Mark McDermott’s Beer Labels

In my quest for new challenges, I became a homebrewer! I started with the local Brew on Premises, but when they closed down, I got myself everything I need at home to whip up a batch of beer. But even more fun than making beer is designing the label to stick on the bottle! Sure beats collecting stamps! Take a look below.

Now you can get my artwork on goodies!
Proceeds go directly to benefit... well, me!

Below are the latest beers I’ve rated at

See What's in my Beer Cellar!

Julia Colleen's Sugar & Spice
Honey-Ginger Blonde Ale

Well, another joyous addition to the McDermott household. Time to make another celebratory beer! I had toyed with the idea of using canned baby food fruit; after all, it's strained and sterilized. But I was also trying out a new partial mash method, and didn't want to play with two unknown factors at a time. This uses a mash method described in BYO magazine in which you mash your specialty grains plus base malt up to four pounds in a two-gallon cooler, and used extract for the rest. Gave me a nice, light beer to which I added a jar of honey from Erick, OK (our Rt. 66 trip) and 1/4 tsp. of ginger. Likeable, but does not seem to be winning any prizes this time out.

Brewed 12/9/07 - Bottle Conditioned 1/6/08. ABV: 5.4%


Who Wants to Drink a Chile Beer #5
HOOOOOOT MON! Chipotle Scotch Ale

By popular demand, here comes another of my chile beers! I had a bucket of 18 pounds of smoked malt from when Beer Gear closed down, and decided two pounds of it would be a good Scotch Ale base. Rather than trying to simply crush it with a rolling pin, I stubbornly ran all the grain through my tiny coffee grinder with the broken crank handle. And to match the peaty chracter of this grain, some Chipotle-style chiles, again smoked by me.

I tried to hold down any extreme smokiness of chile heat. I had my chiles in the secondary after sanitizing them with vodka, but at bottling, I added some of my chile-infused vodka, too. I also got to use, for the first time, the copper wort chiller I won at the 2006 BOSS Chicago Cup Challenge. That helped me end up with a nice brown beer, free of my usual sediment and chile oil swirl. Recipe.

* First Place, Urban Knaves of Grain Drunk Monk Challenge 2007 (Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer)!

* Third Place, BABBLE Homebrewers (Lake County) Brew-Off, 2007 (Herb/Spice/Vegetable)

* Did not place at the 2007 BOSS Chicago Cup. Oh well.

Brewed 1/14/07 - Bottle Conditioned 2/11/07 ~ O.G. 1.060, F.G. 1.015 ABV: 6.1%


St. Joe’s Home Sale Beer

So we wanna move. We buy the little statue of Saint Joseph, say the petition prayer, and bury him in the yard; head down, according to some of the people we asked. A year later, no sale yet. What else can we do? What about brewing a “St. Joseph’s Beer?”

A little research finds that St. Joseph, besides being an intercessor for home sellers, is also the patron saint of Belgium! So let's make a Belgian beer! (He's also the patron of Canada, so a Unibroue clone would have been better. Also of Austria and Bohemia, so a Czech lager or Vienna would have been good). So I ordered up a Saison kit from Kennywood Brewing Supply, run by a fellow BOSS member, lit up a St. Joseph devotional candle from the Mexican food aisle of the supermarket, and commenced a brewin’.

This brew actually used Belgian strong ale yeast, since Wyeast doesn't sell its Saison yeast in the winter. But the kit made up for it with some orange peel and kaffir lime leaves. I also added one Fatali chile pepper (just one, mind you) to add just the right finishing spiciness. Recipe.

In any Catholic bookstore, you’ll find these little boxes of tiny St. Joseph statues used to pray for a home sale. There seem to be two manufacturers; one uses a newly designed package with four-color photo and lots of tyepsetting, the other is the one modified here, using a drawing that seems to have been picked up year after year, with the three spot colors running into each other over time (note the red cloud outlines). It took very minimal modification to make this look like a Wacky Packages parody. But with all due respect.

  • Second Place, BABBLE Homebrewers (Lake County) Brew-Off, 2007 (Pale & Belgian French Artisanal Ales)
  • Third Place, Chicago Beer Society Spooky Brew Review, 2006 (Belgian & French Ales)

Brewed 2/12/06 - Bottle Conditioned 4/2/06 ~ O.G. 1.060, F.G. 1.010 ABV: 6.5%


Temps Gai
Popcorn Beer

Ever since I started brewing, I wanted to do a popcorn beer, just because I’m from “The Pop-Corn Capital of the World.” Of course popcorn, like regular corn, is just an adjunct that lets you increase the alcohol without adding color. But finally, encouraged by Randy Mosher’s book, “Radical Brewing,” I went ahead and did this as my first partial mash brew. I went with a Belgian Strong Ale style, since the popcorn would allow me to do a lighter-colored beer than before, spiced up with Saison yeast. Thus the tenuously related “Can-Can” artwork. And why is the dancing girl blue? I saw it on a vintage poster, possibly by Toulouse Lautrec, and thought that’d help balance the red and white color scheme.

Again, I’m taking a chance by blindly depending on the Internet to translate my attempt at bi-lingual humor. If you were to plug “Temps Gai” into an internet translator, you'd only get something close to the name of the brand of popcorn I’m referring to.
And to get that nice gold foil look, be sure your graphic program has Pantone Metallic swatches. Even shown here in RGB, they look much better than anything I could make myself.

For the first time, this beer got me a first place finish for its style at the  BOSS Chicago Cup Challenge.  And it got a 3rd place at the first round of the  American Homebrewers Associations’  2006 National Homebrew Competition. That goes to the Finals with a score of 40 out of 50!  (Click here, scroll to Category 16 to see)  Recipe with Judges’ Comments.

Brewed 8/25/04 - Bottle Conditioned 10/10/04 ~ O.G. 1.052, F.G. 1.004 ABV: 6.5%


Vanya Porter

To celebrate bringing our son Vanya home from Russia, I made up a porter... not a real Baltic porter, which would have been logical, but just to try and remake the base beer I used for my Mole Porter. This is the result. That picture is the first one we took of Vanya when he was introduced to us. Amazingly, that shy little boy who barely talked to us at the orphanage is now the happy little chatterbox sharing our lives! Recipe.

The blindly internet-translated Russian on the label reads, “Vanya Porter Dark Beer.” The legend around the picture reads, “No son of mine will drink Coors Light.”

Brewed 6/20/04 - Bottle Conditioned 7/17/04 ~ O.G. 1.057, F.G. 1.012 ABV: only 5.9%


Arctic Schvitz
Eis-style California Common

This started as a beer based somewhat on the Anchor SteamTM, or California Common style of beer. That is, a lager fermented at warm ale temperatures. I had lots of Northern Brewer hops to toss in, which matches the style. Then I found out about the Minnesota Home Brewers’ Upper Mississippi Mash-Out competition, with a special “Eis-Anything” category. That’s where fermenting beer is left in freezing weather to form ice crystals, then the ice is drawn out, leaving more concentrated malt. Had to go for that, I thought.

Not quite a total disaster, just not the best I’ve done. Yet when I entered the competition, I got a third-place medal! Although I must honestly point out that this was third out of four entries. And they spelled the name wrong in the results. But I'll take it! Recipe.

Oh, and please be properly appreciative of the reference to another played-out 1970s band!

Brewed 12/03 - Bottle Conditioned 2/04 ~ O.G. 1.052, F.G. 1.022 ABV: only 3.7%


Who Wants to Drink a Chile Beer #4
Mole Porter

I went for a more refined chile beer taste here by going with a porter, using chocolate-roast malt, and using some of the peppers used in a mole negro, a tasty Mexican chocolate-Chile sauce. I had a Chilhuacle pepper plant from, which is apparently hard to grow north of Oaxaca. That must be true, because it only put out two small pods, which I used with some yellow Santa Fes and green anchos. Though I just couldn’t taste the heat while it was fermenting, I resisted adding more peppers and was rewarded with a nice heat that didn’t overpower the porter taste. Here’s the Recipe.

I kept thinking that if someone didn’t know the Spanish pronunciation of “mole” [MOL-lay], they’d wonder why I’d use a burrowing rodent in the name. Then a co-worker asked if this was a tribute to Cole Porter. Thus the little banner reading "I get a kick out of..."

I put some of this brew into competition bottles with just a tiny slice of chocolate habanero, which, despite its pleasant name is the hottest chile under cultivation. And it won the “Spooky Brew” title at the Chicago Beer Society’s 2003 Halloween homebrew contest: The Spooky Brew Review!

Brewed 7/5/03 - Bottle Conditioned 8/12/03 ~ O.G. 1.045, F.G. 1.008 ABV: 4.8%

Excessive Wheat

After Three Floyds brewery unveiled their great Gumball Head summer wheat beer, Chris at Beer Gear homebrew supply shop asked if I’d like to try and “clone” it. Sure, I said. So we whomped up a mix of wheat malt and extract, threw in the vital Amarillo hops that made all the difference, and here ‘tis. The beer is a tad tart; partly the effect of the hops, and the fact that wheat beers can be puckery (if you’ve had a Berliner Kindl Weiss, you’d understand, though mine’s nowhere near that territory. Recipe.
The name is a play on the beer’s “mentor”, and lent itself to this takeoff on a pulp magazine cover. I have no real color sense beyond beyond playing primaries against each other. I drew this in pencil, scanned it into Photoshop, and added colors and pattern fills in layers. And, if you can read it, some “hard-boiled” copy along the side.

Brewed 7/5/03 - Bottle Conditioned 8/12/03 ~ O.G. 1.045, F.G. 1.008 ABV: 4.8%

An “Editor’s Choice” in BYO Magazine’ 2004 Homebrew Label Contest (since it wasn’t a prize-winner, though, it wasn’t posted on their web site).

King Bee Mead--Let’s Buzz Awhile!

King Bee Commemorative Mead

For the below-mentioned National Homebrewers Conference, I designed this small label for the Commemorative Mead, which was brewed by some of my fellow B.O.S.S. members and over 300 tiny bottles of which were given to attendees (I arrived the evening of the first day and they were already gone). Note the almost-but-not-quite resemblance to John Belushi in his “Killer Bee” costume in the almost-but-not-quite “Keep on Truckin” pose. You can click on the graphic to view it close-up in PDF format.
I was asked to do this label by conference coordinator Randy Mosher, who is himself a professional commercial designer and homebrewer, so I’m pretty flattered. I also wrote and posted letters to regional homebrew clubs and stores, for which my attendance at the Conference was comped. That’s gotta be a career highlight: a commission for which I’m paid in all the beer I can drink!

Home-Grown Scotch Ale

I got on a tear here. I started this beer the same day I bottled the chile beer to save time. Took up more of the day, but saved me one weekend. As this one used only hops that came out of my garden, and all that implies, I chose the Fillmore East-type psychedelic poster route. Had a lot of fun twisting text around in Illustrator X and playing with their new fill swatches (the fade to black was created with a white-to-black gradient in a top layer, with a Multiply Transparency setting. Easy, no?). I scanned the image from the frontispiece of a 1908 Funk & Wagnalls edition of Edgar Allan Poe that I had, so I sure hope this artwork is in public domain.
This one had a nice malty Scotch Ale taste, close to a 60/- style.

Brewed 3/29/03 - Bottle Conditioned 5/11/03 ~ O.G. 1.045, F.G. 1.018 ABV: 3.5%

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Who Wants to Drink a Chipotle Chile Beer?
#3: Afterburner Wheat

Yes, I admit it. This label just goes way overboard. Too cluttered. But I had just found these cool “Fink Fonts” based on the lettering in the Ed “Big Daddy” Roth cartoons, plus clip art! What else could I do.
Meantime, I couldn’t quite get the beer to ferment out completely; it’s less than 3% alcohol. I smoked the chipotles myself, and this is my first batch using the Northern Brewer hops I planted in 2002.
Afterburner won third place in the first round of the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Competition. Here’s PDF of the results! It failed to place, though, at the finals at the AHA’s National Homebrewers Conference in Chicago. Here’s a .txt file of the recipe, with judge’s comments.

Brewed 2/22/03 - Bottle Conditioned 3/29/03 ~ O.G. 1.042, F.G. 1.020

Also Hot! Hot! Hot!

Naked Lady Label
Munich Dark Lager

I tried out a kit beer with 5 gallons of pre-hopped wort, so instead of eleboratley describing what I put into it, I put something more interesting on the bottle. Actually, the kit came with dried ale yeast, so I used actual lager yeast intead and cleared a space in my beer fridge to properly lager the brew at 42°F. I also slipped half a cup of molasses in to boost the gravity just a little bit.
After my near-entanglement with the KI<><> Army of Litigants, I decided not to just swipe some possibly copyrighted art or photo. Finally, those art classes in college paid off! I drew this myself during the one class when we actually had a model. So this art is all ©Mark McDermott (and the model probably has grandkids by now). Brewed December, 2002, bottle-conditioned and designed February, 2003.

Sorry if this may be seen as inappropriate, but I figure you see a lot worse than this decaled to the rear windows of pickup trucks, like those smirky Calvin rip-offs with pants down, peeing on logos for other trucks.

Imperial Russian Stout

Why “Kraputnik?” Because so many things just went Kraput. While in my airlocked primary fermentation bucket, it kicked up such a head that pieces of hop leaves got caught in the airlock, causing the lid to blow off (a not uncommon occurrence in homebrewing). A few days after I managed to successfully tame the froth-over, the sewer drain in my basement brewery backed up, leaving a 3-ft. wide pool of fragrant gray water. I quickly moved my fermenter upstairs. The rest of the procedure was incident-free, except that when bottling, I broke a bottle for the first time. Then in July, while letting it age, the beer “swelled up” in the heat and one bottle exploded.

The label was designed in imitation of the poster art of the Soviet Union, with great care taken to match those drab poster colors, complete with an aged paper background (if I could only have gotten that old coated paper with the sulfury smell). Verbiage was courtesy of the Translation feature of Sherlock in Macintosh OS X! Odd thing: when I submitted the phrase “Drinkers of the World, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your sobriety!”, it couldn’t provide a Russian word for “sobriety.” Here’s a .txt file of the recipe
To see a rough English translation of my rough Russian typesetting, just click on the label!

This label design was an “Editor’s Choice” in BYO Magazine’ 2003 Homebrew Label Contest.

Who Wants to Drink a Green Chile Beer?
#2: Scream of Wheat!

My second chile beer (those who grow chiles prefer spelling it with an “e”) is based on an American Wheat recipe, which better complements the peppery heat. I also used freshly roasted chiles straight from my garden. Brewed in July, 2002.
To make your own Chile beer, take any whole dried Chile pod and a mass-market beer with a screw-top bottle; open the beer, put about a 2-inch piece of the Chile in it, close, and let sit a day or two. Really improves the taste of those bland mega-brews, don’t it!

Scream of Wheat won a 2nd place ribbon at the Chicago Beer Society’s 2002 Spooky Brew Review competition! That last link goes to the first page of the winners’ listings, this link goes straight to category I placed in.

Bizarro is TM and ©DC Comics, Inc.
No endorsement by DC Comics should be implied!

Bizarroatmeal Stout #2

Here’s the latest version of my oddball Cinnamon Oatmeal Stout (see below!). Cinnamon taste really stood out, but my fellow beer brewers seem to think it’s okay. In fact, it very nearly placed in the aforementioned Spooky Brew Review. So with a little tinkering, I could have a contender, after all! Designed and brewed in May, 2002. Here’s a .txt file with the recipe.

Frehley I.P.A. #2

A happy little bear Here’s the second go ‘round on this brew. Since some homebrewers use oak chips to simulate the flavor of barrel aging, I did the same, and this is the result! Even hoppier, too. Brewed in March, 2002. Here’s a .txt file of the recipe

This beer won a 2nd place ribbon at the Brewers on the Bluff homebrew club’s 2002 Brewer’s Dream competition! Check it out for yourself!

Who Wants to Drink a Chili Beer?
#1: Roast Poblano Blammo!

With this beer, I embarked on my mission... to boldly brew what no home brewer in these parts has brewed before! I want to replicate the tasty Green Chili Beer I enjoyed at Eske’s Brewpub in Taos, New Mexico in 2000 (a very wonderful place to enjoy a beer). This first try is way off, since Eske’s is a partial wheat beer and this is a basic brown ale. And while they prefer the native Green New Mexico (Sandia) chilis, I used the Poblanos (Anchos) I roasted and froze last fall. But I still think this is pretty warm and kicky, not harsh like that bottled Cave Creek chili beer in the stores. I was reckless enough that I put some of it in small bottles to enter in March’s Drunk Monk homebrew competition in Warrenville. Didn’t get a very high rating: The judges complained the chili flavor was too hot. So, my watchword now is: “I could kick your ass... but not today!” Designed and brewed in January, 2002.  Recipe.

Censored for celebrity protection!

Frehley IPA Beer
My first true homebrew!

After both of Chicago’s two brew on premises closed down, I joined Brewers of South Suburbia, got the basic equipment, and started doing my own homebrew from scratch! This is my first brew, so in the cooperative spirit of homebrew, I replaced my parody “Government Warning” with the actual recipe. I also thought the pun would be obvious, but it was new to my homebrew store supplier. The obvious subject for such a pun, though, involved a trademarked image, so I have been obliged to alter it. Designed and brewed in December, 2001.


Our little tribute to the millennium bug--It wasn’t really meant that way, but we kinda botched the brewing and forced the Brew-on-premise to make more to fill out our batch. But it was a most hearty brew, with a recipe based on Goose Island’s 10th Anniversary Beast. Designed and brewed in November, 1999.

Wedding Bell Bride-Ale

We wanted to thank all our relatives and friends for coming to celebrate out happy day by serving a brewed-on-premise beer at our reception. Only problem was, we held the party at a room of St. Irenaeus’ elementary school, which didn’t have a license to serve alcohol. So we handed out the bottles (as well as a tasty root beer from the trunk of my car in the parking lot. Boy, that sounds illegal! Good thing Barb’s cousin the cop was there!

Bizarroatmeal Stout

Named for those crazy, backward inhabitants of the weird square planet in the Superman comics (see my Pop Culture Reference page), I made up this tasty brew for Mensa’s HalloweeM party in 1996!

Censored for celebrity protection!

Class of ‘77 Altbier

What better way to celebrate my upcoming 20th High School reunion than by coming with commemorative beer! My original subject, one of the iconic people to a high school student in theat year, was certainly a better idea than my class picture of me in my Apricot orange leisure suit! Unfortunately, the original image also happened to be a trademark, so I was advised by its subject’s lawyers to remove it. Designed in June, 1997.

Red Dingo Scotch Ale

My very first brew! I picked a name to parody all the “Red” animal names coming out (Red Dog, Red Wolf, etc.) and picked a brew to match. When I did my usual cursory artistic research, I found that dingos are, in fact, red! Brewed in July, 1995.

Quasimodo Quaff

My second beer, and first attempt at a lager, was labeled to parody the incessant commercial tie-ins with any and all Disney cartoons. As it tuned out, during brewing some bacteria got into the beer. Interesting taste, but it gushed out of the bottle whenever I tried to open it. Designed and brewed in May, 1996.

How I did it:

The logo started as a piece of script type, in Illustrator. I applied Kai’s Power Tools to distort it to a “comet tail,” then used the 3-D Tool to add a bevel and extrude it, with a shiny metallic finish. I rasterized it to a TIF object, applying a mask around the edges. Bizarro was scanned from my comic book collection, to retain the color dots and slightly off-register comic printing.
And the problem with typesetting in Russian is that although both the Macs and PCs at work are supposed to be able to handle Unicode, they gave no clue to how to actually access the codes to set the Cyrillc characters. I had to download some Cyrillic decorative fonts, and for the text, pull in the WordPerfect Cyrillic subset, which is not matched to any real-life characters.
A lil Chile