I jumped at the recent opportunity to tag along with seasoned Seattle-based food and beverage photographer Will Foster for an afternoon of brewery exploration. His goal: offer a compelling visual series on two unique, local breweries—Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—to run alongside a Beer Advocate spotlight article. My goal: fully realize my calling as a designated beer drinker! I was excited for a special behind-the-scenes perspective on brewery operations while positioning, holding, and sipping their tasty brews for the camera.
I learned many things from the experience—in particular, I made three key observations about the intersection of beer and photography:
1.) Appreciate simplicity
2.) Build alliances
3.) Variety is the spice of life
Let me explain…
Sometimes the simplest icon is the most memorable. Stamped on their tap handles, coasters, and bottled offerings, Holy Mountain’s logo is an imperfect triangle with a single dot inside—an image that is both recognizable and a bit intriguing. Where did they come up with the design? You might just have to visit the brewery to find out!
In photography, presenting a unique point of view (POV) is what separates a great image from boring one. The simple POV that Will Foster captured transports you right into the Holy Mountain taproom, onto a barstool next to mine, and it hints at the complexities of each brew. Rather than trying to capture every graphic element into the shot (beer list, fermenters, merchandise, line of taps, etc., etc., etc.) a clean and simple photo proves much more enticing.
We get by with a little help from our friends, and brewing alliances are no different. When Lucky Envelope co-founders Barry Chan and Raymond Kwan began jumping through hoops to open their brewery, they tackled at least one hurtle with some unexpected guidance from the folks at Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. Apparently, it’s best to “season” new brewery equipment before producing a stellar end product. Brewers can use less-than-top-quality ingredients (a.k.a. cheaper raw ingredients) for the first “throw-away” batches of beer without depleting their funds. Fast forward to present day. Lucky Envelope and Flying Bike both offer a collaborative brew on their tap lists called Flying Envelope Washington Lager… the product of an excellent new brewmance.
There are a lot of generic beer photos out there. There are also many mediocre brews that make it into our pint glasses. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some truly innovative photographers—like Mr. Foster—who recognize the need for unconventionally framed shots, pictures that convey vitality and movement, photos that tell the story of the people behind the product. Craft breweries—like Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—know it’s essential to offer a variety of beer styles that cater to beer nerds’ tastes, food pairings, and even the weather. Breweries frequently brew small batches and offer rotating taps or guest brews to keep things interesting and keep patrons coming back for the next limited release.
There are more than one million home brewers in the U.S. And photographers? Pretty much everyone with a smartphone identifies as an amateur photographer. No matter, I learned a ton this time around by tagging along with the professionals, and I hope to be a designated drinker again soon!
What’s something you’ve learned while visiting a local brewery?