Storytelling on Tap

If you live in or around Athens, Ga., grew up here, went to UGA or just passed through town once, you have a Georgia Theatre story. As a long-time local, I have many. I saw The Goonies there. And Jennifer Nettles before she went to Sugarland. And when I lived in North Carolina, a black-and-white photo of the Theatre on my wall represented a little piece of home.

The iconic landmark is more than a historic building – it’s the kind of place you have a history with. For more than a century, people gathered there for meetings, movies and music. Then, in the early morning hours of June 19, 2009, a fire gutted the building and a legend went up in smoke.

To help rebuild the burned-down theatre, Athens brewery Terrapin Beer Co. proposed a series of special edition beers as a means of fundraising. We dubbed it Terrapin’s Georgia Theatre Sessions, in the spirit of a musical jam session.

Our creative team was tapped to develop a plan for the four-part series, in which each brew would represent one of the building’s historic eras: YMCA, movie theatre, music venue and, lastly, bonfire. The challenge: doing justice to two iconic Athens brands, their stories, a contest and a call-to-action in a compelling package that sells and inspires. Like crafting beer, it would require a skilled mash but with images and words.

We continued Terrapin’s tradition of pun-tastic product names like Hopsecutioner with wordplays that incorporated both the beer style and the historic era. For the packaging, we wanted to create a look that was arresting, witty and consistent across a series that illustrated more than a hundred years of history. Designer Brian Steely, an avid music fan, built the first label, Iron Tankard, on the back of the building’s most recognizable feature – the red-lettered marquee.  From there, he stylized the Georgia Theatre circa 1889 when it housed the YMCA’s “Iron Tank” swimming pool and put a vintage tint on the tankard-shaped illustration evocative of Old Stock Ale. I crafted the label copy to conjure the experience of swimming in the Iron Tank, honing in on the details of how people came together in this building – the common thread running through its history.

For subsequent releases, each designer filled the marquee frame with representations of the Theatre through the ages. Lucia Hale’s Art Deco movie theater dressed Double Feature, a Belgian Dubbel that paid homage to the golden era of the silver screen. Jessie Starke’s retro-inspired pre-concert Sound Czech – a Czech-style pilsner – was based on actual photos from the 70s and a recounted moment in the green room. And for Hoptaneous Combustion, a smoked IPA, Mark Miller used a modern printmaking look alongside words recalling that fateful June morning filled with acrid smoke.

Bottled and boxed, all four of Terrapin’s Georgia Theatre Sessions are available in stores. Each of the four brews has a single box that contains a Golden Ticket – a lifetime pass to the rebuilt Theatre. We hope the full box set will set you abuzz with nostalgia.  And that the notes – both in flavor and in words – inspire you to raise a glass to seeing the Georgia Theatre rise from the ashes. Rock on.