The fusion between liquid and art at Roy Pitz comes subtly from many angles. The bottles, lately appearing in Philadelphia, are wrapped in classic designs by fine artist and sculptor, Will Hemsley. A lifelong friend of powerhouse brewers Ryan Richards and Jesse Rotz (and cousin of the latter), Hemsley’s labels are full-blown oil paintings, based on scenes he photographs as illustrative guides. (Hemsley’s wife is hiding in the Best Blonde label.)
His portraits are examples of artful light and shadow and meticulously blended backgrounds, which double as a visual for the actual beer color, whether a sunset blonde or a cloudy smoked lager. Not only do they beautifully do the job of expressing the craftsmanship and quality of the liquid inside, but they’re worthy of gallery exhibition alongside his American Realism paintings, for sure. “Actually, we hope to have the pub open above our brewery by the end of this year…and we’ll hang the originals there,” Ryan Richards says. In the meantime, this writer peels them off bottles from Ultimo and sticks them to a faux-leather wallet. We have to get our art somewhere.
After Hemsley collaborates aesthetically with Richards and Rotz–who are featured on the Old Jail Ale label–graphic designer Brian Kemp creates the logo and stylized fonts. He brings it all together, adding final touches like the pager lettering on Daddy Fat Sacks (which Ryan claims was named for the large sacks used for dry hopping, and unknowingly after southern slang for a drug lord). While that christening was serendipitous, most of the beer names and artwork are intricately connected to Chambersburg’s history. In 1864, George Ludwig’s brewery was burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers and, for Roy Pitz’s appropriated retribution, they created Ludwig’s Revenge smoked dark lager. Hemsley perfectly captured a fiery look of satisfaction on Ludwig’s label face, which he adapted from an original portrait hanging in a jewelry store down the street from the brewery.
And excitingly, from the tactile side of things, enters Caledonia glassblower Mike Fisher, whose one-of-a kind handcrafted glasses are sold only at the brewery. The ultra-talented glass artist makes everything including a reinvented pint shape with indented finger notches and intertwined brass wiring, Belgian challises and flutes, and a U-glass that separates the beer into two parts. Each glass is etched with the Roy Pitz brand. “We usually sell out within the week,” Ryan says of new arrivals. Fisher’s signature piece is a hand-blown handle that he attaches to a mason jar, which comes with a handy canning lid and screw top. “We’ll most likely serve drafts in the mason jars once the pub is open.” I only wish Chambersburg was closer to our fair city.