Dogs are a familiar sight on beer labels. Illinois’ Lake Bluff Brewing Co. Kosmonaut Imperial Stout features an illustration of Laika, the first dog in space. Many of the beers from Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery are decorated with bizarre-looking pooches by surrealistic illustrator Ralph Steadman, co-collaborator of the late Hunter S. Thompson. Lagunitas Brewing Co. has a dog for its logo, a pit bull inspired by Petey from The Little Rascals.
But other beer labels feature dogs that may not be famous but are even more loved: Many brewers have chosen to unite two loves by immortalizing their own dogs on labels.
Ohio’s Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. has made spotlighting and helping dogs a foundation of its culture. Almost all the Thirsty Dog labels feature dogs rescued by employees, like Rufus and Leo, who appear on Twisted Kilt and Citra Dog, respectively. As co-owner John Patrick Najeway explains, when the brewery began in 1997, Thirsty Dog’s founders all had dogs who were always lapping up water, much like they wanted thirsty people to lap up the beer. (But beer for dogs? Never!)
Thirsty Dog’s first beer to feature a dog on the label was Old Leghumper, but the dog and name didn’t actually match. Francis Edgar, the black lab who appeared on that beer, wasn’t much of a humper at all, but that was the favorite pastime of Najeway’s dog Max, a yellow lab who “would grab the blanket off your lap and hump it, hump the couch, etc,” writes Najeway. But Max was more than a randy source of comedy: He was a hero. In 2008, just hours after he woke his family to alert them that a fire had broken out in their home, Max died from a stroke. The picture on Labrador Lager is from Max’s last day.
Thirsty Dog has made honoring dogs like Max a custom, but it’s far from the only dog-loving brewery. The following are some of the dogs you’re most likely to see up close while drinking a beer—and like a good beer, all the dogs come with a good story or two.
Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale
Perhaps the most famous of beer-label dogs is Ellie, the chocolate lab featured on Ellie’s Brown Ale—but she was actually named Elle. Thanks to the fashion magazine of the same name, a slight name switch was necessary for the beer. Avery Brewing Co.’s co-founder Adam Avery speaks lovingly of Elle, who died in 2002 after living nearly 11 years. She was a very active dog who loved outdoor adventures, including rock climbing. Elle also enjoyed swimming—no matter how cold the water—and would play fetch until Avery felt like his “arm would fall off.” Avery got her in 1992, just as plans for Avery Brewing were coming together, and he planned from the beginning to put her on the label of a brown ale: in fact, Ellie’s Brown Ale was one of Avery’s first three beers. As for the appeal of dogs and beer together, Avery says, “Dogs are companions. Beer is like a companion, too.”
Smuttynose Old Brown Dog
Olive, a Brittany spaniel-Weimaraner cross, appears on this label and belonged to Smuttynose Brewing co-owners Peter Egelston and Joanne Francis. Publicity and communications manager JT Thompson says Olive “was adopted in the early ’90s and was rescued from potential life as a hunting dog to become a beer label model and queen of the roost.” Olive was too much dog for just one label. She also appears on Really Old Brown Dog, which is part of Smuttynose’s Big Beer series. Thompson recalls, “The beer was originally conceived as a tribute beer, but it sadly became a memorial beer between conception and release. That label shows an older Olive, reclining in her favorite chair, which was strategically positioned on her favorite beach, the epitome of regal repose.”’
Modus Operandi Black Lab Milk Stout
Stout—a fitting name for the dog of Modus Operandi Brewing owners Jaz and Grant Wearin—is a 16-month-old bundle of energy. Marketing and venue manager Alison Brooker says that Stout is just as old as the Australian brewery, so naming a beer after him was fitting. Stout is a rambunctious fellow, as you’d expect from a pooch not far removed from puppyhood. As Brooker puts it, “He chews everything! He has slowly managed to eat enough of the brewery Jenga blocks that it makes winning a game almost impossible, as there aren’t quite enough left to make it fall! He has had many dog classes and is taught not to beg for food at home, but that training is all wasted as he manages to get plenty of food from customers who love his big brown eyes.”
Mogli was a black lab and constant presence at Caldera Brewing’s Tap House in Ashland, Oregon. A happy, playful dog, Mogli would chase just about anything that could be thrown, but had a preference for sticks. Brand manager Ray Cato says this rescue puppy was “everyone’s friend” until dying of old age at 14. With Mogli’s “huge personality,” it was a no-brainer to name a big beer after him: This chocolate bourbon oak-aged imperial porter is as far from a session beer as can be. Mogli also appears on Bourbon Barrel Aged Mogli, another rich, flavorful, huge beer that’s comparable to Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Caldera continues to be a dog-friendly brewery, as its Brewery Bar has a dog table and dog-friendly area.
Bam Bière Farmhouse Ale
Jolly Pumpkin founders Ron and Laurie Jeffries are huge animal lovers, and they have plenty of dogs, cats and horses. One of the dogs—Bam, a Jack Russell terrier—is a rambunctious type, always out in the yard digging, either to track down rabbits, make an escape attempt, or just burn his inexhaustible terrier energy. One day in 2005, Bam made it past the fence and onto the road. Laurie caught up just in time to hear a screech and see Bam bounce from the impact of a car. Remarkably, Bam suffered no ill effects other than some heavy bruising and a subsequent dislike of cars. After this near-miracle, Laurie demanded that they make a beer for Bam, which became Bam Bière Farmhouse Ale, with a portrait of Bam by artist Adam Forman on the label. Bam is 14 now, but he’s still quite a digger, and while he’s not fond of seeing cars, he loves getting in one for a ride. As for the appeal of dogs on beer labels, Ron Jeffries cites the joy of the canine-human bond: “Everyone loves their dog so much. You put a dog on a label and everyone loses their mind.”
Foothills Brewing IPA of the Month
When Foothills was planning its IPA of the Month series for 2015, the brewers received a sign—not from God, but from dog. That sign was brewery dog Barley barging into the room with a bunch of labels for their Hoppyum beer in his mouth and trailing behind him. As they tried to get the labels away from the playful golden retriever puppy, the decision to put a different dog on each month’s label was a no-brainer. Barley—who has his own Instagram account—is prone to mischief but is “one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known,” raves director of marketing and communications Ray Goodrich. Barley is a constant source of entertainment in the office, and maybe a little too smart for his own good: at one point, he learned how to drink out of a water cooler. Goodrich praised the speed and hearing of Barley, “a gold blur” bounding around the office who “can hear the microwave beep from, I think, anywhere on the planet.”
To find dogs besides Barley, Foothills took to social media—it had to select from 1,500 submissions, ending up with about a dozen dogs: Some months featured two pooches, like July. That’s when two of actor Wil Wheaton’s pit bulls appeared, portrayed in “retro space suit art” by Kyle Webster, who does all the brewery’s labels. The 12th dog label ended up being a memorial—to Violet, a St. Bernard who died of bone cancer after entering the contest. Violet’s owners ended up driving from Atlanta to the brewery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the beer’s release. That kind of love never dies, even though our beloved dogs do.
Laughing Dog CSB
Idaho’s Laughing Dog Brewery was another beneficiary of a dog omen. Back when owner and brewer Fred Colby was still planning the brewery, a friend said this of his yellow lab, Ben: “Your dog is laughing. He’s a real laughing dog.” That became the name of the brewery, and a picture of Ben forms the logo that appears on all products. While Ben—now enjoying his old age at 13—has been a sweet dog his whole life, he did have at least one bad habit. That habit inspired the CSB beer: Crotch Sniffing Bastard. As for why beer and dogs go together so well, Colby has a simple answer: “They’re both man’s best friend.”