A few weeks back, we hosted a design contest for our upcoming weeklong celebration of women in craft beer: Beers With(out) Beards. We received some awesome submissions but were immediately enamored with the artwork that Kailah Ogawa submitted. It was minimalist, yet evocative. She had created a diverse tapestry of hands holding different shapes of glasses, cans, and bottles. It was like a gorgeous game of Eye Spy game with little easter eggs–a tattoo on one wrist, bangles adorning another, sharp nails grasping a beer.

Ogawa’s art captured the message behind Beers With(out) Beards: Beer is for everyone. “I wanted to celebrate the deep sense of community (and there is a large female community!) at the heart of beer culture,” Ogawa wrote in her submission. “Beer is not about being the sexiest, or being the smartest, or what color you are, or having the most money, or being able to drink the most. At the end of the day, and the reason that I love beer and why it’s become a part of my life, is that it’s simply about getting together with good beer and good people, toasting, relaxing, letting your guard down to celebrate whatever it is, big or small.”

Our mission with Beers With(out) Beards is to celebrate the community of women in craft beer. We can do that through conversations about the history of brewing or the present culture of drinking, through enjoying beer brewed by kickass ladies, and through creating inclusive artwork.

We chatted with Ogawa, who was born in a small town in Hawai’i and now works in California, about breweries killing the art game, her desert island beer, and where she got her start in design.

John Paradiso: How did you get your start in design and in creating art?

Kailah Ogawa: In elementary school, I won a food safety poster contest for my local grocery store. It was a hand-drawn poster of a person–my brother (laughs)–on the toilet wishing that he paid better attention to the expiration date labels. My poster was displayed above the check out lines for the whole town to see, and the first place prize was a really cool lighting lamp. I never looked back.

JP: How would you describe your style?

KO: I’m still figuring this one out. My style and influences slightly fluctuate as I’m continuously deciding on what interests me. In this way, each drawing is kind of an experiment or a way to play around with new techniques or ideas. I just try to have as much fun as I can, and work on caring less about what people may think about it. Life is too short.

JP: How did you get into craft beer?

KO: There was a time when I could not stand the taste of beer. Then I made some craft-beer-loving friends — the rest is history. Craft beer is incredibly contagious.

JP: What’s your desert island beer?

KO: Cali Creamin’, because then I can escape to a poolside BBQ in Palm Springs. That’s the first time I had that beer, and that’s where that taste always takes me.

JP: There is plenty of cool art in the beer world! Any breweries whose label art or branding you admire?

KO: The artist in me instantly says Mikkeller — they’ve got a look that is both distinct and playful, just like their beers. On the other hand, the designer in me says Almanac (especially their Grand Cru bottles *swoon*). Their high level of respect for well-done lettering and illustration makes me feel all sorts of tingly.

JP: How did you create the awesome artwork that you submitted?

KO: Fun fact: those hands are all based on my hands! Other than that, nothing special. Just a few rounds of pencil sketches brought into illustrator and photoshop for a final rendering.

JP: You included some beautiful words in your submission about the community of women in the beer scene. Can you elaborate on that? What are the ways we can continue to elevate the role of women in the craft beer community?

KO: The beauty of good beer is that it’s up for discussion. Taste is a personal and intimate experience, so everyone has a right to an opinion and a voice to the conversation. In that sense, I’m not so sure that it’s women that need to be elevated, but simply more involved. I think if we just consciously keep the circle open — whether it’s through language, imagery, or messaging — the love of beer will do the rest. Cheers!

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