Beach + Camden Town Brewery: Beer at Beach

How to brew beer, as told by London illustrators and artists

At London’s Beach Gallery, the connection between beer and art goes a bit deeper than just getting a few cases of run-of-the-mill lagers for exhibition openings. Beach has previously collaborated with London local Camden Town Brewery on a number of occasions, one of which being the illustration for the brewery’s annual limited edition beer. To celebrate the upcoming Craft Beer Rising festival (26-27 February), at which Camden Town will host an installation by Beach artist Gaurab Thakali, the two companies have joined up once again for “Beer at Beach.” The exhibition features 14 artists, who all illustrated one aspect of the beer-making process, creating an informative and enjoyable show.

Thakali (whose work we admired at last year’s Pick Me Up Festival) illustrated the fermentation process in his signature style—with a color-saturated, sharply contrasted drawing, soaked through with blue hues. A man is passed out in front of a brewery’s beer tanks as the liquid ferments inside. Thakali tells us the piece was inspired by his Craft Beer Rising installation for Camden Town, which is based on an alleyway pub with shady, cut-out figure characters. “There were bits of illustration from the installation that stuck out and suited the process I was given to illustrate [at Beach]. We thought it would be good to have something that links the show at Beach and the design at the Craft Beer Rising festival,” he says. “I have drawn quite a few bar scenarios and Prohibition-related images in the past. The image is sort of based on dark dingy bars in the back streets, referencing the Prohibition era a little bit, where they home-brew their own beers in a sketchy space.”

Thakali already knew a bit about the brewing process through a friend who brews his own beers at home, but for some of the contributors, it was a completely new field. “I really didn’t know anything about beer making before I was asked to take part in this project, but now I know that it’s the hops that makes beers yummy!” says Charlotte Mei, who illustrated the final, most visually important aspect of the beer-making process: the packaging. Mei, whose super-cute, playful ceramics and illustrations have been commissioned by the likes of the V&A Museum, i-D, Penguin Books and more, made a ceramic sculpture of a “wizard pup” putting the finishing touches on a bottle of beer—because sometimes, beer design can clearly be magic.

Another contributor, Alec Doherty is something of a beer illustration expert, having previously created the labels for London-based Partizan Brewing Company’s beers. For Beach and Camden Town, he illustrated the whirlpooling process by making “a kind of toy/sculpture out of wood, a bit like one of those optical illusion spinning tops. People can spin them around on the wall.” Fittingly, Doherty’s illustrations have been likened to woodblock printing, and the “Beer at Beach” sculptures are a good example of his colorful, graphic style.

Beer at Beach is an interesting juxtaposition of education and entertainment, leaving viewers with more of an idea of how the golden liquid is made, as well as an appreciation of London’s many talented young illustrators. Using different illustrators for each step of one long process ultimately makes for a show that manages to be both coherent and diverse—not too mention thirst-inducing.

“Beer at Beach” opens today and will run through 28 February 2016, at Beach London (20 Cheshire St, London, E2 6EH) where Camden will be bringing their micro-brewery as well.

Images by Cajsa Carlson