Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Artist Behind 21st Amendment’s New Cans

By Jay Brooks
Friday, December 16th, 2011 at 11:57 am in On Beer.

UK-based illustrator Joe Wilson, whose clients include such high-powered companies as Adidas, British Airways, De Beers, GQ, Random House and Wired, designed the new artwork adorning the new 21st Amendment Brewery beer cans. So given his work for Wired, I suppose it’s no surprise that they featured his art on their Underwire Blog in a post entitled Chimp Astronaut Spaces Out in 21st Amendment Brewery’s ‘American Icon’ Artwork.

In an e-mail interview for the post, Wilson talked about the project. Regarding Bitter American. “That was a nice idea to center it around Ham the Astrochimp, who was undoubtedly a bitter American.”

The brewery’s marketing firm, TBD Agency, hired Smith on the strength of a Statue of Liberty illustration he did for Public Finance magazine. “They asked me to create a series of images based around the loose theme ‘American icons,'” Wilson said. “They already had the names of the beers, so this was a case of coming up with American subject matter and giving it a twist.”

21st Amendment wanted to establish a cheeky alternative to its mainstream competitors and that’s precisely what Wilson delivered with his drawings of the space chimp and other American icons. For the history-on-a-can theme, Wilson drew Paul Revere (for a black IPA called Back in Black), Abe Lincoln and his Mount Rushmore companions (Brew Free or Die IPA), the Statue of Liberty (Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Fireside Chat winter spiced ale).

Below are Wilson’s original sketches followed by the finished can label for each beer.

Brew Free or Die IPA



Hell or High Watermelon



Bitter American




Back in Black



Fireside Chat



It’s cool to see the changes — look carefully — from rough sketch to finished artwork. You can see more of Joe Wilson’s artwork at his website and at debut art.

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