Attention to detail: Second Street, Steel Bender breweries gain attention with product design awards

New Mexico breweries have been recognized in a number of ways, and now they are receiving accolades for their designs.

Santa Fe’s Second Street Brewery recently won two gold awards for Best Packaging Design at the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards. (Courtesy of Second Street Brewery)

Second Street Brewery received gold in the Best Packaging Design/Can and Best Packaging Design/Can Global categories at the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards. Steel Bender Brewyard took home the gold in the Best Tap Handle Design/Unique and Innovative category, as well as in the Wild Cards/Retro Branding category.

Mariah Cameron Scee, creative director at Second Street Brewery, was on top of the world when she found out that she had not only beat out the competition in North and South America region but also took the top prize globally.

“I won three last year, and I was really excited, but you can’t expect that,” Scee said. “It’s a lot of big breweries. It’s worldwide. I saw the gold one. I was super-excited. And then the next one that was announced, the global one, I just started jumping up and down.”

Scee took on a time-consuming process to create her intricate design.

“I was just bouncing ideas back and forth with some of the other people in the brew house, and suddenly, I was, like, ‘We’re gonna put it in a round package,’ ” Scee said. “I’m going to hand-print every single one. And, you know, to give my boss and my co-workers credit, like, they didn’t question that. They were, like, ‘Sure, Mariah is going to hand-print the packages. That sounds great.’ …I ordered all of these cardboard tubes, and the brew house staff cut them up for me.”

What is printed on each of the packages is a hand-carved block print. Scee carved the block print and hand-printed each tube.

“Usually, a printmaking process will roll a round drum over the paper to put the ink on,” Scee said. “And with this, I use the package, which is a cardboard tube as the actual drum and, like, roll the package over the block. So it’s really labor-intensive, but it’s really cool.”

Each of the tubes is different, and they come in numbered editions, as prints would. Scee created a limited edition of 200 for this year’s award. Each package contains two cans of beer with labels also designed by Scee. The designs feature a character created by Scee doing different activities, from driving a forklift to playing in a meadow.

“And so it’s kind of a storyline, that every year, I come up with a different iteration of this character, and do this block print of it,” Scee said. “And so we’re gonna do it again this year… It is an art piece by itself, and it’s great to see that recognized.”

Steel Bender Brewyard was awarded gold for best tap handle design at the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards. (Courtesy of Steel Bender Brewyard)

Going nostalgic paid off for Steel Bender Brewyard. Its tap handles were recognized with gold for their unique and innovative design. The tap handles were the result of an brainstorming and sketching session at a bar between co-owners Ethan Chant and his wife, Shelby Chant, who is also Steel Bender’s marketing director. Ethan Chant had a moment of sudden insight and thought doing a Route 66 contemporary art deco style was the way to go. The brightly lit neon signs of the 1950s along Route 66 served as inspiration.

“When travelers were going across Route 66 as one of the main arteries and they’re speeding along the highway, you know, you had diners and you had lodging and you had gas stations all competing for the attention of these travelers,” Shelby Chant said. “(Ethan said) it’s like tap handles are basically like the modern highway sign. And so I mean, he didn’t have to sell me on it at all. … Because that retro look is definitely part of our brand anyway. That’s a piece of the nostalgia that we do like to evoke.”

The Chants sent the design imagery to designer Jamie Rushad Gros, whom they have worked with for years, and he came back with four designs. Steel Bender had three of the handles manufactured by The Alison Group, which made sure the engineering was correct.

Steel Bender Brewyard took gold in the Wild Cards/Retro Branding category at the 2021 Craft Beer Marketing Awards. (Courtesy of Steel Bender Brewyard)

Steel Bender also won gold in the Wild Cards/Retro Branding category. Chant submitted the labeling for Lloyd’s Summer Vacation, Hummingbird Pils as well as the tap handles into the category.

“It was great that our first year entering that (category) was there,” Shelby Chant said. “I was, like, ‘Well yeah, we’re going to do that one for sure.’ I think it was best use of retro branding. … And so I was able to submit up to three pieces for consideration that would uphold that entry. So I actually submitted the tap handles again and then I submitted Lloyd’s Summer Vacation, which actually is out right now.”

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