A Two Hearted Tale Film Screening
A Two Hearted Tale is a heartfelt look at the history of the iconic trout label adorning the most popular IPA beer in America, and its eccentric artist, Ladislav Hanka.
November 30 – December 15, 2023 – Join us for daily screenings at the Museum Monday – Saturday at 3 pm. Thursdays, join us for an additional screening at 7 pm
Wednesday, December 6, 5 pm, Room 165 – Join us for a special screening followed by a Q&A with the directors.
This film was co-directed by Bret Miller and Rory K McHarg.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT by Rory McHarg
My Father was a keen angler who cast his line for the elusive brown trout along the wild rivers of Aotearoa (New Zealand), my native country. The testament of a man’s patience, he would say. I fondly remember the ritual of ‘cracking a cold one,’ reserved for the end of the day. He’d tally his catches and near misses – “the ones that got away.” A classic tall tale usually followed, a fantastic odyssey of man versus beast, a cunning tussle through rapids, rocks, and snagged lines. Beer and fishing go hand in hand, but the animal itself had never been used as a marketing tool, let alone the face of a brand, until the introduction of the iconic Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. A fish on a label seemed odd, but devoted beer drinkers quickly fell in love. It has long got me thinking about what makes a great beer label.
It seemed destined that monotonous corporate branding from every major brewing company would overrun store shelves. Miller to Anheuser-Busch, Coors to Stroh’s. But then, sometime in the late ’80s, emerged a label with a trout on it. Did the beer taste fishy? Of course not; the art was curated separately from the product—an eccentric strategy. Upon closer inspection, all of Larry Bell’s classic brews demanded an eccentric visual to engage customers. Each recipe had a distinct taste, a sense of place—wonder and escapism, yearning for a visual representation to match. A taste revolution took place that would change the values of our social currency through the rise of scarcity. Enter craft brewing.
With this in mind, this film began by examining a story from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Larry Bell started brewing and opened a home-brew shop in 1983. Larry had met the naturalist artist Ladislav Hanka, whom he asked to create illustrations as labels for his beer. What was the rhyme or reason behind each image? Were they connected? Or were they simply arbitrary muses? Regardless, the artwork was unconventional, unlike anything we’d seen before in the brewing industry.
Today, I find myself fascinated as I stroll down the beer aisle at the local market. Most companies have a unified theme or style, but not Bell’s. Every label is wildly different. There is no brand consistency; it breaks every rule in design, and the most famous one has an anatomical trout illustration accompanied by a sticker saying “America’s No.1 IPA!”