Since Second Street opened a third location on Rufina Street in 2017, their second brewing facility has acted as a testing-ground for the Rufina location flagship beers and what would be future Second Street can offerings. Back when I spoke with President/Brewmaster Rod Tweet for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series article for 2017-18, they were looking at releasing cans during the second quarter of 2018.
Well, here we are somewhere in the middle of the third, but, as promised, Second Street is currently labeling their cans and shipping them off to stores near you. That’s right, Second Street has cans at last! Again. Well, this time from their own canning line. And this time, for good. You might remember the short run with Mother Road Mobile Canning. Well, Second Street is doing its own thing now, and Dark Side’s got the scoop for you.
As La Cumbre, Marble, Santa Fe Brewing, Bosque, Canteen, Rio Bravo, etc., all well know, packaged goods are just another product on a shelf without a bold, eye-catching, and ultimately memorable design. The brewers work hard to put something excellent in cans and bottles that consumers can bring home from the store, but the brewery’s job is not finished there. The package has to hold its own against hundreds of other designs, especially to folks who don’t already know what they’re looking for, and indeed are judging a book by its cover. For example, Santa Fe Brewing and Marble have both majorly overhauled their packaging to ensure that what they put out there on the shelves would 1) stand out to the public in an ever-shrinking market, and 2) represent their brand to the fullest potential with a certain stylistic cohesiveness, so the consumer can not only return to what they know and love, but also be confident in trying another can or bottle from the same company.
I recently sat down with Mariah Scee, front of house manager at Second Street Rufina and designer of Second Street’s new cans. In just a few minutes, I got to know the artist a lot better, and I learned about the inspiration for the new can designs, and about the process of government design approval.
DSBC: Mariah, you’re the front of house manager at Second Street Rufina. (But) that’s not your only title.
Scee: I am the director of art and marketing for the entire company. Not just Rufina, but the other brewery and taproom(s) as well.
DSBC: How long have you been creating art?
Scee: Since I was old enough to draw. My mother saved all of my drawings.
DSBC: So, you were basically born “art-brained,” if you will.
Scee: Yeah, yeah. When I was a kid people always gave me art supplies. I remember one time, my mother fell asleep and I drew all-over her with magic markers, like I tattooed her.
DSBC: So you’ve always been creative. Do you have any special training in art?
Scee: Yeah, I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. I studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, and also in Rome, Italy. Since I graduated, I’ve done lots of continuing education stuff. I always did freelance illustration, but I also kind of bummed around when I was younger. I worked in a lot of bars. Ran cocktail bars. And, so this is the first job where both sides of things are colliding.
DSBC: So here we have the 2920 IPA, the Agua Fria Pilsner, and the Boneshaker Bitter. Tell us a little about these can designs.
Scee: The 2920 was first. Originally, we were just going to come out with one beer to start. For the 2920, the design for that had been done since the start of 2018 for the most part. Rod and I started last year with a lot of different ideas for what the cans could be, and he and I had a lot of meetings where we looked at a lot of beer cans, and kind of narrowed down and decided what felt right. We both wanted something that was very illustrative and something that felt like hand-drawn, but also wanted it to have something of an iconic appeal to it. And so, how do you do those two things at one time? That’s where the band around the bottom came from. A lot of things we were really both drawn to had a band or one cohesive element across the family.
Of the original sketches, they wanted something that had to do with Santa Fe. To them, it had to reflect the Southwest. But, they didn’t want to be too cheesy, or get too far into territory that’s already been covered. “If you were looking at the beer in Seattle, you might not know what it was, but it would still be appealing,” Scee said. “So that’s where the cholla came from.”
All three of the cans depict different versions of the North American desert cacti with the spiny cylindrical shapes to them. Pronounced choh-yuh.
Scee: We wanted to make something pretty, something that stood out, and really held together as a family. That’s really important, especially when you’re starting out. You want people to look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s Second Street.’
Scee has also worked on all of the drawings on the menus. She does all of Second Street’s day-to-day graphic design work, as well as any work on music calendars and Santa Fe Reporter ads. Scee is currently working on ideas for the GABF booth that she said she’s really excited about. I asked for any kind of sneak preview, and she said, “Well, you’ll definitely know it’s ours. We’re not bringing a cactus, but there’s gonna be some cholla.”
DSBC: We’ll just have to catch the booth in late September. What do you, as an artist, hope to achieve through Second Street?
Scee: I’ve done a lot of freelance work. I only moved to Santa Fe a couple years ago, so in that time, I’ve kind of put a lot of things on hold. So this is giving me a nudge to go back in that direction. Second Street has been great because it’s tested me. Like, I’ve never designed a beer can. Getting those details down to how small your type could be, government warnings, and regulations.
DSBC: Can you tell us a bit about that process?
Scee: Yeah, so 2920 had to go through government approval, through the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). They look at everything. Is your government warning on there? How big is your font size? Their requirements for how you say things on a can are very specific, like you can’t just say IPA; you have to say India Pale Ale. They classify those kinds of things in different ways. Our IPA got approved fairly quickly. We only had to do one rewrite, but it was a good learning experience.
DSBC: Who printed the labels?
Scee: We’re really excited about the company printing the labels. It was Blue Label Digital Printing. They’re in Ohio. They’re fourth generation printers. And, they do a lot of labeling for the craft beer industry.
DSBC: Last question. What advice do you have for parents of creative children who probably don’t want them designing beer labels?
Scee: My mom was always supportive. She got these books that were classes on how to draw. She would do a weekly drawing class with me. Later on, I had a lot of really amazing teachers in public school. My high school art teacher was really amazing. I think just encouraging kids, giving them something, if they’re drawn towards paper, or if they’re drawn to drawing on an iPad. Maybe they really like making/building things. I think that kids get creative in ways that upset parents that are messy or are dirty, or they think that art will distract kids from studying. I would say just give them all the support you can. If you can give them lessons, but if not, just piles of paper. Don’t throw away their art. And, cherish everything they make, because they’ll get better.
Now that we know what we’re looking for, it’s time to figure out where to find them.
A while back, newly hired sales manager Steven Anderson (a former manager at Susan’s Fine Wine and Spirits) contacted me to let me know that Second Street had some big things coming down the pipeline, and that I might just want to keep an ear to the ground. Well, as a good salesperson, Anderson delivered on his promise. Second Street’s canning line was operational only a few weeks later, and we’re now seeing the beautiful end-results make their way onto shelves. From Anderson, I got the skinny on where you’ll be able to get the cans soon, and where they might end up in the future.
DSBC: Barring any last-minute, unforeseen issues, what stores can we soon expect to see Second Street Cans in first?
Anderson: At first it will just be a small handful of independently-owned stores, in Santa Fe, Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Liquid Company, and the Solana Kelly’s; down in Albuquerque, Jubilation Wine and Spirits; and up north, Kokoman.
DSBC: Where might Second Street cans be found in late quarter 2018 and beyond?
Anderson: We’ll be filling in the gaps and branching out into existing markets retail-wise where we already have draft accounts, so up in Taos and Los Alamos, along with breweries that have partnered with us already with guest taps, and maybe want to sell our cans to go, a nice option that we have in our state with brewery to brewery (and winery) distribution.
DSBC: What are your personal hopes for Second Street’s distribution in the near or far future?
Anderson: Well, certainly I’d like to get our beer into people’s hands who previously didn’t know about us. One major driving factor in this equation is partnering with places that pride themselves on having a knowledgeable staff in both restaurants and at the retail level.
DSBC: What do you feel Second Street adds to the market on the whole?
Anderson: A fresh face in the form of a long established brand that a lot of people (in ABQ) are either unfamiliar with, or may have forgotten about since last time they were up in Santa Fe proper. I could go on here about the core brands and how great they all are, as well as one offs and seasonals that will inevitably follow, but just go out and pick up a six-pack or find us on draft. You won’t regret it!
Anderson said the market reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
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With positive reception from the market, Second Street will have plenty of opportunity to get its product in front of new audiences. But how far does the brewing staff want to go? And, how soon? I wanted to find out what the whole plan was, and so I went to the top for answers.
I was able to track down the ever-busy Rod Tweet for a few comments about his company’s largest announcement since their new brewing facility and taproom.
DSBC: Now that the canning line is up and running, what are Second Street’s plans for the future? Will you be rolling out more styles after a while? Will you test the market with these for the time being?
Tweet: We’re getting to work on building up our inventory levels of the canned product for the first three flagships, and on warehouse organization. I can see us rolling out four seasonal brands per year as well, but we haven’t yet identified those, though something barrel-aged might possibly even be involved. A cool thing about the adhesive labels mode that we have decided to go with, is that there really aren’t many limits from a production point of view. Each size can needs its own rinse cage, but other than that, the rest is pretty straight forward and we may experiment with some different packaging formats, also.
DSBC: What does the bigger picture look like for Second Street?
Tweet: We already operate three very busy taprooms in Santa Fe, which is a pretty small market — so you could say we’ve pretty much optimized our footprint for on-premise sales. So I think the packaging of our beers is going to help tremendously with getting the word out around the state and in turn push our volume up in a way that we can’t do without packaging. So we will be focusing a lot on that going forward.
DSBC: How do you feel about how the cans turned out?
Tweet: You know, it did take us while to get this launched, but that was partly because we put a lot of effort into getting everything right, and I think all the package art, and tap handles, etc., that Mariah produced for us is just another example of that. She did a fantastic job and I’m really happy with the finished product and completely confident about putting it out there! And, I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for the next ones.
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Brewer Tom Ludzia said he would especially like to thank the good people at SKA Fab and Wild Goose Canning. Ludzia said that Robert Carter and Drew Watts, respectively, were amazing with the installation and instruction on getting the canning line up and running.
Second Street is currently firing on all pistons with their brand-new Wild Goose 250 canning line, Ska Fab Depalletizer, and Twist Rinse. With their four-head filler, they’re pushing about thirty-six cans a minute.
Look for 2920 IPA, Agua Fria Pilsner, and Boneshaker Bitter cans at the aforementioned locations, or if you’re in Santa Fe, pick some up at the brewery and bring them to your friends who write about beer. (Just a suggestion.) All joking aside, even with a great can design, it still comes down to taste. And, taste now depends on you, the consumer, to grab a six-pack from a store in your area and decide what you think of Second Street Brewery for yourself. But, whatever your opinion may be, isn’t it nice to know that you can? To new avenues of brewery success!
For more @nmdarksidebc and #CraftBeer news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. IG: @lostgramsofluke because why the hell not? Untappd: SantaFeLuke. PS Save the elephants and polar bears!