Sketchy is appropriately named, given its long and circuitous journey to the swingtop bottles it currently occupies. It began its odyssey in 2013, when Scott Smith and the EEBC gang brewed the third incarnation of Illustration Ale, a project I've served on as "curator," recruiting six Pittsburgh artists to create labels, and shepherding the art through the Federal approval process along with Scott.
There was a spot of trouble with the yeast, which, like any live organism, doesn't always follow orders, and it didn't condition the beer properly. The original bottling had insufficient carbonation, and was not up to East End's quality standards, so they started over with a re-brew, and Illustration Ale was released to great acclaim, with labels created by six terrific artists.
Ever game to experiment, EEBC carefully transferred all of the original batch—over a thousand bottles!—into red wine barrels, and did an additional slow fermentation/aging of the beer with a brettanomyces culture. The beer aged in the barrels for nearly a year.
When they did a tasting panel to assess the barrel aged brew, it was found to be an excellent beer. Some tasters judged it to be better than the original base recipe. It was bottled in October of 2014, and while it conditioned and carbonated, we started talking about a label design.
All along, Scott knew this would be named "Sketchy," but beyond that, he was open for ideas. After a few false starts and wrong turns on my part, we decided on a label that calls to mind a well-worn blueprint. While working on the layout, Scott sent me a handwritten flowchart describing the path the beer took, as if we'd planned it all along. A sketchy plan, indeed. Rather than re-draw the flowchart, I thought it would be perfect to have the brewer's hand featured on the label, and just rearranged it to fit into the design.
I've yet to taste this one, but am of course looking forward to it!
To view some of my previous work for our good friends at EEBC, browse the blog's beer cellar.