PROOF Labels

I mentioned my previous hobbies of making comics and music in my first post about making labels. PROOF is the beer that I feel most connects to those previous activities. I planned for this beer for months. Created and scrapped several iterations of the recipe and pushed back brew day a couple times. I also sketched dozens of ideas for the label before settling on the idea that I eventually went with.

What I knew from the beginning was that I wanted this label to be different. I normally, and especially lately, try to make my labels somewhat uniform and have them at least feel like part of a set. But not PROOF. PROOF was its own monster and its label was going to reflect that. I posted about my label templates, but PROOF is the one beer that doesn’t use them.

I first toyed with the idea of a round logo on a round label. The idea of having to cut them out was enough to nix that idea, but I never figured out a logo I liked in that format anyway. Eventually, I got an idea from the unlikeliest of places.

Bud Light Platinum.

Yes. The Bud Light Platinum bottle features a tall, narrow logo. At least I think it does. I’ve never actually had the beer, I’m going off of memory from ads. Some how, the tall, narrow idea seemed to click, though. I guess it’s not completely off base for my super high gravity beer to be in some way influenced by a so-called “light” beer that is six percent alcohol.

IMG_4283Anyway, I thought a taller than normal label would stick out nicely from my other square-with-boarders-on-the-top-and-bottom labels. Then I came up with the logo in the same way that I always did for my comics and cd covers. I was bored on a slow day at work, doodling on some scrap paper. As soon as I first sketched it, it felt right. Then I decided to expand the normal stats I include at the bottom of my labels. I included brew dates on Old SMaSHy 2013 and Old Old Man because I planned to age them and I really like that idea, so it was obvious that I had to do it here to. The real unique part was my idea to hand number the bottles. Okay, not unique to the world, I know, but unique in my brews.

My next idea was to keep the label’s printing in all black but do it on colored paper. I looked at a bunch of different paper at the craft store as well as going through some ordinary contraction paper in a bunch of different colors. I was nervous about using the thick, heavy paper I found, guessing that it would pull itself loose and curl off the bottles. I liked the look of black on tan or light brown paper, though. It seemed rustic yet refined. Ha.

I tried printing on paper grocery bags but my printer was not cooperative. The construction paper was starting to come back as a realistic option but I would have to get a bunch of the same colored paper, which usually comes in packs of a bunch of different colors. I have no other plans for all that paper, so I was still looking for a better idea.

IMG_4266I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the idea that I eventually went with, but I’m very happy that it worked out. I tea stained the labels. This was an easy process that gave them a unique, subtly different look.

To make the tea stained labels, I had to print the them on plain paper first. After they were printed and allowed to dry for a while, I began brewing some tea. I used regular, generic cheap grocery store tea. A lot of the tutorials and instructions recommend using black tea to get a darker color, I like the more subtle look I got here, though.

The tea was brewed a little bit stronger than normal. Once it was ready, I poured a small amount onto a baking sheet, just enough to cover the bottom. Then I placed the first sheet of labels into the tea and poured some more on top. I let the the sheet stay submerged in the tea for at least five minutes.

IMG_4270When the paper is done soaking, I carefully peeled it off the wet baking sheet and put it onto a dry one and into the oven on low to medium heat. I immediately started another sheet in the tea. The sheet in the oven got five minutes. I planned to take it out at that point, but found that it was still slightly damp. After the first couple sheets, I found that taking them off the baking sheet after five minutes and putting them straight onto the top rack in the oven for just a couple minutes worked great to get them the rest of the way dry.

IMG_4273So as soon as I moved one sheet from the lower rack on the baking sheet to the top one, I took the next sheet out of the tea and onto the drying rack. After the first couple label sheets, I got into a good groove of moving through the three steps.

After the labels were all stained, Amy cut them for me. Thankfully, she has a much steadier hand then me and is always willing to help cut labels out.

Anyway, once they were cut out, I put glued them on normally and gave them a chance to dry overnight before moving on to the final touches, hand numbering and wax dipping. I will cover that process tomorrow, come back then.


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