As with every industry, craft beer has its own set of packaging conventions. Put the name and style of the beer clearly on the front, ideally with the name of your brewery just there above it, add a visual pun or pretty picture and boom, there’s your can. Easy! There are obvious reasons for doing things this way, sure, but sometimes you've just gotta do something a bit different. Enter: Bench Creek Brewing’s Villainous Series.
This bold series casts aside canning conventions, opting instead for full-sleeve illustrations of classic (and often obscure) movie villains. Lined up in a liquor store alongside your standard core brand craft beers, these eye catching cans stop you dead in your tracks, which is exactly what good packaging should do.
Depending on the depth of your movie knowledge, within seconds you find yourself with your face pressed against the cold glass of the fridge door, asking one of two questions: “Is that <<insert character name>>? I love that movie!” or “who is that odd looking man and why the hell is he on this beer can”. Either way, the can is somehow already in your hand and you’re halfway to the checkout where you’ll inevitably ignore the cashier in favour of frantically googling the names of obscure villains.
Now i'll be the first to admit that my movie knowledge is famously atrocious - I managed to get just one right (Veruca, obviously) and guessed as wrongly as I did confidently another two - but that’s kind of why I like these cans so much. As well as having a whole bunch of exciting beers to try, you’re also gifted a list of movies to watch or re-watch as you drink them. What more could you want!?
This awesome can series was a full-on team effort from the folks at Bench Creek Brewing and below you’ll hear insights from every angle of the process. We have Andrew Kulynych, the owner of Bench Creek, Head Brewer Warren Misik, Sales & Events Manager Brett Hopper and Kalvin Lock of KLOCK Design. Read on for more!
Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to chat to me about the Villainous series! These are some pretty unique cans - what inspired you to do this series?
Andrew: The inspiration for the series, to me, started from Brett. We all have a fondness for movies (likely for the more obscure ones) and the unlikely villains featured in some of them.
Warren: As Andrew mentioned, Brett had come up with a few villains from 70s-80s campy TV and movies that we originally used for casks. We have a certain strain of yeast that we only use in fall/winter, so we decided to do a bunch of one-off production beers to keep the yeast viable. Most of the villain casks that we had made before used this same yeast, so it was a pretty natural move to name them all after villains. We had to move away from the original idea of older villains though, since we just couldn't find some to fit the beers we had in mind.
Brett: For me, the Villainous Series stems from a series we did in the Summer of 2016, called the Nevermore Series. Each week of July and August we released 100L of a new beer ( so 8 total beers). Again, the creativity of the styles of those products all came from Warren. It worked out that a 30L keg went to Calgary, another to Edmonton, and a third stayed at the brewery in Edson. That was it, the beer was gone after that. It seemed like a no brainer to name the beers after Edgar Allen Poe references, at least to me... I think that caught Andrew off guard a little bit, because he was just thinking of Never releasing the beers again.
Fast forward a little bit and Andrew had asked for help in naming some casks. The recipes that Warren was pumping out were really creative, but at the same time obscure for that time in Alberta Beer. Nobody knew what a winter warmer was but we had put one in a cask. Our flagships and seasonals all have a theme running through them, so I wanted a constant theme when it came to the casks as well, but also a naming convention that was as fun and cool as the recipes themselves. We all love these classic movies at the brewery and more often than not we talk about movies when we're together. So, I proposed that we start naming our casks after obscure movie villains.
Some of the Villainous recipes have been casks we've done, some one-off kegs, and some are new recipes, but because some of them were casks, we already had one or two names for the releases. So... why not name them all after movie villains. The power behind the names makes people go: "Oh yeah... I remember that movie." or they google it...
I’ll be the first to admit my movie knowledge falls pretty short, but some of these villains are pretty darn obscure - Are there any criteria for choosing which villains to feature?
Andrew: There are no specific criteria that qualify a villain for the beer but - and Brett and Warren can likely speak to this a little better - the villains are chosen based on some characteristic of the beer, whether it be the style or ingredient. Drexl is named that because we wanted a Jamaican Rum type flavour in our imperial stout and what’s more Jamaican than a white pimp with dreadlocks? The recipe comes first... Then the villain.
Warren: Per above, we wanted initially to limit them to classic 70s-80s campier style villains. But as we fleshed out the recipes we wanted, we knew that couldn't work, and we just decided to fit the villain to the beer, while keeping them in movies or TV. Andrew talked about how the villains are chosen to reflect the recipe in some way, so here's some more in depth on each one:
Justice - Buford T Justice from Smokey & the Bandit, the beer is a smoked rye porter
Veruca - Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the beer is a salted brownie oatmeal stout - so many layers to this one!
Moreau - Dr. Moreau from the Island of Dr. Moreau, it's a tropical stout with tropical ingredients added
Drexl - the white Jamaican pimp from True Romance, we made this an imperial stout meant to mimic blackstrap rum flavours
Duce - Il Duce from Boondock Saints, he's an Irish baddie, the beer is an Irish Coffee milk stout
Longshanks - King Edward I himself, for us of Braveheart fame - the beer is styled after a dessert called royalty cake
Ash - the evil "British" android from Alien - the beer is an ESB with US hops added, so just like Ash, it's British on the outside, but slightly different on the inside
Brett: The villain name, or actor behind the character has something to do with either an ingredient, or the style of the beer. So, now that we have this naming convention, I do have a stock pile of names waiting for the right recipe to attach them to. I chose Ash, for example, knowing we were working with an ESB, and the name is 90% based on Ian Holm and his British accent. Throw in the fact that you don't realize Ash is a villain until the last 5 minutes of the film, and there you go. When I'm writing copy, I try and take some memorable lines from that character and twist it so it's describing the beer and not just regurgitating movie quotes.
Do you each have a favourite can of the bunch?
Apex Predator…lol. My favourite, although I love the Villains, was our entire Nevermore Series that we did since all the art was completely from Kalvin’s noggin… however that wasn’t cans. For Villains, the best one is yet to come for the villains but if I had to choose from the 8 that are already released (art only) it would be Justice. Hopefully that doesn’t get us sued.
Warren: Can - definitely Justice, it's awesome
Beer - Longshanks absolutely will be my favourite based on the cask we built the recipe from
Brett: Moreau is memorable for me because I got to tap the cask version in Calgary, and without getting into too much detail, there are remnants of that beer perma-stained on the inside of my work hat. Also nobody knows what a tropical stout is.
Kalvin, how did you approach the artwork for this series?
Kalvin: As soon as we had the Villains pinned down, it was time for me to throw on the movies and scour google for inspiration and composition ideas. I wanted them to feel somewhere between caricatures and fine portraits without losing the feel of the scenes they were most iconic in. Some of them are really grounded in those scenes, others have a more conceptual connection to the backgrounds. Super fun to research and work on.
Thanks so much everyone! Can't wait for the next releases!