Meet Seth Smith, aka the Art of Beer. He’s spent the last half-decade creating illustrations inspired by the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverage. This year he’s drawn 41 of the city's best boozers in conjunction with Nottingham Craft Beer Week and soon they’ll be available as free postcards at a pub near you…
Where did all this begin?
At the start of 2015, I was listening to the Guardian Football Weekly podcast. One of the journalists, Jonathan Wilson, was talking about a challenge he was embarking on: to drink 500 different beers in a year. I thought that was a good idea too. I’m not sure it was in hindsight. As I began to record and share the beer diary on Instagram, I soon realised how dreadful I was at taking photos. So, I saw it as an opportunity to improve my creative skills and I began to create alternative illustrations of every beer I drank. Five years on, and I’m still going.
What do you get up to when you’re not drinking or illustrating beer?
I’m a Creative Director at a Nottingham design agency, a very proud dad, a part-time Forest fan and a full-time Spurs fan.
What was the first beer you ever drew?
Fursty Ferret by Badger Brewery. That one, and many of the following 200-300 illustrations were pretty tripe. That’s okay though. I genuinely believe the best way to learn is by doing. Instagram has been a brilliant platform for me – the constant stream of publishing has fuelled a continuous sense of self-evaluation and experimentation, which has helped hone my craft, in both the day job as well as an Instagram artist (if that’s what I am).
There’s quite a lot of good art in craft beer. Who are your favourites?
As the beer scene has exploded in the last few years, beer hunting has become a ‘thing’. Taste remains king, but brands are having to work harder to create shelf-appeal, so the can has become a canvas – a collectable one at that. Regarding illustrators, check out Drew Millward. He creates striking, layered work that has a compelling energy that I continue to get drawn to over and over again. His work for Northern Monk and Leeds International Festival is iconic. I’m infatuated with the new can designs from Play Brew Co (Double Dash and Lazy Daze). The brand agency, Alphabet, has created a series of funky, retro illustrations, paired with some super juicy colourways. Tastes good too.
Who do you think does the best artwork in the Nottingham beer scene?
Kev Grey, the artist for Black Iris Brewery. His work is simple but bold – often with a playful twist, and the black and white palette has great standout on the shelf. For me, the brand has nailed it, the brewery found, and now own, a highly recognisable ‘visual space’.
As the beer scene has exploded in the last few years, beer hunting has become a ‘thing’. Taste remains king, but brands are having to work harder to create shelf-appeal, so the can has become a canvas - a collectible one at that
You illustrated 41 pubs and bars for Nottingham Craft Beer Week. How many of those have you actually had a beer in?
32. Awks. That will be 41 very soon.
You're not the only beer-related artist in Notts. Have you come across Beermat Doodles?
I’m definitely aware of their work. I’d hoped to get a Beermat Doodle this year… but then COVID-19 happened. I love the idea though. Put me down for next year.
If you had to name a handful of your favourite beers, what would they be and why?
The beer that really got me into beer is Bad Kitty by Brass Castle, a robust and fulsome vanilla porter. My current go-to, easy-drinker, is currently Deya’s Steady Rolling Man. This well-balanced pale ale is soft and juicy, and never fails to deliver. One of my favourite summer beers is Pink Moon, from Nottingham’s very own Liquid Light. For me, it was the standout beer of the 2018 Nottingham Craft Beer Festival. It really changed my perception of fruit beers – it’s light, fresh and delicate, brimming with an infectious raspberry flavour. Best beer of 2019 was Neon Raptors’ 20,000 Containers Under the Sea. A spectacular, full-on raspberry and vanilla imperial stout. Best lockdown beer (so far) could be of one of many from Verdant and Track. Rip It Up from Pomona Island has been bought more than once in the last few weeks – beery Bucks Fizz (serve with ice)! I could go on...
When lockdown ends, what pub are you planning to visit first?
I’ve got a soft spot for all the Castle Rock pubs. They’re proper. Honest. No frills, but always friendly and welcoming. Good grub, great beer selection. Job done. My local (which isn’t actually local) is the Poppy and Pint. Like any good pub, it feels like a second home. James (the landlord) and his team have created a fantastic vibe; it’s one of the few places I can switch off, no matter how busy my day has been. I hope James is reading this, as I would love a pint of East Mids Pale Ale, or perhaps Headband to begin with, followed by a smooth, sweet, luscious porter (Stay Puft will suffice). Make it happen please James!
A set of 41 limited edition Art of Beer postcards featuring Nottingham Craft Beer pubs and bars will be given away free to customers at each venue when they re-open. This is a project run in association with It’s In Nottingham. See the images from the postcards opposite and visit nottinghamcraftbeer.co.uk for a full list of venues where you can get them.