For the past two years, the Bronx Brewery has collaborated with artists for their Up and Comers series. From graffiti and floral artists to graphic designers and tattoo artists, the brewery reaches out to creatives to design their limited-edition beer labels.
The Up and Comers beer series, featuring the popular brewery’s latest limited editions, is spotlighting creative talent in their community, giving artists the chance to showcase their craft and personal artistic style. The brewery gives the artist a concept, and the artists have full creative freedom.
“If it looks interesting, you know you’re like ‘Let me try that,’” said Ricky Davii, a frequent customer at the brewery. “If it sounds like it tastes good you know then, I’m going to try it.”
The brewery, a staple in the Mott Haven community for the past 10 years, says its business is not just about making beer—it’s also about using their beer to bring people together.
“It kind of speaks to what we’re all about as a company and as a brand,” explained brewery president Damian Brown. “We’re a brewery, we make beer, we make great beer. But for us it’s more about ‘What can we do with the beer?’”
Finding and getting in touch with artists is mostly done by word of mouth. For example, the brewery worked with artists from Tuff City Tattoos, which led to collaborating with owner Joel Brick.
“Honored and humbled and appreciative,” said Brick, “that somebody appreciated my work enough to allow me to represent their product. It’s kind of a cool thing.”
Brick grew up as an artist, painting subways and doing graffiti. He opened Tuff City Tattoos almost 30 years ago.
“Tattooing is just something that can transfer your art into making some money,” Brick said. “So, it was just kind of courage by people around me, like, ‘Oh, you know, Joel, you paint, you should tattoo it.’ So, it was kind of like, I guess for me it was a natural progression.”
Brick has designed the 2020 and 2021 October beer labels for the “Tattooed Pumpkin.”
In addition to getting paid to design the labels, these artists also get lots of exposure. In a bottom corner of each designer-label beer can is a small label with a short biography of the artist and their Instagram handle. There’s also a launch party for the artist and the limited-edition beer.
“They take this beer, and they make sure they sell it. Like it’s all over the place, Trader Joe’s, supermarkets— wherever you think of buying it, they have it,” said Alex Rivera, also known as @thebronxer, another of the beer label designers. “And that’s pretty dope to see your face and name on a label clearly.”
On their website, the brewery has an interactive map to help customers locate their beer in the nearest bodega, store, restaurant, and even airport. One of those spots is the Queens Beer Factory at 86-13 Northern Blvd. It has offered “World Gone Hazy,” a past beer of the Up and Comers series, since the beer factory opened six months ago.
“This is the best seller of that brewery, so that’s why we’re keeping that beer on the draft,” said Marcos Machuch one of the owners of the Queens Beer Factory.
The Bronx Brewery’s website showcases all of their seasonal and limited-edition beers from the Up and Comers series, some of which make their way onto the brewery’s main menu.
“Half of our year-round portfolio came out of this series, including our leading beer here in the city, ‘World Gone Hazy,’ our ‘Well Earner Pilsner,’ ‘City Island,’” said Brown. “These are all out of this program.”
The collaboration goes beyond the design. Rivera and Tuff City Tattoos have huge Instagram followings, so the promotion of the limited-edition beers helps the brewery as well as the artist.
“I love it a lot,” said brewery regular Davii. “I think that it is cool that they’re trying to be inclusive, so I’m just excited to see that diversity and inclusion.”
The Bronx Brewery got in contact with Rivera after he offered up an animation for their “New Resolutions” beer. Since then, Rivera has designed a couple of their beer labels, including two generations of “Das Bronx” and last year’s “Jingle Jangle.”
“I used the Christmas ornaments and I made that into my robots, very colorful, you know, very Christmas-y, sugarcane-y kind of thing,” said Rivera, who also designed this year’s “Jingle Jangle,” which launched on Nov. 13.
The creative collaboration is about a four-month process that includes figuring out the recipe of the beer, suggesting themes, reviewing design sketches, producing and distributing the beer and planning the celebration events.
Brown still gets a thrill from seeing the final products each month. On packaging day, everyone comes together to see the beer.
“I think every time you see a new beer come off the canning line, it’s a blank can. You see it filled up and spinning and then the label goes on and it comes off the end of the line,” said Brown. “It’s just like, it’s amazing to know all the work that went into that moment.”