BY: TED BARNABY
Creativity and alcohol are a lot like peanut butter and jam.
Matt is the owner and founder of Collective Arts Brewing, a craft brewery on a bold mission to bring creativity back into the conversation. Instead of a branded banner, the label of each beer bottle features a new artist or musician in full size and colour, putting emerging artists into the hands of hipsters, music and art fans and craft-beer aficionados across the world.
Why is the combination so effective? It’s simple: artwork fuels aggressive opinions, while alcohol inspires enough confidence to express them. After all, beer is—as Matt puts it—“a social lubricant”. Collective Arts understands that most craft beer drinkers are also art enthusiasts, and therefore, their beer bottles are the perfect stage to shine a light on new and formerly unknown artistic talents.
So do these artistically rendered bottles really instigate creative discussion?
They do, perhaps a little too well. I’ve learned that Collective Arts’ beer bottles are a bit of an agent for conversational hijacking. Imagine walking around a party with a miniature Van Gogh painting. Now imagine the same thing, except this time, you’re drinking beer from it. You’re bound to wind up in a few interesting conversations.
I learned this first hand when I brought a case of Rhyme & Reason to a party a few weeks back, and spent a good hour in-group discussion over the pros and cons of artistic commercialization. Beer has this strange way of making people act either very stupid, or very smart. With the right conversational focal point and enough “confidence juice”, people let down their barriers and voice the opinions they nervously suppress in the throes of sobriety. And then a magical thing happens— the conversation steers away from typical brain-pickers like “Dougie’s ‘sick’ pong skills” or “the good looking girl in the yoga pants.” You start talking about things that are actually stimulating.
Of course, Matt understands that putting art on a commercial product is a beacon for pessimists. However, unlike other commercial ventures, like art galleries—which charge admission and take a cut of the work they sell—Matt isn’t in it for the money.
He elaborates, “We pay $200 per artist. We don’t ask for unique work, so it takes 10 minutes for them to submit it, we take no ownership of it, and we can only feature it on labels for six months. In total we’ve paid over 50,000 dollars of support for artists. Which is actually more money than… well, let’s just say we’re still not profitable. That for us is a real commitment to show artists that we’re here to support them, and not to capitalize on them.”
Matt also tells me that one of the coolest things about the Collective Arts labels are that they have been designed for artistic interaction. Collective Arts Brewing has collaborated with Blippar, an image recognition phone application that allows users to access information about the band or artwork being featured on Collective Arts’ bottles. It works like a QR code, except without the tacky bar-code aesthetic. If a Collective Arts’ drinker sees a piece of artwork they like, they can instantly pull up a virtual portfolio on their smartphones. If someone notices an interesting band on their beer label, they can scan the label, and the band’s music will instantly start playing. The user is even given the option to explore more tracks or even purchase a few songs or prints.
Matt tells me that seeing this interaction between drinker and artist come to life was one of the most gratifying moments of his career. “I watched someone post a tweet that said ‘Rhyme and Reason is my new favourite beer, and The Strumbellas are my new favourite band.’ And I thought, ‘Wow. This is what it’s all about.’” Said Matt.
Collective Arts Brewing is all about bringing art back into the forefront of social consciousness. Matt is determined to put a stop to the devaluation of art that infects and restricts the minds and educational structures of society.
“I think that art, music and culture, cause us all to think and evolve and innovate, and without that we would have a lot of sameness in society. If you look at the best inventors over the years, they’re also often writers or artists. They’re the ones who have pushed the world forward. Sometimes in our fast-paced society it’s hard to stop and appreciate art. Our job is to put it in your hands so you can’t avoid it.”
Alcohol and creativity have always been friends. But the friend zone barrier is about to be broken—with a little help from the wingman by the name of Collective Arts, they’re about to become lovers.