty versatile then, if you're going from sculpting to you know, working in industrial tools, and now your doing the labels and packaging art for a brewery, so it’s a great path right there. So, it’s pretty exciting, especially in your home town.
Brett: Yeah, yeah.
AJK: Especially in your home town, for one of the, you know, larger craft breweries in the country, you know, that’s pretty amazing.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, and you know, I think I’ve been very fortunate to have all these different skills and I think it’s kind of helped me again wherever I’m at, you know, just me being able to bring a, you know, lot of versatility to the table and you know, we even get a lot of experience in studio photography as well, so that really helps when you're trying to you know, takes these packages and you know, bring them to life digitally and you know, put them online, whatever ads, things of that nature, so --
AJK: Yeah, a senior graphic designer is not probably just labels, it’s the whole kit and caboodle, right, the whole imagery, so it’s pretty -- you know, you can’t just be like, well I can draw this pretty good. Being senior graphic designer, you have to do a ton of stuff, so I can imagine that your versatility was probably a key part in them bringing you on board.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, right, yeah. So, it was a great opportunity and yeah, again, just letting my dream get out a bit and ours is an awesome company.
AJK: That’s awesome, yeah, like I said before, just to me, it sounds awesome, you know, the dream job is awesome point one, but then to be in your local area is your part two and then to be at a great brewery is, you know, it’s pretty much the trifecta of awesome right there.
Now, because you're so versatile and work in many different mediums, how do you describe your aesthetic? How would you look at yourself? You know, that’s our one question, Brett, we ask that makes us sound like that we understand the art world a little bit. So, it’s been -- it’s received mixed reviews, so if it makes you cringe, I apologize, but that’s one of our proud art, art questions we have for everyone.
Brett: Right, yeah, yeah. It is a tough question. You know, it’s easy to look at, you know, other art and kind of you know, maybe, you know, articulate that a little better, but when you try to, you know, reflect on yourself, it’s -- people kind of clam up a bit. But, yeah, it is a difficult question. I mean, as far as working at Founders, I would say, you know, the aesthetic was kind of already there. I was -- I actually worked for Founders for like three and a half years so, there was -- they did have a lot of these, you know, fantastic legacy labels around, you know, already, so just kind of coming in and you know, I guess kind of already having that style a little bit really kind of helped to you know, ease into the label creation without, you know, too much of a jarring effect. But yeah, I mean, as far as the concurrent concern you know, it’s vintage, earthy, you know, authentic, I mean, maybe even sometimes a little like, collagey at times, you know, that kind of have that hand and it’s like the label was, you know, possibly just like hand built, you know, and not necessarily all like digitally. So, yeah, and as far as like my personal work, it’s kind of -- it’s kind of crazy. It’s like, I guess I would say a little contemporary mixed in with a little surrealism. So, it’s -- yeah, it’s kind of out there. It’s kind of a good outlet to be able to do some crazy things.
AJK: Well that’s great. Now, you know, yeah we’d like to check some of that out, do you still -- are you still creating? Like, I mean, sculpting, to me, seems like a huge undertaking, you can’t just kind of -- you know, some of the artists we spoke with, they just carry their sketchbook or their iPads. Sculpting doesn't seem like that has the best mobility, you know, for that.
Brett: Yeah, it is difficult, for sure. I did some freelance work for a little while for a housing designer and it was, you know, more or less like, you know, furniture pieces and brackets and things of that nature. So, it really wasn’t exciting, it was just kind of, you know, producing. So, I kind of ended that and as well as the time, you know, having -- out working for Founders and having a full time job really doesn't -- you know, when it’s stuff like just for the sculpting takes a lot of time and space. My wife is actually an artist as well and we have a little studio in the house. She’s a metalsmith, so once in a while it gets going there and kind of build some things, but nothing too in depth but just to kind of keep in there.
AJK: Now, I’ve no idea what a metalsmith is but I want to know and it sounds awesome, so what is that?
Brett: Well she -- I guess a silversmith, she makes jewelry, she -- I met her in college in surrealism class, so that was a surreal experience. But yeah, she works mainly in silver. She used to create larger bodied pieces, so that’s kind of hard to sell those and you know, and have people wear them around, I guess, as what you’d consider jewelry. So, she kind of scaled that down, but still kind of kept her clean aesthetic style, you know. She takes a lot of her inspiration from architecture or Japanese design, so very clean contemporary looking pieces. So, makes a lot of earrings, necklaces, kind of like the old school with jewelry and she sells all the items.
AJK: Excellent. Does she have a website so we can plug it, I mean, I’m more than happy to do that.
Brett: Yeah, yes. Robynkane.com.
AJK: All right, we’ll definitely check that out. Always looking for new gifts and I love unique pieces. So, that’s always great.
AJK: So, studio in the house, that’s key, so that’s a very -- I like that. It just kind of gives a good sense of creativity flowing through the house, so that’s always good.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, we just had a little one, a baby, so we’re trying to figure how to block off that studio, a lot of -- a lot of dangerous things in there.
AJK: Yeah. As a -- yeah, I’ve been saying recently, I’m father of two. They're -- my boys are six and three, we kind of discussed and I think that they should rent -- people should rent out their kids to other folks who have like just new kids and just be like, just when you think your house is childproof, they bring the kid over and just let them like, just destroy shit. Because I think you're like, we’re good here, they're not going to touch that. It’s so hard to find and it’s like, it’s like a sonar, they find it and then it’s like, get in there. Yeah.
Brett: That’s a fantastic idea. I think we definitely need to do that. Yeah, our -- there’s no way our house is childproof.
AJK: Yeah, yeah. Definitely --
Brett: We got to get some stuff, learn as we go with bumps and bruises and cuts.
AJK: Yeah, exactly then you -- yeah, right, with one you're going to make a lot more calls, more oh my gods, but then, if you have another, which you -- well that’s your choice, but when you have number two it’s kind of like, eh, they’ll be all right. That’s not so bad. So, you know, your second one might be a little uglier than your first one because it’s got a little more -- gets a little bit more banged up than you expected with the first one though. And Daniel, if you're listening at some point in time, daddy loves you. But no, seriously --
Brett: Yeah, all right.
AJK: But yeah, so the -- if you want -- you can run the Michigan chapter of the renting out baby part. I don't know the legality there, but it’s an idea we were--
Brett: It’s a good business idea.
AJK: Yeah, I’ve a feeling there’s a child labor issue there, but we’ll figure something out. We’ll get around that.
AJK: Excellent. Now, so dream job. How did you come to work with Founders?
Brett: I was working for the hand tool company and just wasn’t really the best -- like a fit for me. I guess culturally and I guess what I was producing just kind of just turning things out, you know, not a lot of creative thinking going -- involved in that. So, I’ve been a home brewer for many, many years and love craft beer, love Founders, love that Founders was in my town. I went there all the time and drank and just, you know, always loved their labels and I don't know, I just kind of had it in my head. I was like, I am going to work for Founders. I want to do this. I want to be their designer and do this and it is just kind of a serendipitous thing that the job came up and I like, frigging jumped on it. So, it was -- it was just there at the right time, you know, right time right place, type of thing, you know, and just worked out famously. It was fantastic.
AJK: That is fantastic, yeah. I think -- so, for anybody at home, just go and drink at the brewery you like a lot, and just become a household name in there. But yeah, that’s excellent.
AJK: Now, would you -- is there other members in the team? How does that work over there?
Brett: Yeah, I’m a part of the marketing department. I think we have 12 now. So, it’s far as designers, it’s me and then we have a junior graphic designer, so and then there’s various you know, members of the team, there’s sponsorships and social media team and you know, we have a brand manager now, so we just -- we’re kind of, you know, just really starting to form our core marketing team.
AJK: That’s excellent. Now, so you’ve been there, you know, a little over three years, almost three and a half years now, what was -- you know, what was the first product that you worked on that kind of came to life?
Brett: Oh yeah, right -- right when I started, it was a -- it was a beer label, Founders currently does a series called the Barrel-Aged Series. So, it’s all just barrel aged beers, but before that they had -- it was called the Backstage series and this was I guess, touted as the brewers’ playground, right. So, it could be -- it could be any beer. It could be a barrel aged beer, it just could be something, wicked crazy that they're working on or what have you. But at that point, there was -- the beer was called, Dissenter, and it was an imperial lager and that was my first label that I did. And I got to name the beer and create the label, so being a lager, obviously it’s something that’s not you know, really common for Founders to do, just came up with the name, Dissenter, kind of, you know, going against the norm and things of that nature. And my father-in-law made an appearance on that label, he was -- I guess, if you look at the definition of dissenter, going against the grain and not being the norm, that’s kind of him. So, it kind of made sense to put him on there. He was -- in the 60s, he was in a band called Joey Greco & The In-Crowd and they were going to a gig one night and they got their car crashed and he got ejected from the car and he broke both his legs and that’s kind of difficult when you're the drummer in the band, so --
AJK: Ooh, yeah.
Brett: -- yeah, so where they used to play all the time there was this -- there was this kid who was in high school at the time, I think, and he -- they asked him to fill in for him. And then there was another band going around, looking for a drummer and they came in, they you know, heard of Joey Greco & The In-Crowd, and wanted to check him out and unfortunately my wife’s dad was not drumming that night and the band that came in saw the fill-in drummer and the fill-in drummer’s name was Peter Criss, ended up going to the band, KISS. So, that’s kind of how KISS kind of started to form in it’s infancy. So, it’s kind of a wild story.
AJK: Oh wow! That was a good finish right there, I was like, where is this going to go? Like, what’s this band going to be. I was like, oh wow! All right!
Brett: Yeah, so it was Peter Criss that filled in for -- for my father-in-law.
AJK: There you go. Wow! That's a good -- yeah, that makes that beer even better -- more interesting and I think that’s interesting. Yeah, which I love is the -- on the website, it’s the -- you’d see all the labels and it’s very -- the image is very crisp and stuff like that, so I mean, kudos to the marketing team and everyone getting that stuff out there, because it’s nice -- you know, I just pulled it up and it’s a nice clean label. That’s pretty awesome, that for your first beer, your first product, you get to name the beer, that must have -- you know.
AJK: Yeah, and Imperial IPL which is -- I mean, you see a little more of those now than you probably did in 2014/15 so I think it’s pretty interest -- it’s pretty awesome.
Brett: Yeah, it was fantastic beer as well, so yeah, thank you.
AJK: Excellent. Now how is that -- with your -- you said you home brew, do you still -- do you still home brew? I mean you must be kind of in a playground there, if you’re with -- where you’re located.
Brett: Right, yeah. Yeah, I actually don't. I haven't -- I haven't home brewed actually since I started at Founders, you know, I -- you know, obviously there’s perks of working at a brewery and I have a lot of beer -- beer to drink and I love drinkers Founders and I just haven't had time. I do want to get back into it, so hopefully when my daughter gets a little older.
AJK: Yeah, when she starts driving -- round about, yeah. Your sculpting and your brewing , but yeah, you know, we got to get that back on. All that free time you have, yeah?
Brett: Right, exactly. Yeah.
AJK: I will tell you, you’ll be up at weird hours of the night so that might be ideal for home brewing, so there you go. You might be able to -- you know?
Brett: Yeah. Absolutely, yeah, I’m up all the time, so I could jump in the garage and create a few recipes.
AJK: Yeah, heat up a bottle, throw in some materials, yeah, you’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. You’ll learn what the body can do with about four hours of sleep, so it will be pretty good. So, you’ll be great.
Brett: Yeah, it’s -- that was a -- that was an experience, yeah, for sure. It’s amazing what you can do with literally no sleep.
AJK: Yeah, the body just kind of -- you know, it’s amazing, six hours of -- you see things like you hadn't -- you’d gotten a month’s worth of sleep.
AJK: So, now one thing that we’ll get up on the site, that Brett shared with me was, there’s a really cool video on the Founders YouTube about the reDANKulous, it’s a -- it’s a time lapsed video of -- and I’m assuming that’s you making that that label?
Brett: Yeah, yeah.
AJK: Now, that to me -- I mean, on first glance it’s a really cool label, but I never would have guessed that that’s how it was made. So, can you explain more about that process? I mean, I think that was really, really interesting that you share that, and like I said, I would never guessed that, it just seemed like it would be so much to do that for a label, but I love that -- the creativity and like, you know, that’s really like an art piece, you know, when you see it that way.
Brett: Yeah, it was -- it was. It was interesting. The idea behind that was -- you know, we’re just trying to think outside the box a little bit, but ultimately what we’re trying to do was highlight the ingredients. You know, it’s called reDANKulous so it’s -- you know, it’s super hoppy, it’s super dank, it’s you know, it’s trying to punch you in the face with hops. So, we really wanted to highlight the ingredients and you know, what better way to do that with actually using the ingredients. So, just kind of, again, pushing the limits of what is -- what is maybe drawing or what is typically seen on a beer label. So, we kind of came with that idea and that time lapse, that took -- it took four hours to do that and that was - I don't know, it was probably attempt number seven. I had, you know, quite a few different designs, so I was kind of -- kind of sitting there for a really long time.
AJK: Well, I didn’t even think of that. I was just thinking that Brett killed it on the first try.
Brett: Yeah, it was -- it was a ton of fun though. It was -- you know it was -- I mean it’s this -- brewing, you know, brewing you know, it’s all about the process, right, so we were trying to bring that into the label as well, you know, highlighting the process of making the label, and just adding in those ingredients to really kind of get across that this thing is just packed with hops.
AJK: Right. It is not weed that you're using there, right? It’s hops, right?
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Hops only, but it was a -- it kind of had a fantastic smell.
AJK: I know next time I see it on the shelf I’ll be more inclined to grab one of those, and so -- and that’s another thing I really love about Founders is the labels -- I mean there are definitely some that have a similar style. I mean depending on the series, but they're really unique, there’s -- you know, there don't kind of fall back on the same aesthetic with each one, which I think is really -- has to be difficult, especially with the amount of beer that is being pumped out. So, I applaud you there.
Brett: Yeah. I mean, actually -- when creating a label, I like -- Jeremy Kosmicki, our Brewmaster, I sit down with him and right in the very beginning and I talk with him and tell me, if there’s a story behind the beer or what went into the beer, what he was thinking when he was designing the beer and the ingredients that are in the beer, and it really just kind of helps me kind of pull out, you know, maybe the character of this beer. Because, you know, every beer you drink from Founders, you know, has a lot of character and what we’ll try to do is reflect that on the label. So, you know, when it gets to package and when it gets to shelf, that you know, our customers are taking a look to that and really just kind of know what they're getting into. They kind of know what’s -- what beer is going to be in that bottle and, you know, hopefully the visuals will kind of translate how fantastic that beer is. So, it’s a great process to be able to work really closely with Jeremy and you know, kind of come up with these designs and you know, hopefully get that translated onto the bottle.
AJK: Yeah, I think that’s a -- from your -- again, your home brewing perspective, I think definitely has to help immensely, you know, especially if you're -- you know, I would -- I tried to home brew, but man I definitely -- it didn’t -- I wouldn't say it didn’t go well with me. People enjoyed the beer, but it never got to that -- I never got to that like next threshold of doing it without like the kit, so that was -- so I think that -- I find that just kind of really interesting. I don't know if it’s -- I don't know if it’s a time thing or a patience thing, where I just -- I was good to follow the direction of the kit, but having to make my own recipe, I think, would -- was a little intense for me.
Brett: Yeah, it’s -- it’s definitely a time involved hobby for sure.
AJK: Oh yeah, because I would do it and I was like, I enjoyed it, but then I would see people -- like I look online at people’s images and like what they're doing in the process, and they had these notebooks and they're taking notes and I was like, what are they doing? I’m like, I just -- step six, put in this. It was like 30 minutes later, put that -- I was like, all right, I got that, but yeah, yeah. I learned the hard way about like measuring gravity and all that, you know, final gravity. I had a couple of exploders in the basement, so I found the hard way,
AJK: Yeah. It was a sugar thing, I didn’t measure right and I think some were a little more volatile than others and a couple were gushers. I mean the ones that came out were really great, but I don't think that the sugar broke down evenly across the beers and so it was -- it was interesting. All over the back of my wife’s car. It was not a -- it was not a good moment. It was not a good encouragement for future beer projects.
Brett: Well hopefully you had a little bit of fun.
AJK: Yeah, oh yeah, and she sees this one -- you know, this product is, you know, less likely to make her car smell like a beer for a month, so this is a little safer.
AJK: Now, one thing I noticed with the labels is some of them are topography heavy. So, how was that -- how do you make that distinction when it’s going be more, you know, fonts or word heavy than design heavy, the label? If that’s a good way to describe it?
Brett: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I guess it kind of goes out the same way you know. I guess I can't speak for some of the past labels, like --
AJK: The Legacy ones.
Brett: Yeah, the ones that I have created, I guess I just, again, kind of, you know, that conversation with the Jer and kind of going down the road of you know, does this -- does this beer have a concept or you know, what was he thinking when he was designing this beer, I guess, for instance, would be, Lizard of Koz, you know, he, you know, designed that beer for his sister for her 30th birthday and he, you know, his last name is Kosmicki, so he just -- and his sister’s name is Liz, so he always called her, Lizard of Koz, and he designed this beer for her and so, with that concept in mind, you know, try to invoke the character rather than being type heavy. One beer that we’re coming out with here, real soon, the next month or so, it’s DKML, so that one is going to be very, you know, very type heavy, very font heavy. It’s going to be a malt liquor. It’s actually going to be an imperial malt liquor that is in fact going to be barrel-aged. Oh, it’s going to be a big one, and I just figured that that one -- that one just needs some big bolds -- big bold font.
AJK: Yeah, exact -- yeah, you mentioned the Lizard Koz and -- I tell my brother-in-law, my sister doesn't realize what I got him into -- he’s younger than I am, and into you know, craft beer and appreciating it. So, just yesterday he sent me -- he sent me -- he said, ah dude look at this beer he’s got, it was Lizard of Koz, and so I was like, oh I’m talking -- I’m talking to Brett tomorrow, Mike. And he was like, so that made me look really cool to my younger brother-in-law. So, that was -- so thank you for that.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Nice.
AJK: Yeah, he was psyched, so I was -- it was cool. Yeah, they're down in -- I grew up in the Philadelphia area, so it was -- they're down in Jersey, so you guys are --
AJK: I mean I was -- you know, distribution’s everywhere which is really nice too, so that must be really exciting for you.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. I’m glad that it’s out there for you guys.
AJK: Yeah, I haven't done a lot of the beer dinners that -- you know, I think there’s a really kind of blown to the pairings, but I had the pleasure we did -- I think about the first one I ever did was a Founders one in Connecticut and some of the guys had come out from -- you know, from the brewery and you know, I just remember we had a keg -- they had the Centennial -- and it was like days old. And so, that’s why I have been -- like once you’ve had it that fresh it’s kind of the -- when it gets to us sometimes, it’s -- it never met that level. I think that’s unfair on me, because everybody’s saying, you know, they're the guys and they're pretty vigilant about -- they were -- that was part of their job, -- on this tour was to go and make sure that it’s always fresh. You know, just store the canned on dates. But that was one of the best beers I’ve, you know, had that I could -- it was just so, so fresh and so vivid, it was just like having it there, so it was pretty great.
Brett: Well yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, yeah, it’s unfortunate, you know, the world’s so big, you try to get your product out there and you know, beer is food and you know, unfortunately, it does have a shelf life. But, you know, it’s awesome that you had the opportunity to try something like super fresh.
AJK: Yeah it was great. It was great because it didn’t make me -- it made me appreciate the behind the scenes stuff that, you know, that it’s not just the -- you know, I think there's the misconception at times that I just kind of like, okay, want to leave the brewery that you don't care about it, but that’s your product. So, I think that it was just encouraging to see and then it made me see that the distributors, who’s selling it, you kind of got the sense that they care as much as, you know -- so they buy into that process too, when you go there, you notice that it’s always, you know, fresh and things of that nature. That they're not just trying to -- you know, just sell to sell it, there is a culture and it’s about the beer. Obviously it’s a business, but I think it’s just -- that was, that was great because that was -- you know, we’re having a nice night and you know, we got sat down with the two of them. It was me and my brother-in-law and so, that was real nice to see that. Just the kind of the like, tomorrow we have to go, kind of just hit the stores up and kind of just do like kind of blind check-ins. So, that was, that was a cool behind the scenes thing to see.
Brett: Sweet, yeah. Glad you had that experience. Yeah, good that those are -- yeah, it’s -- it can be very educational, it’s fun. You know, we have a -- you know, we do a lot of them around the country and try to send our folks out from the brewery to a lot of those and you know, just kind of chat with everybody and sort of bring some cool product.
AJK: Yeah, it was cool. It was really great and it was -- you know we got to -- yeah, just kind of hang out with them and experience that, which was really nice. Saw all the pictures of kind of like the underground there at the -- at the, you know, home base, you know, with all the barrels and kind of the caves and stuff like that, so it was really cool to see.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, the caves are pretty sweet, I’ve been down there a few times. It’s a -- that’s an amazing experience as well. You know, it’s the perfect, perfect atmosphere for the temperature to just let the barrels just kind of sleep and you know, kind of age and get ready for bottling.
AJK: The Barrel-Aged Series has been really well received and the one I really like is the Froot one, is, I think that’s a really cool design, it’s really artistic. What’s the story behind that one? Now, again, the spelling is unique, so I -- there’s got to be something correlated with that, but I would just love to hear more about the Froot one.
Brett: Yeah, I mean, it’s -- I mean as far as the spelling is just kind of more the phonetic spelling, we just kind of wanted a cool way to spell it. I mean there’s not like a huge, you know, a huge story behind that, but --
AJK: All right, we’ll edit that out.
AJK: Editing that part out. I’m just kidding. Don't take me too seriously.
Brett: And then, as far as the label goes, you know, we just kind of wanted that duality of the above ground and you know, the hustle and bustle of the world and then underneath the ground, you know, the barrel kind of sleeps. It’s protected by, you know, the roots which is, you know, I guess a cherry tree and. So, it’s -- I mean, it’s not really like super deep concept but that was just kind of the idea behind it, where you kind of have this sleeping barrel down there and then it’s, you know -- We wanted to kind of highlight the ingredients as well and you know, use that red that you know, that’s indicative of those cherries and, you know, the color of the beer and things of that nature. So, again, you know, when it’s on the shelf, hopefully the customer can really just kind of understand what they're getting into and they -- when they grab that beer.
AJK: Yeah. Yeah, I think -- yeah, I like that, and there’s also the newer one, Doom, so -- and there's a TBA release, right? So that’s another one that’s on the website. So, was that the one you mentioned before? The DKML one?
Brett: Yeah, DKML, that’s one of the placeholders there, yeah, so that’s -- that Imperial Malt Liquors aged in bourbon barrels, so it’s a fantastic. I was fortunate to try a little bit of it and yeah, it is really good. So, yeah, the label is just kind of -- you know kind of hearken the real old school you know, malt liquors and kind of bring some of that swag back into it, that attitude and you know. So, DKML stands for Dick Kicker Malt Liquor. So, that’s pretty much what’s going to happen when you drink that thing and -- there’s this little -- like there’s a little like seal on the label and it has this guy, you know, his mouth is open and his eyes are wide open and kind of, like he was getting, like he was kicked in the dick.
Just kind of, just some fun level elements in there. You got this like kind of clean simple design, you know, some, you know, older -- olders, you know, teal -- as far as the color palette is concerned, and then you kind of got these fun level elements in there.
AJK: Yeah, I think -- yeah, and with it being a the subtle label, the kind that maybe gives a nod to the bite that it’s going to have once you get into it. So, that’s pretty, that’s pretty awesome.
Brett: Yeah. Yeah, and then you know, again, we wanted to highlight the ingredients, so there’s, you know, corn on there, but it’s, you know, the thing is just traditional malt liquor, but really amped up.
AJK: Yeah, I think you should make a precursor that, before you were doing the work you should be able to -- you know, you should taste it -- get the tastings. So, I think that should be kind of -- should get -- put that in your writer, I think they should make that -- yeah, standard.
Brett: Right, yeah. Yeah, I do sometimes get to taste the beers along with Jer, but yeah, the description really helps when I’m creating this stuff.
AJK: Like how -- you're really good, but I -- I was just tasting it, I mean, it’s helped me so much more Jeremy.
Brett: Right, right. Absolutely.
AJK: So Jeremy, if you're listening I think you should make that happen. But, another I really like is the Azacca? I know it’s prob -- is that those with the hop names and stuff like that, related or usually I would always butcher those. But I like them.
Brett: Yeah, that’s right, Azacca, yeah.
AJK: Yeah, and it’s really -- it’s bright, which I think is complimentary to the beer and so I think that that’s another really great label. It’s very intricate when you look at all the leaves.
Brett: Yeah, thank you. That was a -- that was another fun one to do. So, -- kind of, you know, the Haitian god, you know, is kind of Azacca, so we’re kind of paying homage to him and kind of showing his fields and things of that nature that that label kind of shows. So, again, just kind of a -- I don't know, I like to put a concept into it, even if you know, it doesn't really translate, I guess it just kind of helps me kind of flush out the design.
AJK: I love that stuff, man. So, yeah, definitely. Whatever that process is for you, it works and I think it’s really cool to hear the stories about them and if we had time I would go through every one of them and ask you about. So, yeah, I -- definitely, I love that. So, you know, --
Brett: Yeah. Yeah, another fun one to do -- I don't know if you guys saw the -- we had to do a Breakfast Stout specific for Michigan and it was -- we had to take the baby off the labels, as in Michigan there’s a law that you can’t portray a minor on a label. So, that illustration of the baby, apparently, was the minor that we needed to take off the labels. So, we -- we basically just did that. I recreated the label, kind of left an empty high chair with a bowl and then there’s a refrigerator in the background and it said, left the crib for a bit, you know, call me if you need me, put a little note on the fridge and we set up like a -- like a Google voice number and kind of had everybody leave some fun messages. So, that was pretty -- that was pretty fun. And then shortly after that, next year, the following year, we -- they changed the law and we got, we got the label back, so that was pretty fun.
AJK: I was going to -- I was going to ask you about that, but I didn’t -- knew that was a legacy label, I thought that was just a crazy law. It definitely -- it’s funny to see what -- with that image up on there, on the -- on the website with -- you can see the -- I was going to ask you about the phone number. That was an actual working phone number, but that would be a --
Brett: Yeah, yeah. It was-- I don't know, it was just kind of a fun little -- a fun little marketing, you know -- we didn’t really promote it or anything, we just kind of threw it out there and just see what happens and the numbers got flooded with voice mails. It was awesome to hear everybody’s you know, voice mails, you know crying for the baby to come back and you know, some people, you could tell had really gotten into the -- into the Breakfast Stout and left -- you know, were singing and lefting -- leaving funny messages. So, had a radio show call it as well. So, it was fun.
AJK: Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, that would make it interesting. That would make a fun YouTube video for you guys just to -- some of the calls, yeah.
Brett: Yeah, we actually did do that. So, if you go back to our YouTube channel you can see there’s a little Breakfast Stout video and there’s just this kind of a montage of some of the voice mails that we’ve received.
AJK: Yeah, that’s a great -- yeah, those -- that’s a great label and you know, I really like Curmudgeon as well. Those are two of my favorites.
Brett: Yeah, that was another fantastic beer.
AJK: Yeah, I’ve got -- yeah. I definitely -- I have a few in the cellar still, so I get out them -- so that was good. I was trying to get in the process, so I have a couple more as we edit the video -- the audio, excuse me, but I think that was a shitty situation, especially being the local -- your home state for the brewery, but I think that was really creative way to kind of appease the suits. But still, you know, keep on -- keeping the culture.
Brett: Yeah, I don't know if it was like an old law or what the deal is with it, but it was -- it was just what we had to do and you know, we didn’t want to -- you know, I guess poke the bear, so to speak, like come after the government with the decision or whatever, but we just kind of want to do a little creative -- little campaign just to -- just kind of see what people would say and --
AJK: Yeah, that made it -- if I had saw that it in Connecticut, like, I think that I would’ve been like, wait, what? Like, where did the baby go? What happened there, you know? I think, maybe people would would have probably walked by in the aisle though too, you know? If -- so that’s interesting, you know, I think, the disappearing baby. Or you could have done a, have you seen the baby? Kind of like a wanted sign or milk carton. But that might have probably played into the reason they didn’t want you to have the baby on the label in the first place.
Brett: Correct. Yeah, yeah, that was -- our original concept was actually putting the -- a milk carton on the -- on the table there and have missing and have you seen me? Call the number. But, that concept didn’t make it through, so.
AJK: Right, because you have to pass it through the -- I think it’s COL (Editor's Note - it's TTB), whatever, you know, commission, you know. So, that’s -- yeah, I could see how that -- they probably were like -- that would probably piss them off a little bit, so I don't think you need to your point, poke someone. There’s tons of those laws that are on the books, they're just odd laws that people only realize they're still in place.
Brett: Yeah, you know, every -- oh, sorry. Yeah, every state is different, there’s, you know, there’s working in alcohol, every state has some different laws, crazy laws, you kind of have to get around. So, it’s just the business, so.
AJK: Right, it’s first world problems, I mean, it’s -- it goes back to -- yeah, I just think it shows where we are in relation to where things were previously with prohibition and what have you, but yeah, some of the states certainly -- I think it’s -- I don't know if -- I think it’s Kentucky, one of the states that certain ABVs, you know, I think you can’t sell above 8 or 9 percent. Don't quote me on that, but I just know that the -- you know, bigger, beefier beers don't always -- you can’t go to certain states too.
Brett: Yeah, that’s true it -- you know, kind of -- sometimes affects some of the beers that we make, because they're so high alcohol, but again, it’s you know, state laws. So, just got to follow the rules, I guess.
AJK: Yeah, add like a Lite Dick Kick -- you know, Dick Kick Lite for those states, you know.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. That one is going to be fun, I can’t wait for that one to come out. It’s a -- going to be fun for that one.
AJK: That’s great. Now, in terms of the mediums, and obviously we saw the awesome with the reDANKulous, you know, that video, but what is your normal process? Are you sketching, are you computer only? How do you create these?
Brett: Well I guess it’s a little bit of all of the above, you know. I guess I start in illustrator, just start making up you know, different, different comms, just laying out ideas, it’s just, you know, super messy and you know, starting out that way and once I kind of come up with a few different directions, then, you know, whatever just needs to happen, whether if need a -- I’ll go through some photos, or you know, sketch something out, or you know, sketch out, scan it in, or you know, do it on the -- like tablet, or you know, whatever needs to happen, then. So, some of the labels are just a combination of those different techniques, so some -- you know, one label I guess, Dark Penance would be an example of that. It kind of, you know, it has some imagery that’s you know, found that’s kind of put in there, kind of has some -- you know, there’s some drawing in there and kind of a collage of different elements to kind of make the label, so. But typically, I just kind of start Illustrator, kind of my crutch.
AJK: Well, I always find it amazing what folks can do with a computer. I think this -- especially since it’s all -- I mean, it’s not new, but it’s pretty -- it’s not -- you know, it’s different than when you were in university, so it’s definitely kind of just -- in that short period of time, it’s gone -- it’s amazing, yeah. Just it’s mind blowing, what people can do.
Brett: So, Dark Penance is just a combination of you know, Illustrator, some found imagery and then I also, you know, kind of drawing into it. So, there’s a lot of things happening in there, so a lot of layers and a lot of different techniques to bring that one to life. So, you know, just kind of also put like some little Easter eggs and stuff in there. So, quite a fun lot of things in that one. So, unfortunately we don't make that beer anymore, but that I think is probably one of my favorite labels. I really like that one.
AJK: Yeah, that’s -- I like that, it’s definitely has a -- I don't want to say ancient, but it has a very, very dark and deep -- very looks like the Colonial period, you know, with they way they're drawings are and stuff, so almost like a dollar or something you’d see like a early farm or something like that. So, yeah, I’ll definitely be trying to zoom that in later to see the Easter egg stuff, like I geek out on that stuff so I'll be shooting you some messages on that.
Brett: Yeah, yeah.
AJK: Awesome. Now, because there’s so many different beers and it’s -- you know, I do love about Founders, is that, they put out a calendar and so -- I mean, what is your calendar like when you're working? Like, how far from, okay, this new beer is coming out to when you have to have the label? Because you obviously had to submit it for, you know, approval not only internally, but with the government because of the size of the brewery and the distribution. So, how long is that process for you?
Brett: Yeah, well, it’s -- we do it as far ahead as we can, I mean, there’s just a lot of working pieces to it, you know, as far as, you know, from selling the beer, packaging beer, get the packaging printed, and you know, TTB approval, which dimensions. So, yeah, I think it’s usually like 120 days out, around there, when we start the process. So, get that label done and get that submitted and then, you know, I also do all of the six pack, four pack carriers and, you know, can carriers and things of that nature. So, you know, everything’s definitely on a schedule and yeah, we just try to allow enough time for that label creation and that time to talk to Jer and kind of allow that creativity to kind of blossom.
AJK: Excellent, now -- so, from when you get it, what is the you know, the approval process? How many -- who are the kind of sign off ? How is that for you? Is that? It’s a convince them or you just kind of email to them? Is you're -- are you pitching them? How do you do that?
Brett: Are you talking about the folks at the brewery, or --?
AJK: Yeah, yeah. You know, how does that go?
Brett: Yeah, so we have -- we kind of have a little, I guess a label committee set up. So, after I talk to Jer, we you know -- I get all of the details of the beer and then I create some comps and then I just basically present them to the label committee. But before I actually present the comps I kind of, I kind of give them like a little bit of a mood board of what I’m thinking. So, kind of show them you know, maybe some font styles that I’m thinking of and some -- maybe like a color palette and just some like, imagery. So, just like a little mood -- visual mood board to kind of -- I guess kind of dictate the scene that I’m thinking of and kind of get buy-in that way and then I go and create those comps, then show the comps to the -- to our team and then we move forward from there. Pick a direction and then finalize it and get 'er sent of to the TTB and see what happens.
AJK: I love -- ah yeah, the label committee, that would be a good -- yeah, it’s a committee I’d like to be a member of. That’s a good group.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, it is, it’s fun. It’s fun to be able to you know, talk to the guys and collaborate on different things that they're thinking you know, maybe -- you know, maybe they don't feel that color’s right and we just kind of hash it out and figure out what’s going to be best for that beer. Because I mean that’s ultimately the goal, we just want to do what’s best for that beer and you know, come up with the best possible solution to sell that beer and reflect what’s in that bottle and you know, bring out the character of that beer.
AJK: Yeah, now, has there been ones that you're really passionate about that kind of get -- for lack of better terms, squashed or kind of like, eh? Like how is that process for you, creatively?
Brett: Well, I guess -- I guess, usually everything kind of -- it kind of goes through and kind of -- which is good, I guess. I guess I’m hitting the mark. But I guess there was one -- like this beer didn’t even make it to the -- to see the light of day, but I guess I did create one label that wasn’t really I guess, well received. But that’s fine.
AJK: That’s pretty good. Yeah, if you’re -- yeah, if that was your batting average, you know, you missed one, I think you’d be -- you're pretty good.
Brett: Yeah. I got a -- I save all my comps and everything so I’ve got a bunch of crap saved.
AJK: You bring that -- yeah, that would be a good Easter egg, to have like, that label in back of like another label like subtly, like, ha ha! I got him in there.
AJK: That’s excellent.
Brett: Sometimes that happens.
AJK: What was I going to ask you? Okay, so your industrial job in terms of packaging -- obviously that brought you to this point. So, was that very helpful, when you kind of came there, in regards to the -- to layout and how that impacts on packaging and the wraps of the cans and the bottles? So, that’s where you seemed like you kind of had some good -- good knowledge of that coming into it. You know, I think that’s been interesting for folks to create their own line then realize with the wrap and the text -- the contour of the bottle, how it might impact their art.
Brett: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, yeah, working with the tool company definitely taught me a lot. I learned a lot you know, with packaging design and dielines and all of that. So, it was a very valuable experience even though it wasn’t really the right fit. You know, I could take what I needed from that job and bring those skills to Founders.
AJK: Yeah, I think that what, yeah, what brings us to where we are now isn't always the plan, but the fact that -- a) the fact that you went to school for fine art and then you're making art, I think is really impressive because to make that commitment at university, there’s not -- like we started off this discussion, there’s not a ton of fine arts sculptor jobs in the help wanted section. So, I think that’s really -- to actually --
AJK: To be actually doing, you know, what you are going to school with. Your folks must be pretty psyched about that too.
Brett: Yeah, my -- when I changed my major to sculpture, you know, to get my BSA is sculpture, I do often wonder if my parents were like, what the hell is he thinking? But I don't know, I made it work, so --
AJK: Yeah, that’s amazing, because I’ve -- yeah, a lot of the stories are for -- they’ve -- went to school for that and some of their paths went different ways and they kind of -- they had that kind of like, I just -- like your -- I’m going to get this job, dream job moment, where like, I’m just going to go for it. And so, to all you art majors out there, it’s not a easy commitment. I think presenting it to your parents -- I mean, I would seem -- you want your kids to have the best in all -- you know, yada, yada, but I think to be like -- especially in this day and age -- you’d be like, okay, how you going to make -- how are you going to live off of that? You know.
AJK: So, so, and the parent in me -- not to get too like, philosophical, but I think just from your child’s perspective, when they look and see what you and your wife are doing, you know, it will give them encouragement to not always take what, you know, the quote-unquote, easy path or what you know, the larger society is saying to do. So, I think that’s encouraging just in general. You’re probably in for -- you know, your friends and family, they see that you took that chance and won a -- especially, it probably wasn’t easy those years at the industrial place. No, no dig on them, but just kind of -- that wasn’t your happy place. So, that’s really encouraging.
Brett: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean it was -- you know, it was definitely difficult at times, you know, just you know, just trying to even find job and then once you find a job and it’s -- you just know it’s not -- you know, you're not going to be happy there, but you just kind of keep struggling through, just trying to find that -- try to find that right space for you. So, once you find that right place, then I mean, everything just kind of clicks. But yeah, it did -- definitely took a while and there was definitely a lot of rough times at work and then my, you know, my poor wife having to listen to me when I come home and bitch about my job. But, yeah, I mean, hanging in there and just you know, looking for those opportunities anywhere you can.
AJK: Well it’s encouraging and it’s exciting, especially, I think that you know, you’ve been there almost -- it’ll be coming on four years soon, just the, you know, the brewery’s at 20 years now. I really like, you know, the 20 Years Zero Regrets series that has, you know, been coming out, just to see that all over social, I think is a really -- it’s really positive. I think you know, there’s definitely -- and yeah, I’ve never visited it, but I just kind of feel that there’s a good energy there and a good spirit and I that kind of, you being the next generation of that, I think, you know, you're a good embodiment of that and so I think that’s really -- really makes me appreciate the brewery a little more.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, it was a fun campaign and you know, headed up by our creative manager and it really just, like you said, embodies who we are. You know, Mike and Dave who started the brewery, you know, they went through a lot of rough times as well. They’ve got a very unique story about how they got to where they're at and we’re trying to tell those stories through you know, little video vignettes and some, you know, artworks that we’ve had commissioned out and you know, just our social posts and things of that nature. So, you know, throughout the year, we’re going to be posting and you know, putting out on our YouTube channel and all these video vignettes and just basically the story of Founders.
AJK: Yeah, I was watching the one today where they kind of went back to their college and was kind of like, well, we didn’t really have the -- you know, we weren't the best students, you know, but it was like, you know -- so it was good,, you know, that they showed the bar they went to and that was a nice little homage to that. So, yeah, it’s always interesting.
Brett: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, they’ve got a great story to tell, for sure.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. Now, what is your process, in terms of not -- when you said before, you're mix medium, but like musically, are you listening to tunes while you work? You know, are you a in silence kind of guy? You know, what’s the Brett creative experience like?
Brett: Yeah, I always have headphones in my ears, so it’s -- you know, we’ve got an open office environment and you know, I’m really trying to find some of that creative space, sometimes it’s kind of hard, you know. But, yeah, I don't know, I'm kind of all over the board. You know, I mean, I listen to the Afghan Wigs, and Muse, Pink Floyd, I’ll listen to some Rap music. Obviously with my child, we try to find some cool baby music and rockabye baby, give them some props -- they make some good stuff as well. You know, they just take these, you know, Pink Floyd and you know, Bob Marley and Muse and Radiohead and they just put them to a lullaby theme and it’s -- it’s definitely tolerable to listen to. So, some of it’s actually pretty brilliant.
AJK: Yeah right, like Radiohead was like a xylophone you get from a like, you know, from Tyco or something. It’s like, oh wow! All right.
Brett: Yeah, so I’m listening to that as well.
AJK: Nice, yeah. Now, are certain musical styles relating to the projects you're working on? Like, if it’s a more kind of bright or -- I don't want to say, upbeat label, that makes it sound like the other ones are depressing, but like, just more like some of these more vivid color palettes? Does that correlate to your music at all? Or is that me going for a reach?
Brett: Man, it’s kind of hard to remember, kind of going back to that. I can’t really -- I don't know, I mean, I guess it kind of -- I guess it’s a level of concentration I need maybe, depends on what I listen to. So, or it’s how I’m feeling it’s that moment when I’ve -- you know, working on the label or whatever stage I am at with the label, might dictate what I’m listening to. But, yeah, I mean, I guess, it’s kind of all over the board and just whatever I’m feeling in that moment
AJK: Excellent, and so, what do you -- what’s currently in the queue for you? What are you working on now?
Brett: Well, I guess that we’ve just finished our DKML, so there isn't much more coming out this year for labels, but -- I mean, yeah, I do -- I guess, you know, for my other responsibilities in my job, you know, I do all the label and packaging design outs. Also, I have to create everything for our salesforce and you know, I’m in charge of our brand standards. I also work closely with our creative manager, with our a -- with our ad agency. So, on art direction. So, yeah, it’s just a lot of things going on, a lot of big projects, but as far as labels go, that’s -- I think that’s about it. There might be one more coming up this year, but -- yeah --
AJK: But from a time perspective, right, because obviously you wear like a lot of different hats over there, how do you break that time up? Or is it more based on when the beers come out? So, if somethings come out then it might be a heavy couple of weeks of labels and then -- How do you --? How is that time management? It seems like you’ve got a lot going on there.
Brett: Yeah. Yeah, time management, that’s a -- that’s a tough one. So, you know, we have some software that we use that helps us out with our projects and kind of organizes everything on that. You kind of need that with everything going on. So, then we also have a project manager that is in charge of all the beer releases. So, she definitely helps me out a ton by populating my project management with all the timelines for the beer releases and label creations and packaging design and everything like that. So, yeah, it’s just kind of fitting it all in and yeah, it’s always fun.
AJK: Excellent, excellent, excellent. Well, thank you so much Brett, I really appreciate your time. It was really interesting and I -- yeah, just making the time, especially on a Sunday, with the little one, is really appreciated.
Brett: Yeah, no problem. Thanks a lot for thinking of Founders and the labels. I’m happy to do it.
AJK: All right, yeah, no I think it’s great and I really just appreciate, like I said, ever since I’ve had that dinner, always -- yeah, I enjoyed it before, but yeah, I just really kind of been psyched. I finally was able to try the CBS, I think, last year, randomly. It was a small pour, but I was happy to off my hunting list.
Brett: Yeah, that’s a fantastic beer, that’s definitely one of my favorites.
AJK: Yeah, your frequency of them is probably much higher than us here in the east, so I’m definitely -- I mean, so that I put all of the -- I’ll have to come out and visit some time.
Brett: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, definitely come out.
AJK: All right.