Graphic Designer Brandon Proff is a managing partner at Our Mutual Friend
Brewing in Denver with friends Bryan Leavelle and Andrew Strasburg.
Q. So you’re a graphic designer by day and brewery owner by night (and also by day). How did design lead you to beer?
A. I originally started doing graphic design because I was playing drums in bands around Denver and realized that if I wanted to have cool t-shirts, album art and show posters, I was going to have to find money to pay someone to design things or learn to design myself. I found I had a knack for it pretty quickly, and ended up deciding that I wanted to have a career in design and communication arts (even though I have a history degree). After years of working primarily in the music and software industries, my journey into craft beer started because my friends asked me to help them design a logo for a brewery they eventually planned to open. Three years later, I am the managing partner. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride.
Q. How does design still play a role for you in the day-to-day of running a brewery?
A. I have a really great group of employees that have made Our Mutual Friend their own. Having them handling all the various areas of the brewery has allowed me to continue focusing on the identity and vision of who OMF is and what I want it to be. Day to day, that equates to designing all of our beer “label” art, packaging design, curating our Keep the Glass program, and our social media and marketing strategies for how we connect with the people who are interested in what we are doing.
Q. I suspect Our Mutual Friend is one of the few breweries in town with its own “in house design department.” Is doing that work yourself something you still enjoy?
A. Are we?! It really is my favorite thing to do. I can’t imagine how we would have anything interesting going on if our creative identity and actual business weren’t as interconnected as it is. Having the ability to be agile with our creativity has led to some really awesome things, like the Thanatoid Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout packaging and glass release that we did. It was all brainstormed, hashed out, and designed in a matter of a day with our head brewer and the others working together.
Q. What is your favorite thing you have designed so far for OMF?
A. The Thanatoid Barrel-Aged RIS packaging and glass was probably my favorite thing to design because of how cohesive it all is. The snifter glass with mirror chrome logo matched the silver metallic labeling and the silver dipped wax bottle. All of it worked together to enhance the experience of drinking that specific beer. I wanted to create something that we could really build a presence with to keep people wanting to come back for more. I think it worked.
Q. Tell me more about your recent tap-handle design adventure. When can we expect to see those bad boys?
A. My friend Justin Pervorse designed our logo, and suggested the idea of doing a kind of “totem” as a tap handle instead of the traditional-looking pub-style handles a lot of breweries go with. I wanted to try and make something ourselves, which ended up being a very involved task. Basically, we did a four-sided design and then masked these walnut rectangle handles off to have a friend laser the design into them. Then we would peel the design off, paint them, then peel the inverse tape off to reveal the painted design. It turned out to take around three hours total per handle from taping to finished product. I had something like 100 handles made for us to go through the whole process. I have no idea when they will really make it out into the world because every time we think we are going to start doing keg accounts we run out of beer. Hopefully we will find some money to buy 15 barrel fermenters and then we will put our kegs out into the world - fingers crossed.
Q. You won your first GABF medal in 2015 for your 24 Frames Per Second Golden Sour Ale. Has that changed things for the brewery? What’s next?
A. We have a lot more interest in what we are doing. Winning a medal only goes so far in legitimizing a brewery and we really hope that we can keep making and bottling interesting barrel fermented sours that people love. Having the ability to send them out into the world is a big goal. We can’t wait.
Photos and Q&A provided by Holly Gerard