Lonely Planet Writer

Travelling artist designs craft beer labels in each US state she visits

Road trips, van life, art and craft beer – Heidi Geist has managed to combine some of the best things in life into an incredible trip around the US.

Heidi is driving around the country in her converted van. Image supplied by Heidi Geist

Heidi has created the 48 Beer Project, which will see the artist travel around the 48 contiguous states, designing a beer label for a brewery in each. Having spent much of her life exploring with her family, Heidi later based herself in Portland, Maine, where she worked as a musician and artist. A few years ago, she began designing beer labels for Bissell Brothers, a popular brewery in Portland, work she decided to pursue further. A couple of years later, the lease ran out on her art studio and Heidi decided it was time to hit the road.

Heidi is designing a beer label for every brewery. Image supplied by Heidi Geist

The idea for the project came from the fact that Heidi could travel while continuing to create beer labels. She also wanted to make the work meaningful, explaining that the craft beer industry is a real community where people of different backgrounds can spend time at communal tables and enjoy. On top of that, the art on labels has also become “nearly as important now as the drink itself”, as the labels help showcase a brewery’s ethos.

Inside the converted van. Image by Heidi Geist

To get started, Heidi spent a summer converting a bus – which meant ripping out everything from inside and rebuilding it into a functional home. At only 70-square-feet, every inch had to count, and while she had done some crafting and building in the past, she had to learn most of the process through research.

“It was an incredible challenge, and I’m grateful I did it myself, because I know every bit of this thing! She is still a work in progress though. I built a roof deck, but no ladder yet to access it. She has a composting toilet and fridge, a sink and a very comfy bed. It was definitely necessary to make this bus as self-sustaining as possible”.

Now she’s on the road, making her way between the breweries. She has already selected the ones she is working with, choosing breweries that have a sense of community, give back to the community and support local business. She’s wrapped up six, staring with Allagash Brewing in Maine, then on to Foam Brewers in Vermont, Plan Bee Farm Brewery in New York, Trillium in Massachusetts, Long Live Beerworks in Rhode Island, and Beer’d Brewing Company in Connecticut.

She visits the breweries and even parks her van in the parking lots to help absorb the culture and energy of the brewery before she begins to design.

“The project isn’t my project, though I planned it alone and travel solo. I am doing this because I want to share a new perspective with people, whatever that may be… Each time a stranger offers me a bed, shower, meal, it is a little confirmation of my belief that we are all inherently good, and sometimes just need to be a bit more open-minded – something that travel is the best teacher of”.

If you want to follow her travels – or track down some of the beers – check out her Instagram account.