Whiplash are the most exciting brewery in Ireland right now. This Kildare based brewery have been creating some magical beers, particularly in the last 12 months, and especially their DIPAs, IPAs and Pale Ales which are right up there with the best produced anywhere in the world right now.
The artwork that adorns their beers is pretty special, too. It may be trite to say that ‘beer is art’ but Whiplash have created cans to wow your eyes and brews to wow your tastebuds. These beers really are beauties, in every sense.
Sophie De Vere is the designer responsible for Whiplash’s lovely cans – and she was kind enough to take some time-out to have a chat with us about the beers, the creative process and more!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Absolutely can do! So I’ve been creating art since my teens and working in Dublin since 2006.
When you’re an art school drop out like myself, you really just look for anything you can take in regards to work.
I studied photography and then moved on to fine art, I always used film and analog cameras, I started using objects I found, incorporating them into photography as backdrops and props. It was then a pretty fast transition from using objects in sets, to using images and materials on paper/film.
I ended up playing around more with mixed media and once I joined Instagram I started following a lot of collage-based artists, which instantly inspired me to use the medium more often. It felt like a natural process to me and my style started to evolve.
I started showing people my work, all via social media, got a lot of good feedback and that’s kinda when I realised I could possibly have a chance in design, as a career. I gained a lot more confidence and started working on designs for people, doing events, band posters, promotions, graphic design etc and selling prints of my work online and in galleries.
Then Whiplash asked me to start creating designs for their labels and , well…it was the perfect crime.
Whiplash have been generating rave reviews lately but for anyone who hasn’t got the memo, can you tell us about the brewery?
Whiplash is a beer project started by my partner, Alex and his colleague, Alan. The guys were working in a regional brewery making a lot of core beers for a handful of different brands but they wanted to make some more interesting stuff that they felt was less commercial but more fun and experimental.
They rented the small tanks from the brewery they were at and brewed a couple of beers a year for fun as a single, limited release to kind of shake-up the Irish market, which was pretty much still just red ales and stouts at the time.
The response to the beers was crazy positive and stuff just kept getting bigger with distributors calling wanting them to export, and by the time it got to last December they just left where they were and went full time making Whiplash beers instead.
They make all their beers in a brewery they rent in Wicklow now and release new beers every month, I’m kept really busy making labels so everyone’s happy.
How did you get involved designing their labels?
Alex really loved my artwork and hates traditional beer branding, so he asked me one day if I’d like to use his beer cans as an art space. The first label I did was Scaldy Porter which has become a pseudo-logo for the guys and was initially on bottles.
Some of the initial artworks were on stainless cans but because of the reflective surface, the guys changed it to matt white to show off the artwork more; they’re very committed to the can as an ‘art space’ principle. It’s given me a canvas to work with a larger scale of colours and detail and an opportunity to showcase my work internationally.
I like to say I’m in charge of the ‘Lovely Cans Department’. ?
Which lovely can has been your favourite so far?
That’s a really hard question! I think I’m happy with my work, I think I really dig it at the time and then a few weeks on I look back and start noticing things I could’ve or should’ve done differently, so I’m super critical of my designs.
I think ‘The Rollover’ is probably my favourite because it was the first time I sort of found my feet when it came to my personal style and the use of composition and colour in my work, which I’m really dependent on now. I often find myself gravitating back to that design when I’m a little lost as to direction and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Sometimes, I can go more maximal depending on the brief but I’ve always been more of a minimalist and that design brings me back to earth a bit, whenever I want to keep going on a piece, it reminds me to leave it alone, grab a beer and chill the fuck out.
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ROLLOVER! Named after the sesh, for the sesh. We've been making Rollover for just over a year and it's never tasted better. Now it's looking whopper in its new can. A micro haze-craze New Ireland IPA (yeah we're coining that), Rollover is made with Floor Malted British Pale malt, Vienna, Oat Malt and Wheat then 100% whirlpool hopped with juicy Citra and Simcoe. Fermented on our house NE style British Ale yeast, double dry-hopped with Citra, Simcoe, Ekuanot and Mosaic – then delivered to cans and keg unfiltered and hazy at a super-sessionable 3.8% to keep you going on your long journey to becoming a seshlord. #beerstagram #irishcraftbeer #bagofcans
Can you tell us a little about the creative process?
The process is never the same twice, although it has its similarities. If I’m designing labels, I’ll always get the name of the beer first. I’ll conjure up ideas and stories as to what I think that name means and looks like.
I have a ton of boxes in my studio where I keep images that I’ve found and cut out of magazines and books, all ranging in size and colour. I’ll usually chuck them all out onto the floor in piles and start to go through them all, picking and choosing images that yell at me and have a connection in some way to the story.
Once I’ve made a sufficient amount of mess, I’ll start going through different coloured paper, textures, materials, and cut up more and more until I’m happy with the amount to work with.
Then it all just slowly falls into place, I physically start moving things around and playing with the materials, sometimes incorporate past photographs I’ve taken, paints, inks, foils etc until the image fits, until I’m aesthetically happy with the result and it just feels right.
So how do you actually turn it into the artwork for the can? Is it a digital process?
The complete opposite, absolutely everything about the creative process is analog!
I never use any kind of digital anything, No photoshop, no illustrator, no Adobe whatsoever. Analog has just always been the way I do things creatively, back to when I was using 35mm film. I’m not apposed to digital, it’s just not the way I roll.
I’m a collector, I like physically searching for things and going through secondhand shops, markets etc to find what I’m looking for.
I enjoy using my hands to make my art, even if that involves glueing my fingers to absolutely everything around me and accidentally slicing my skin open with hobby knives.
Is there anything or anyone you look to for creative inspiration?
Everything. Art and artists in general keep me the most inspired and excited I guess.
I always feel the most inspired and able to work after I’ve been to a gallery, a show, a gig, or even just visiting friends who do the same and having a chat about it over a pint.
Pints always help! Speaking of which, are you a fan of any other designers in the beer world?
Of course! I’m always looking out for new interesting beer labels and artists that catch my eye.
The Willows Family Ales‘ Artist, Joe Kappa – his twisted family portraits are fucking hilarious, the labels give off a freaky ‘King of the Hill’ vibe and I’m here for them.
To Øl’s Art Director, Kasper Ledet – his modernist works are very aesthetically pleasing, a beautiful mix or architectural and graphic design.
GRIMM Ales‘ Gretta Johnson’s artwork is really fun – her labels are really distinctive, it’s a kaleidoscopic acid trip I want a part of.
Are you a beer fan? If so, which is your favourite Whiplash beer?
Yep! It was a progression though… as I started learning more about it and trying crazier and more interesting beers, then I was enjoying it more and more. Now, I’m a big dirty fan of beer, I love that shit! ❤️
As for Whiplash brews, I don’t have a favourite, it depends on where I am, what I’m eating, what the weather’s like, what the party’s like… but I suppose, if I had to pick, Drone Logic, Northern Lights and Surrender to the Void all scream profusely at me from the fridge.
…and your favourite non-Whiplash beer?!
Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast is my favourite. It’s a full bodied, chocolatey coffee boy who makes me very happy. Also coming in tight second would be Triangles from Garage Beer Co. because it’s tasty as fuck and reminds me of the sesh.
The first Whiplash beer we had was Farami, a dark beer, but there seemed to be a shift towards IPAs and Pale Ales, was this an intentional decision to nail this style?
It’s just to do with demand and seasonality really. The few months at the beginning in the new place was about really dialling in the new brewhouse and canning line to nail our core beers like Rollover and Body Riddle, so by the time we had it running it was summer so it’s been all pale crazy fun, refreshing beers so far.
We’ve done lagers, sours, stouts and even a Belgian single and a quad so far. By the end of year some dark stuff will return until the heat really gets turned up next year.
What’s in the near future for Whiplash? Any big collaborations coming up or exciting beers in the pipeline?
Alex is designing a pilot 500L brewery from scratch at the moment which is taking up all of his time and it’s pretty geeky. I know he’s trying to implement new brewing technology and processes into it that’s going to allow them pretty much unlimited flexibility to jump between all styles and processes even on the same shift.
We’ve been at full capacity for months now and having our friends over for collaborations has been difficult to do without our own brewery, so the pilot brewery will solve that.
The guys have asked me to do a couple of pieces a week so shit’s going to get very real and we’ll invite all our friends to brew then. So far we’ve brewed with our friends at Beerbliotek, Track, Garage, Northern Monk, Burnt Mill, Wylam and more and they’ll all be making the trip to Dublin when it’s running to do some more crazy beers here.
Last question! What’s your favourite pizzeria? We love pizza as much as beer so always on the lookout for recommendations!
I’ll always be a devoted fan of Di Fontaine’s in Dublin because they’re always there when I’ve fallen out of the club at 3am, ravenous. I appreciate a place that blasts out cheesy 90’s hiphop and serves a hot tasty slice for a reasonable price. ?