© 2016, Randy Mosher

5 Rabbit Cervecería was asked to participate in a 2016 Craft Beer Week collaboration with the Lakeview brewpub, DryHop Brewers. This would also include an art show, which I eventually understood to mean I had to come up with some actual art. While I’ve been doing beer labels and other commercial design work for decades, fine art is a little alien to me.

Fortunately DryHop Brewer Adrian Vidaurre had a great idea for a beer name with lots of visual possibilities. “Xocomil” is the name of a wind that blows on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, where his family is from. So this brings up thoughts of wind and water and their interaction, as well as references to the art of the region, from the ancient Maya to the present. The name literally means “The wind that carries away sin.”

I thought I would do a kind of stylized beer label of sorts, but on a much larger scale. I’ve even using wood and linoleum cuts for design work, and it made sense to just scale that technique up. I hatched a plan on paper, executed it in schematic form on the computer, then printed it out, taping the small sheets together to get a design template 24″ square. I decided to use cheap plywood for the grain and inevitable chipping that raw wood gives. After transferring each of the three color designs to separate sheets, I sharpened my gouges and had at it. It takes a fair amount of muscle to dig out the wood and you have to be careful which way the chisel is moving, as it can tear out the grain if you’re going in the wrong direction.

With the first plate screwed to an indexing board that allowed me to clamp the paper into place, I inked up the green plate and pulled a print. Lather, rinse, repeat, and with oil-based ink it takes quite a while to dry. By the end of a full weekend of gouging and printing, I had a lot of wood chips and handful of prints.

The spirals nominally represent wind and water, and have often been used to represent a journey or the passage of time. It an omen that the word Xocomil had a symmetrical letter right in the middle that let me make an X that ties back to the first letter in it. The X was also fortuitous, in that it creates four quadrants, important to the Ancient Maya and many other native people in the Americas.

Xocomil, the beer, is a slightly toasty saison-style beer with a good helping of pumpkinseeds and fortified with some unrefined piloncillo sugar, with some pink peppercorns. It’s layered, complex, drinkable and unlike anything else.

Huge thanks to Adrian, Brant, and Eileen at DryHop, and my team at 5 Rabbit, especially John J. Hall, who joined us on brew day to help out.

Below, top to bottom, left to right 1) Design carved in plywood then inked 2) Adrian Vidaurre of DryHop Brewers holding the collaboration brew 3) The finished print sold in limited quantities at the event for $150 each