Champion Brewing and the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative are collaborating with residents in the Belmont neighborhood to produce and brand a summer beer. Throughout June, local artists and designers will be invited to submit designs that will be used to market the beer and, in the future, will inform the label for its bottles. Artists and designers are asked to reflect “the architecture, history, and culture of Belmont in their designs, getting to the quintessential character of the area. The more iconic and creative the better.” In July, after the finalists for the design competition have been announced, Belmont residents will get the chance to weigh in on what type of beer they want Champion owner and brewer Hunter Smith to create–light, dark, hoppy, sweet, etc.
C-VILLE sent some emails back and forth with Smith and Matthew Slaats, the new executive director of the Bridge PAI, asking them about their vision for the future Belmont brew.
C-VILLE: This sounds like a really exciting collaboration, how did the idea for this project come about?
Matthew Slaats: The idea came about during a meeting that I was having with Hunter at Champion Brewing earlier in the spring. I had reached out in the hope that we could collaborate being that the Bridge and Champion Brewing are directly across Avon Street from each other in Belmont. One of my hopes at the Bridge is to build really dynamic relationships with local business and I had hoped that Champion might be willing to do a beer making workshop at the Bridge. Though in talking we came up with the idea of doing a community created beer which builds on both our strengths. Champion as a maker of beer, and the Bridge as a place that is a catalyst for projects in the community.
What’s your personal hope for the brew choice? IPA? Lager? Dark or light?
Hunter Smith: I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to style selection, but since we do have a flagship IPA, I think it’d be interesting to do something we haven’t done a lot of volume of yet. Whatever the choice is, it’s my job to make it the best beer we can make to represent our neighborhood.
Is there anything in particular you’re looking for in the design? Anything it needs to include?
MS: Artistically, I personally would like to see a design that not only gets at how great this beer is going to be to drink, but also see it be responsive to the community, its history, people and culture. When someone from Belmont looks at the label, I’d like them to see a bit of themselves in the artwork. Whether that’s a place, a phrase, or some other unique piece of the neighborhood.
What do you find unique about the Belmont neighborhood?
MS: The obvious answer to this question is that Champion Brewing and the Bridge are both located in Belmont. The project emerged from a desire to work with the people and businesses that are located in our own neighborhood. The less obvious answer is that Belmont has long been a been a neighborhood in flux, and I want to get to know the neighborhood through the eyes of those that live here now and have lived here in the past. I see this project as being an opportunity to do both.
What’s the ultimate goal? To have the brew distributed around the city? To raise awareness of the brewery and the work the Bridge does for the community?
HS: I do hope to distribute it in packaging, whether bottles or cans, down the line. We are working steadily on opening an additional brewing and packaging facility in town. No style is permanent here as a result of the amount of beers we’re doing, but I’d definitely like to work it into our regular production schedule. That way it could regularly be on tap at bars here in Belmont and around town.
MS: I would first point at the way that artists can collaborate with others in the community to produce amazing experiences and opportunities for Charlottesville. These types of partnerships are crucial and something that I want to see at the core of what the Bridge does in the future. Beyond this, I see the ultimate goal as being an opportunity for Champion Brewing, the Bridge, and the community to get to know each other, using the experience of sharing a beer to facilitate that connection. My hope is to see the beer become a unique part of living in Belmont.
Are you a beer drinker? Who would you most like to share a Belmont beer with?
MS: Yes! Beer has long been a part of my own history, coming from Wisconsin. I’d love to share a beer with some of the older residents of Belmont. It would be great to talk with them about what the area used to be like and how much it may or may not have changed. That sounds like a perfect idea for a future project at the Bridge.
Other than Champion, where do you like have drinks around town?
HS: Because I have a young daughter and another kid on the way, I try to stay close to home, which usually has me at Beer Run, MAS, The Local, and obviously the brewery. When we’re able to get out as a couple, I love going to Commonwealth, Rapture’s patio, Michael’s Bistro, and the list goes on. There’s no shortage of great places to have a drink around town.
Entries to the Belmont Beer Design Competition are due June 25, submitted as 24” x 36” Adobe Illustrator files to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finalists will be announced at the Bridge/PAI June 28.