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BEER WEEK: Art Show Features Bottle Labels

Artist Sean Dominguez with his work.
Courtesy photo

Four years ago, Vince and Gina Marsaglia, the owners of Port Brewing Company and Pizza Port (San Diego’s famed franchise for pie-and-pints), decided to develop a line of high-end beers based on the ambitious recipes of head brewer Tomme Arthur. This was the genesis for The Lost Abbey, an operation now renowned throughout the nation. From the get-go, quality was the focus of this venture, from each distinctive brew to the bottles that would house them.

The Marsaglias wanted each bottle to feature distinctive artwork that was aesthetically pleasing and illustrative of their brand, which revolves around the holy struggle between good and evil, Heaven and Hell. It’s admittedly heavy stuff, especially for a brewery. Finding the right artist to communicate such a concept might seem a daunting task, but fortunately for the Marsaglias, the right guy for the job was already on the payroll.

“I’ve always loved [Port Brewing] beer,” says Sean Dominguez. “I was a regular at Pizza Port. Vince and Gina heard I was an artist and they approached me about doing some t-shirt work for them five or six years ago.”

At the outset of The Lost Abbey project, the Marsaglias asked Dominguez if he’d like to contribute his artistic flare. He jumped at the chance. His first assignment was designing a logo, and working closely with Arthur, he crafted a Celtic cross incorporating the four essential elements of brewing—barley, hops, water and yeast. Bottle art followed as each new brew was developed.

The devil’s in the details is a popular adage, but in the case of Dominguez’s work, it’s often a literal statement. Some of his darker work for brews like Inferno Ale and the yet-to-be released Deliverance actually feature Satan and his minions, via intricately detailed canvass paintings. Related biblical figures, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, find their way onto bottles of Judgment Day Ale. But sinners and saints alike get plenty of face-time. Good guys like Moses, Adam and Eve and the three wise men adorn 10 Commandments Ale, Serpent’s Stout and Gift of the Magi Ale, respectively.

Dominguez’s portfolio is diversified by pencil and chalk sketches of simpler scenes like a Belgian countryside, a French tablescape and ducks swimming in a pond with a (rather devilish-looking) goose, as well as intriguing drawings of cherries pressing through an hourglass and a montage of Mardi Gras-style masks, the latter of which shows up, appropriately enough, on bottles of Carnevale Ale.

Lost Abbey beer at Jsix.
Courtesy photo

“I see my art everywhere,” says Dominguez, noting BevMo outlets and liquor stores as showplaces for his handiwork. Thanks to The Lost Abbey Art Show held as part of the 10-day San Diego Beer Week, he can add Jsix to the list.

On Thursday, more than 150 people came to the Hotel Solamar’s restaurant to view his array of labels. Big name brewing industry personalities and the media were on-hand. So, too, were everyday lookie-loos, who had never viewed or perhaps seen but merely never lingered over what is an impressive collection of work.

Of working with The Lost Abbey, Dominguez says: “I’m here where I want to be, and so happy. Tomme and the Marsaglias have trust in my art and I enjoy the perks of drinking the beer. It’s been really fun.”

Of the event, Arthur, who’s always wanted to see Dominguez’s creativity and hard work on display says, “It was an epic night for sure. It was so great to see everyone there for Sean. I feel blessed to have such a talented guy on our side.”

Details »
  • City: San Marcos
  • Phone: 800-918-6816
  • Name: The Lost Abbey
  • Address: 155 Mata Way