Missoula artist designs label for Dogfish Head specialty beers | Arts & Theatre
Max Mahn, a Missoula artist and IPA fan, got the offer out of the blue: Design labels, packaging and posters for Dogfish Head Brewery, one of the most renowned — and offbeat — in the country.
The Delaware-based craft brewer selected Mahn, a printmaker who specializes in gig posters under the name Twin Home Prints, as the 2022 artist for its Off-Centered Art Series — an annual collection of four seasonal specialty beers, each with his imagery.
The opportunity is “rad because they’ve had big-name people in the past like Dan Styles and Marq Spusta,” Mahn said.
The first entry, “Where the Wild Hops Are,” an IPA with four hops and barrel-aging flourishes, is out now.
Ryan Telle, Dogfish Head’s associate art director, said he and creative director Paul Thens have “always been fans” of Mahn’s art.
“We discovered him on Instagram and always knew he would be an ideal artist for our Art Series packaging. His close connection to gig poster art is what caught our eye and the color separations really sealed the deal,” Telle wrote in an email.
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Locals have likely seen his art via posters for concerts at Logjam Presents venues, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the Montana Book Festival, among others. Touring acts around the U.S. have hired him to create posters, including Wilco, Ween, Courtney Barnett, the Trey Anastasio Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Idles and more.
A Missoula native, Mahn got into graffiti and tagging in high school and studied art at the University of Montana, developing along the way an idiosyncratic screen-printing style that pulls in street art, vintage pop culture, humor and absurdism, and surrealism conveyed through intricate compositions and mind-boggling details.
Telle said one particular aspect of Mahn’s work made him a great fit for the series.
“Max is different due to his stippling style,” Telle wrote in an email, referring to the way he shades with dots. “There’s a level of trust with this style because of the amount of time it takes to apply this technique. We identified this early through reference material and nerdy conversations that made this process completely different but worth every moment.”
According to the brewery’s website, the “Wild Hops” is an “unfiltered, rustic IPA,” that is “brewed with four wild-derived hop varieties that include Zappa, Amarillo, Comet and Sabro. It’s then blended with a touch of barrel-aged wild ale that’s been aged for four years in French Oak barrels.”
Rolling with the name, Mahn designed a narrative scenario to suit it: Someone’s set up an old-fashioned trap with a tilted box and stick with a rope amongst a lush hops plant. A hop flower lies on the ground, a big bite taken out. A set of non-human footprints leads away, indicating the scheme has failed.
While Mahn hasn’t pursued beer labeling on his own, this job was “definitely an honor.” It “feels related” to his gig posters, with a band name swapped out for a beer.
The remaining three are yet to be revealed, and he could only say that they’re offbeat specialties.
“They’re so nice to their artists,” he said.
The company goes above and beyond in supporting artists through this program when they could simply recycle designs, he said. They hire a new artist for fresh, one-off art and feature them on their website. They even have an “about the artist” bio with a photo on the bottom of the six-pack. His name is on every bottle.
Dogfish Head, a Delaware-based brewery founded in 1995 by Sam Calagione, is best known for its IPAs of the 60-minute, 90-minute and 120-minute varieties. Those refer to the amount of time that hops are added. Calagione originally jury-rigged an electric football game board to slowly add the hops, and his original one has been added to the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. The brewery is also widely sought-after for its creative approach to specialty beers, of which the “Wild Hops” will be distributed to Missoula.
Calagione came to Missoula earlier this week for a dinner/tasting at Pangea Bar and Restaurant, and local brewers were naturally on hand.
“He’s just like a full-on celebrity for anyone making beer,” Mahn said.
Regarding his main gig designing posters for bands, the upcoming year looks like it will be “full swing, more than ever,” as long tours are announced regularly.
The brewery’s website has a “Fish Finder” to see where a particular beer is stocked. Go to dogfish.com/brewery/fishfinder and pick a brew. As of Friday, “Where the Wild Hops Are” was listed for Pangea Bar and Restaurant, Missoula Fresh Markets, Orange Street Food Farm and Pattee Creek Market.
“The fact that they’re now distributing through Montana is awesome,” he said, adding that “I feel that pride and joy in my heart when I see it in the grocery store.”