As the names of all Wise Man brews do, Dance in the Sun came from a quote.
“Let us dance in the sun,” the words from Susan Polis Schutz read, “wearing wildflowers in our hair.”
On a busy Friday night at Wise Man Brewing Company in Winston-Salem, a piece of Laura Lashley’s chromatic artwork found a home not on a canvas, but wrapped around the side of a can. The downtown spot saw four-packs of the brew — and Lashley’s design — bought and carried out as the brewery releases the canned version of their Dance in the Sun kölsch.
Lashley, a Winston-Salem artist known for murals, mandalas and inventive pattern work, collaborated with Wise Man staff to bring the design to life. Upon hearing the namesake of their latest canned beer from taproom manager Dan Rossow, Lashley began envisioning ideas.
For the brewery, the name Dance in the Sun feels more literal. Rossow mentioned how the solar panels on their roof earned Wise Man a place in Brews from the Sun, a national competition for America’s favorite solar-powered microbrewery. He pointed to a screen by the bar displaying a graph keeping measure of the electricity generated by the panels. By Rossow’s estimate, they currently account for around half of the brewery’s power.
“We’re always trying to tell a lot of stories,” Rossow said, “but that’s one not a lot of people know.”
On the can, a scarlet mermaid snakes upward, purple flowers looking like buttons down her underbelly. Petals and unconventional rabbit ears atop her head reach over towards another female figure opposite her. The avian figure soars, her wings sporting jewel tones: purple, teal and gold. Between them, a third woman stands front and center, with striped legs and a ruffled collar of petals. All three wear the same face built from delicate, purposeful lines.
“I wanted to do more realistic people dancing in the sun,” Lashley said, “but all of the sketches I did were bird girls or fish girls.”
More of Lashley’s paintings hang on wooden beams that skyrocket up the left wall of the taproom. Plant matter act as the subjects for vibrant mandalas and animals don human faces as Lashley dips into the whimsy of summer.
Streaks of yellow and teal erupt across a violet and blue background from the somewhat spiked center of flowers, the petals behaving like rays of the sun. They twist and glide across a large canvas that hangs in the center of the wall. Each petal continues to stretch, changing color in an abstract garden. Lashley recalled finishing the piece while sick, naming the work “Pollen Fever.” Like with much of her art, Lashley tried to let her ideas move through her unfettered, attempting not to restrict or change them.
“This is kinda like stream-of-consciousness writing,” Lashley said, “but in drawing.”
The color palette of the can and “Pollen Fever” find their way into more of Lashley’s work, becoming Lashley’s symbol for hot summer days. The coloring for the packaging took on a more collaborative process, as Lashley and Wise Man worked with Big Bridge Design in Asheville. For Lashley, who submitted the design in February, the colors fit the month of release more than the seasonal palette she worked with in the winter.
“The colors that I like in February,” Lashley said, “are not the same colors I like in May.”
The flavor of the brew fits Lashley’s art, as the design embodies the brew. The kölsch follows a style from Cologne, Germany, and carries both the properties of an ale and a lager, as a cross between the two flavors and brewing processes.
The beer tastes at once fruity and earthy, with touches of apple and grape balancing out the bitterness and highlighting the flavor of grain. The subtle natural flavors make it easy to drink. Its pale straw color matches up with the hues in Lashley’s May palette, both the beer and the art seeming light and summery.
“This one is a really crisp and refreshing beer,” Rossow said.
“It’s so refreshing,” Lashley agreed, sipping from her glass.