Craft beer drinkers tend to spend a lot of time talking about the liquid they’re enjoying, but the can that carries that liquid matters plenty these days too. Indeed, a can or a tap decal tends to be the first interaction anyone has with a beer, so eye-catching artwork to help your brand stand out from the crowd matters.
And that’s something that applies to AVNGE Brewing: the presentation of the beers is certainly unique, with the colourful artwork belonging to each beer telling a story that makes you wonder why there aren’t more comic books about craft beer.
Behind those hoppy tales is James Isacsson, who launched the brewing company with his wife Steph Coats in 2021.
In craft beer’s early days, graphic design was often handled by brewery owners themselves, their family members, or friends happy to receive free beer in return and the results were… well, let’s just say they were varied. In this case, while James handles all the designs, his background has left him well placed to create artwork that fits his beers.
For around four years, James was a graffiti artist; his stencil work first appeared in Darwin before moving with him to Melbourne. The AVNGE name was originally his tag, while his sketches often inform the look of the beers.
The very first release was Hopbotomy, and the highly-illustrative depiction of a scared hop about to undergo surgery didn’t just set the tone for AVNGE’s artwork but offered a glimpse of the recipes to come too. The punchy West Coast IPA was inspired by the kind of beers that first led James down the homebrewing path after Steph introduced him to hoppy wonders from her home state of California.
Sure, AVNGE Brewing isn’t entirely about the hops, but James’ passion for classic American styles lives on, with that initial offering followed by the likes of an American stout, Red IPA and DIPA. Largely, you’ll find those beers in good beer retailers and venues in Melbourne’s east and southeast, where James and Steph live, but they appear in other parts of their home state too. At time of writing, they’re brewed at Killer Sprocket, while James was among the first local brewers to complete the Certificate III Food Processing (Micro-brewing) at Kangan TAFE designed to accelerate budding brewers’ careers.
Designing epic labels isn’t the only way James’ past as a stencil artist is reflected in AVNGE. As with craft beer, the graffiti community is a close-knit community of people who are doing what they do because they’re driven by a love of creativity.
Thus, after launching AVNGE Brewing, James soon found himself and the brand embraced by Melbourne’s beer community, from the good booze slingers of the city’s southeast or the many startup brewers without their own stainless. There’s likely no better examples of that connectivity than the moment in 2023 when AVNGE steered six other brewing companies to create the collaborative Gypsy Kiss, a beer launched at one of the finest bottleshops and bars on their side of the city, Grape & Grain.
That’s a lot of different brewing minds to bring together but it’s the sort of practice at which James is clearly adept. After all, once he stopped creating street art, he went on to painstakingly design and build a Disney-approved replica of Boba Fett’s suit from The Empire Strikes Back.
When it comes to brewing good and interesting beer, it’s hard to think of two qualities that matter more than creativity and precision. And AVNGE Brewing is a story heavy on both.