I’ll admit it: I’m a tiny bit of a design geek. Nope. I have no qualifications. But I am intrigued by clever labels and good looking bottles.

Some that come to mind are (BC wineries) Blasted Church, Laughing Stock, Tantalus, and a few more. No coincidence, they’re all the work of Brandever, a company run by a smart guy I know named Bernie Hadley-Beauregard. He’s something of a legend in what used to be the relatively mundane world of wine labels.

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time marveling at one of Bernie’s latest efforts, a superb flight of fancy for Gastown’s Steamworks. The beer (made locally by the first modern day brew pub to be built within city limits) is so named because it uses steam from Vancouver’s Central Heat Distribution. The latter heats around 180 buildings, including Vancouver Public Library, B.C. Place, GM Place, and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Right now there’s an empty bottle sitting by my keyboard. It really is a thing of beauty—and I’ve never said that about a beer bottle before—not even a full one.

The entire three colour, silk-screen design is a whimsical salute to the brewery and its location. Well almost. There is a little license at play here.

Redemption is Heaven!

Front and centre is the ‘flatiron’ Hotel Europe (a couple of blocks away from the brewery), topped with two giant beer bottles, to give the appearance of an ocean liner. Gassy Jack, complete with barrel, is on the ‘bow’…

There’s more, including a steam-kettle hot-air balloon on the neck, a small squadron of ‘heli-kegs’ flying around, and even a ‘redemption’ angel heading heavenward with a 10c. back bottle.

If you’re a BC wine geek it might remind you of Laughing Stock meets Mooncurser, with a dash of Monster. Or something like that.

In a word, it’s all pretty trippy. And fun.

But also reassuring is what’s inside.

We’re partial to both. The Steamworks Pilsner delivers a lot more hoppy heft and herbal bite than you might expect, while the Steamworks Pale Ale is another strong contender. It’s rich but not cloying, balanced by a hint of citrus.

In short, they both add up to good drinking.

—And it seems a lot of people in the know agree. Steamworks Pilsner (made by  Conrad Gmoser) was just voted Best of Show at 2012 BC Beer Awards. 

(Updated, Oct 15, 2012)


PS. There’s a Really Old Story here that you can read on the BHB’s success in the wine world …