Swamp Head, different breweries in Gainesville are getting inventive

When looking for the perfect can of beer, you will likely be looking for your favorite style, but you will likely also be influenced by the design of the packaging itself.

From sleek looks to colorful labels with bold design elements, there is a lot of thought for graphic designers. Several breweries in Gainesville employ both local talent and others from around the nation to create cans that will delight beer drinkers.

“As a designer, I always buy things based on what the packaging looks like,” says Adam Chancey, the Gainesville-based full-time graphic artist for Swamp Head Brewery. “That’s one of the reasons we think of them especially when they hit the shelves.”

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A can of Tropical Vibes Mango Guava Wheat designed by Adam Chancey for Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville. [Molly Eveleth/Swamp Head Brewery]

Chancey said he couldn’t keep track of how many labels he designed for the brewery. In 2020 alone, he designed around 200.

“Since we were closed, we tried to get a lot of limited releases out,” he said. Customers picked up their suitcases from Swamp Head during the pandemic, but the taproom recently reopened.

Chancey said different flavors take different inspirations, but that many labels are designed with Florida in mind. One of his favorite designs a few years ago was Tropical Vibes, a mango guava whose colorful label design was based on Hawaiian t-shirt designs.

“Our love for Florida is a big deal and we hope it shows in our designs,” he said.

Other favorites include a collection of Star Wars flavors released on May 4th and last year’s Oktoberfest design.

Chancey, who attended a design school, said he liked paying homage to the German Bauhaus, a style that relies on bold patterns. Swamp Head’s design included small pint glasses and pretzels in the pattern.

The German style Oktoberfest lager designed by Adam Chancey for Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville. [Molly Eveleth/Swamp Head Brewery]

Aphra Adkins is a Maryland based artist working as a graphic designer for Cypress & Grove Brewing Company. As the sister-in-law of Sally Adkins, one of the brewery’s four founders, she said she was happy to be involved in creating beer can art and labels when the brewery asked for a collaboration in October.

So far, she has designed seven cans, Adkins said, although not all of her artwork is in production yet. She also assists Cypress & Grove with the overhaul of the website, menus and overall visual identity.

“I had a lot of fun,” said the 31-year-old. “It’s always great to work with an enthusiastic customer, but it’s a whole other level. It feels really good to be part of it and just be a part of your life. “

For Adkins and Cypress & Grove, the design process is entirely communication based. All five will meet and talk about what feelings and goals the new can art is supposed to show, and no design is done until everyone is satisfied, she said.

Pictured is beer can art for Prairie Ride, an American pale ale produced by the Cypress & Grove Brewing Company and named after the popular Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County.  Aphra Adkins, 31, designed the art.  (Courtesy photo by Aphra Adkins)

It can take anywhere from two weeks to months to finish a piece with all of the discussions and work. But the time and care is needed to help Adkins understand many of the unique Gainesville elements in any brew.

One piece Adkins is proud of is canned art for Prairie Ride, an American pale ale named after the popular Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County. Another is the upcoming Keep Shining, a blonde ale designed for being in the Florida sun and water.

Shown is the beer can art for the upcoming Keep Shining, a blonde ale from Cypress & Grove Brewing Company that was designed around the sun and water of Florida.  Aphra Adkins, 31, is the artist behind the graphic design.  (Courtesy photo by Aphra Adkins)

“I think design is important to everyone, even if they don’t realize it,” she said. “This is where form and function really meet. A can is necessary. It serves a purpose; it has a function. If it is necessary, why shouldn’t it be beautiful?”

Adkins said when she visited her family in Gainesville with her husband and two children last month, not only did she see the prairie firsthand, but Cypress & Grove cans of her art carried for sale at Ward’s Supermarket. One day, perhaps on her next visit, she hopes to use her art to collect and save one of every can.

Emily Mavrakis reports on the business and government of Alachua County. She can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @emmavrakis.

Danielle Ivanov covers higher education and general news. She can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @DanielleIvanov.

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