• Aslin #LabelLove

Aslin Beer Co. #LabelLove

With just 2 years under their belt, Aslin Beer Co. in Herndon, Virginia is producing top notch brews that are being sought after from craft beer enthusiasts all across the U.S. Beercations to Virginia are definitely a thing and Aslin is in the “must visit” category when planning the trip. Derek and I have been following the young brewery for some time and our love for their beers has grown stronger and stronger. Especially our love for their masterful take on NEIPAs – a favorite style of ours. I’m literally sitting here right now savoring a Johann Buys a Broat DIPA as I’m writing this piece. I can’t get enough of this juicy 9.4% ABV double! Gobs of pineapple, mandarin orange and vanilla flavors with a chewy, soft mouthfeel. Void of bitter piney, resinous, dank hop overtones. Just the way it should be! 

Not only am I a fan of Aslin Beer Co.’s beer, but the label artwork makes me swoon. It’s #LabelLove all day long. I just had to get the scoop from Aslin’s co-founder, Kai Leszkowicz, and the creator of the visual eye candy: Michael Van Hall.

Aslin Beer Co.’s Can Artwork

Aslin Beer Can Artwork

Photo Courtesy: Michael Van Hall

Chelsie: Kai, how did you connect with Mike to do your artwork?

Kai: We reached out to Mike on Instagram after seeing his artwork and he was willing to meet with us. After spending some time getting to know us at the brewery and get an idea of our vision for Aslin Beer Co., he agreed to work with us.

Chelsie:  What does Aslin Beer Co. love most about Mike’s style of design and working with him?  

Kai: We think that Mike is making some very interesting work and really enjoy what we interpreted as meaning and motivation in his work, whether that is real, suggested or made up by us. Mike is the artist and we elected to use his services because we like his perspective. More to that, we can say, “Go” and Mike returns with art work that is very appealing to us, with little input from our team.

Chelsie: Mike, where do you get the inspiration for Aslin’s label artwork?

Mike: The Aslin crew comes up with the beer names and then they generally just leave me to create whatever interpretation of that name I feel like putting out there.

Aslin Beer Can Artwork

Photo Courtesy: Michael Van Hall

  • Can 1: Orange Starfish – IPA Dry Hopped with Citra & Galaxy
  • Can 2: Double Orange Starfish – DIPA Double Dry Hopped with Citra & Galaxy
  • Can 3: Master of Oranges – This beer is the love affair of Master of Karate and Double Orange Starfish.

Chelsie: I think I’m starting to fall in love with this Orange Starfish character.

Mike: Originally, we were going to stick with heavy Modernism similar to the work I did for the singlehopproject.com – that is one of the reasons Aslin Beer Co. reached out to me for label design.

But as I got to know the crew at Aslin and saw just how productive and varied their beer list was going to become, I felt like we had to do more than just one style or we would risk exhausting a visual theme to the point of it becoming boring.

Chelsie: I noticed that the Aslin Barrel Project series uses a “city” theme as opposed to the minimalist, geometric look and feel.

Aslin Herndon

Photo Courtesy: Aslin Beer Co.

Mike: Modernist designs on labels has become the way some prominent breweries try to prove they are edgy or hip now. Ultimately, Aslin could not be contained by a traditional branding scheme with systematized can design – they are too experimental and prolific with their brewing.

I try to mimic how they create their beers in the sense that I approach every label as an experiment – I test my own ideas or try new styles as much as I try to give a unique look to a specific beer. And, since you can only get the beer from the brewery, we don’t need to worry so much about pushing the brand and logo to the forefront. For now, we can just try to entertain a bunch of craft beer drinkers that already love Aslin beers.

Chelsie: We do love Aslin, their beer and your designs! For me, the beauty of the approach is that even though the designs vary in style, the color palette pulls it all together.

Aslin Beer Can Artwork

Photo Courtesy: Michael Van Hall

Chelsie: Which is your favorite design you’ve done for Aslin so far?

Mike: My favorite design for Aslin is probably “Johann Buys a Broat.”

Aslin Beer Co. - Johann Buys A Broat

I really enjoy thinking through ways to get the Johann character into trouble simply based on the beer name the Aslin crew gives to me. But this one also gave me the chance to put the viewer into the action too. I want the Johann character to be relatable in his haplessness. The situations can be funny or ridiculous. But you should also feel sympathy for him and the emotion he is experiencing in the moment captured in the label. The capsizing boat and yearning for his prize (pineapple and mango) drifting away from him in this case.

Here are more examples of Johann’s adventures:

Chelsie: While it’s hard to choose a favorite Aslin label design from the many visually interesting options, to date, my pick is Aslin’s Gose with Apricots. My mind wants to play the maze game board every time I see it. You should stick a marker on the side of each can!

Aslin Gose with Apricots 

Chelsie: Do the can label designs make it to posters, tees or other merch sold by the brewery? 

Mike: We are working on translating some of the label ideas over to merch but a lot of the label artwork is purposefully designed to work best on the can or bottle shape. We don’t want to force it to play a different role. I think we’d all rather come up with something new as opposed to slapping a label on a shirt and calling it merch.

On the other hand, the artwork for both the first and second year anniversaries was designed to be primarily used on swag. This last year (2017) they even made fanny packs and snap bracelets for the festival attendees, which turned out great.

2nd Year Anniversary Photos Courtesy: Aslin Beer Co.

There will be high-quality prints at some point for sure. There is zero room at the brewery for storing a ton of merch right now but that will all change once the new place is ready.

Kai: Our new tasting room and sour program is underway. We are in construction phase now and are looking to have the doors open in Dec 2017.

Chelsie: I like the sound of that! Where will the new place be?

Kai: The new location is about a mile from our original location Herndon, VA and will house our Foeder Beer program, as well as a full-service craft beer bar (tasting room) for Aslin Beer Co. brews. 

Chelsie: Mike, I’m curious. Are you a craft beer drinker? 

Mike: I like to eat and drink well… and to make things look pretty with a twist. Some people think it is funny when they find out that I used to be a lawyer! I grew up in West Michigan, surrounded by great breweries pushing the limits and laying the groundwork for what we have today. I love beer not for any particular style, but for the overall freedom and creativity generated by everyone working in the industry. I’ll drink whatever is trendy because it gives me a chance to experience a bit of the experimentation directly. Even if I get a bad example of a developing or evolving style, I take it as a chance to learn a little. 

Chelsie: I, too, love the experimentation going on in the craft beer industry right now. Brewers pushing the limits and exploring whatever intrigues them. High-5 to being #BeerCurious!


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