BRIDGEPORT — Sometimes shopping for craft beers comes down to choosing which label looks the coolest.
It's part of the reason breweries like Half Acre and 3 Floyds commission artists to create small, outrageous masterpieces for their bottles, six-pack holders and even beer trucks — the brewers' dedication to aesthetics on the outside of a bottle means there's something special inside.
On Saturday, artists who've created beer label artwork get their due at Artists N Ales, a Bridgeport brewfest and art exhibit that organizers say will showcase "artists and designers inspired by the aesthetics of craft beer and how it intersects with food, culture and society."
It's scheduled for 3-7 p.m. at Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St. Tickets are $25 and available here. Admission price includes free pours from 4 Hands, Half Acre, Pipeworks Brew Company, Solemn Oath Brewery and 3 Floyds, plus snacks from Pleasant House Bakery.
Exhibiting artists include Dan Grzeca, who creates eye-catching works for 3 Floyds and Surly breweries (and for bands like the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Umphrey's McGee), 3 Floyds graphic designer Jim Zimmer, BJ Olson with Pipeworks, Phineas X. Jones with Half Acre, graffiti artists Peat Eyez Wollaeger and Kelly Pelka, and Michael Kiser, founder of the Good Beer Hunting blog.
The event doubles as a rollout party for the first-ever Chicago release of beer from 4 Hands Brewing Co., a St. Louis brewery founded by Kevin Lemp, who said the 2-year-old company's goal "was always from the get-go to be creative and tell the story of our brand.
"We didn't want to have beer labels, we wanted to have artwork," he said.
As for the 4 Hands Chicago release — coming soon to wherever good craft beer is sold — beer expert David Kahle said it's the real deal.
He should know. Kahle is one of only a few people in the world to hold the title of Master Cicerone, a designation awarded to top-flight beer tasters.
4 Hands "has thought about every little facet, from beer concept to artwork to their tap house ... and they're good people. But ultimately it comes down to the beer and the beer is great stuff. I'd say they make really approachable beers with managed [alcohol content] and they're fairly balanced. They are not really aggressive as some of the new American craft brewers go," Kahle said.
While some breweries might cram ingredients into a recipe for the sake of novelty, Kahle said that's not the case with 4 Hands, which brews different beers with ingredients such as maple syrup, cocoa nibs, jasmine and oatmeal.
"They're certainly not the first ones to ever use those kinds of things but they use them to good effect. They're not in there for gimmicks or marketing's sake. They use ingredients to enhance the depth of the beer and it all makes sense," he said.