Brooklyn Brewery has somewhat quietly been rolling out its Silver Anniversary Lager, a doppelbock with an artist series of four different labels. It’s a cool story, and we’ll get to the art and beer in a minute, but first I want to recount what happened at an intimate reception hosted by Brooklyn Brewery co-founder and president Steve Hindy and designer Milton Glaser in Glaser’s Manhattan studio earlier this month.
It’s fairly well known that Glaser, the legendary artist and designer behind the “I ♥ New York” campaign, designed the logo for Brooklyn Brewery. Less known is the story of how Hindy, a journalist who had the idea to make a craft beer in his home borough, convinced a revered designer to take on a client who hadn’t even begun to introduce his product yet.
“My good buddy Milton Glaser has been our designer from the very beginning, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for having Milton design all our artwork over the last 27 years,” Hindy said at the small gathering, which included brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Elizabeth Crawford, one of the artists who contributed a label design.
“It took me a while to get in the door here,” Hindy went on, speaking of Glaser’s studio. “The first time I called, a woman named Eva answered the phone, and said, Do you know who Milton is? And I said, Yeah, I hear he’s pretty good; I want to talk to him. She said, He doesn’t just talk to anyone who calls here. And I said, Well, I’m president of the Brooklyn Brewery. At that time, we had no money, the brewery was just an idea, and it took me two weeks of bugging Eva every day before she finally said, You’re not going to give up, are you? And I said, No, I wanna talk to Milton Glaser. And she said, Okay, here he is, and put him on the phone. I blurted out this idea for Brooklyn Eagle beer, after the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, and Milton said, That sounds like fun, why don’t you come in and see me? Eventually, he agreed to be our designer. A very wise man, he took stock in the company and now he’s wealthy.”
The assembled crowd laughed dutifully at this, but Glaser’s speech included a hint that Hindy’s joke might have had some truth to it. Standing next to Handy, Glaser mused, “My fundamental rule in life is: Work only for people you like, because it makes work a very different kind of experience than working for people you don’t like. I’ve enjoyed every moment of working with Steve.” Then, Glaser added, “To see a company come from nothing to a growth rate of 20 percent per year for 27 years is probably one of the great business stories…” He trailed off, the veteran artist realizing he was veering into dangerous corporate-speak territory. “I’m not very interested in business stories,” he concluded.
No, Glaser favors art over commerce, clearly, and on this day, he was opening the doors of his studio to guests to showcase the four labels that will adorn Silver Anniversary Lager, by artists that Hindy personally knows and who all have a history with Brooklyn and/or the brewery. The series launches with the colorful label by Fred Tomaselli, and continues through spring with labels featuring the artwork of Roxy Paine, Joe Amrhein and Crawford.
While the labels are sure to grab your attention when they start popping up on shelves at reliable beer shops, it’s Oliver’s doppelbock that deserves the bulk of the attention. At the reception, Hindy joked that attendees should take note of the beer’s high-alcohol content (almost 9% ABV) since it was still only mid-afternoon, but it was a fair point. The beer, billed as a doppelbock verison of the original Brooklyn Lager introduced in 1988, is slightly nutty at first with a long, bitter finish, and it goes down easy. Too easy. Oliver looked rightfully proud of the beer as he discussed it after the presentation. Re-fermented once it’s in the bottle — note the cork — this doppelbock is primed for aging, Oliver said.
Twenty-five years ago, the idea of a beer created in Brooklyn being primed for aging might’ve earned somebody a beatdown, but these are different times, with more refined tastes — and techniques. Glaser, the host of few words, may have had the line of the day when he said, “It’s been a great trip. And a lot of good beer.” Amen.
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