Beer label artist Heidi Geist fuses art, music and Maine brews into her floral designs

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 11:45am

DAMARISCOTTA—Currently exhibiting at Rising Tide Co-op in Damariscotta, Heidi Geist has a few mixed media paintings and detailed pen and ink drawings hanging on the wall.

But, if you open the glass door of the nearby beer cooler, more of her artwork is available, on the beer label of the Boothbay Craft Brewery “Thirsty Botanist” cans.

The artwork on the beer label is splashy with primary colors featuring a gardener hidden behind lush vines and floral designs. “I live in this dystopian dream world in my head,” she said of her aesthetic.

Geist, who lives Newcastle, has worked in restaurants and a beer and wine shop for much of her career and has done custom artwork in those industries. Her integration in Portland’s music and beer scene also led to more commissions.

“I’ve been doing beer-related work for about five years,” she said. “It started in Maine and then I began doing a ton of beer labels for breweries around the country.”

She said most of her custom label art has been for Bissell Brothers.

This past fall, Geist finished her “48 Beer Project,” which was a tour of 48 states in order to draw beer labels for one brewery in each state. First, it took her about seven months to plan, set up appointments with various brewers around the U.S. and get sponsorships along the way. She also had to retrofit a pink bus to be her traveling home, but once she got underway August of 2018, she ended up traveling to each state, setting up in a brewing company’s parking lot and going to work.

“The idea was to be in each state five days to a week and hang out with multiple breweries,” she said. “I’d pick one out of each state, and spend time with their staff and customers, feel out the scene, and then go back to my bus, which was retrofitted with a little studio, and start working on their individual beer label. Then, move on to the next brewery and so on.”

“It was more than making beer labels-it was a cultural exploration of the beer industry,” she said.

The beer industry is more than just beer,” she said. “There are subcultures within that—a lot of creative people involved. The musicians, the artists, the beer makers themselves, the food truck purveyors. I wanted to do something more meaningful with the trip, connect to the people in this industry and tell their stories.”

Allagash Brewery ended up being the Maine brewery she collaborated with for the 48 Beer Project with a hand-drawn label with the beer label “Odyssey.”

It took a year of traveling before she got off the road and back into an apartment. Today, she is hitting the reset button and taking a bit of a break from beer labels, while she works another job full-time.

“It’s been quite a transition getting off the road and off this project,” she said. “I still do a few commissions here and there.”

To see her labels visit Great Beer Adventure


Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com