Traveling Artist is Visiting Every Contiguous U.S. State to Design a Craft Beer Label


Article written by Heidi Geist of 48 Beer Project

I grew up an explorer of the great Western United States. Our family had an orange, 73’ Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top, that we used for weekend jaunts into the desert and sometimes month-long road trips around the country. We were always hiking, backpacking, seeking remains of historical sites, and most often these were the “off trail” places…the ones left untouched for sometimes hundreds of years. The wanderlust runs deep in my being!

I have lived on the East Coast for almost 12 years now. Maine has provided me a fantastic foundation as an artist. Portland, especially, is a hotspot for creative people from all realms, including culinary arts (as it is known for), music, visual and performing arts, and everything in between. The past three years, I have been able to make my living as a freelance artist, doing almost strictly beer labels. I work with breweries from all over the country, having started with the ever-ever-popular Bissell Brothers, right in Portland.

Last February, I was at a critical point, a crossroads, as both my apartment and art studio leases were coming up, and my need to move was aching intensely. I thought, I can design beer labels from anywhere, and I want to live minimally and spend more time engaging with the outdoors again, and have new experiences with new people!

And I bought the bus.

school bus home

Two + long, hot summer months of 12-16 hour days, and I had transformed the bus into my new home/art studio.

The 48 Beer Project was scheduled to kick off September 5th, 2018 at Liquid Riot in Portland, ME. I hit the road that Saturday.

Strange, it never took any adjusting to living in my micro bus…in dirty parking lots, with exaggerated lighting, and 24-hour noise. In the beginning, I sought out campgrounds, where I could shower, plug-in if necessary (I have a Goal Zero Yeti 1250 generator and currently 2×100 watt panels), and not be bothered by cops. However, that was getting expensive and I realized I’d have to just get more creative!

I have really been lucky with showers…stumbling on breweries that had showers, learning how to sneak into camp grounds to shower… ssshhhhh…but that started getting complicated once it left the country for the congested East Coast cities! I finally broke down and got a Planet Fitness Black card… and, honestly, I’m grateful I did, because I have put on a good 10 lbs since starting this trip! It is amazing how fast the weight will add up when you live at breweries and drink free beer any time you want!!

That is definitely one of my biggest challenges to date…staying in shape! I lost weight and toned up over the summer, with the bus build, and have seen all that vanish now….haha. Finding a rhythm in all this is a priority. I not only built the bus out myself, but am the sole planner and organize for the project, so there is a lot to keep up with.

The 48 Beer Project is a cultural exploration of the craft beer industry, with all its fans, brewers, distributors, with the food trucks that often grace the brewery lots, and musicians entertaining beer drinkers… through conversations, interviews, photo and video documenting and blogging.

As a more concrete aspect of the project, I am collaborating with 48 breweries-one per state of the lower 48-on beer labels, over the course of a year. As I write this, I am sitting in Virginia, where my 10th collaboration is unfolding. I started in Maine with Allagash Brewing Co., and have been making my way down the coast.

foam brewers craft beer label

Credit: Foam Brewers


People at breweries and outside the breweries have been so incredibly generous and kind. This is something I have always found to be true when on the road…in all my past travels, I have engaged in some of the most genuine conversations with perfect strangers. Folks have always offered up meals, beds, showers, rides, etc. This trip has been no exception!

In a time when there seems to be a great divide in our country/culture, I hope to highlight all the good that lies within everyone. Craft beer has played a large role in weaving together this sense of community…building taprooms that feel like your living room, with people from all walks of life, hanging out together, sharing in a common love. Beer unites! (to borrow from Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, MD)

I have a long road ahead of me, and I couldn’t be more excited! Craft beer, art, social and nature exploration… from the comfort of my self-built “skoolie”…what more could a person ask for?!

You can check out more of Heidi’s adventures on her Instagram @48beerproject

48 beer project


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