Dean McKeever is a freelance illustrator who specializes in eye-catching, colorful illustrations and designs.  

He has worked on custom commissions, designed skateboard backs and even has his own line of illustrated glassware – but he is perhaps best known for creating some of the most iconic packaging in the craft beer industry.  

Producer Dave Fraser shares this story. 

Dean McKeever shares how two of his labels were supersized to serve as murals in Vanish Valley Brewing’s taprooms in a digital exclusive clip. 

Read the full transcript:

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: When you look at the myriad of craft beers that are available on the shelves these days, what sets one apart from the other?

If you ask illustrator Dean McKeever, it’s the label.

Dean McKeever, Illustrator: Bright. Colorful. Pops off the shelf to catch the customer’s eye in the store. Because nowadays you walk into any store, especially like a craft beer store, and there’s 1,000 different IPAs to choose from, and you’ve got to pick somehow.

So, I like to think that my artwork helps, you know, helps the customer decide. This right here was actually my first label.

Dave Fraser: McKeever is the man behind Keever Art and is the illustrator behind some of New England’s most sought-after beer labels. A lifelong illustrator and designer and son of an artist, he says he was always known as the artistic kid in class while growing up.

Today, he works out of a converted bedroom turned studio in his East Longmeadow home.

Dean McKeever: This is like my haven up here. You know, I’m surrounded by my collection, too — I collect oddities and vintage stuff, basically.

It’s just — I like to surround myself with my collection, and, you know, I like to say I sort of take the energy from those objects and infuse them into my work, but that might just be a cop out so that I can collect more cool stuff.

Dave Fraser: McKeever’s Illustrations can be found on the labels of craft breweries throughout New England. But he says it all started back in 2015 with an email he sent to Treehouse Brewing offering his services.

Dean McKeever: It was great to start with them, you know, while they were kind of still in their early stages, kind of like I was in my career. Of course, they’ve exploded to crazy heights now, but it really opened up my career to other breweries and industries and it was kind of what gave me my leg up into the industry.

I have a million and one brushes I can use….

Dave Fraser: What starts as a simple idea on his iPad becomes the face of the beer that helps attract new customers and separates one brand from the rest of the market.

Dean McKeever: The brewery will usually give me a basic guideline of what they’re looking for. For example, if it is a darker beer, they’ll want like maybe some more monochromatic colors. If it’s a brighter, hoppy beer, you know, in the opposite direction, some more color pops and that sort of thing.

So, this one was for Vanished Valley Brewing and Ludlow, it’s called Look to the Valley. So, I wanted to use like a lookout tower. You can see the guy up here sort of looking at the misty valley and got the fall foliage and just really wanted to capture that sort of New England vibe in the fall. I’d like to think I achieved that.

Just make sure you hand-wash them, okay? They’ll last forever.

Dave Fraser: Along with his beer can illustrations, McKeever and his wife started making a line of glassware with his unique artwork called Keever Glass.

Dean McKeever: It’s meant to mimic the shape of a beer can.

It’s just been so fun, like a nice side creative outlet for me. Because I love working with my breweries and my clients and, you know, getting art directed by the higher ups to deliver imagery that they want for their brand, but Keever Glass is great because my wife and I are in control of it, you know. We brainstorm all the imagery and the ideas and it’s super fun to ship our glassware literally all over the world.

Something you can hold, but it’s a usable piece of art, which I think is really cool and it’s right in that beer — craft beer industry that I’m comfortable with.

Dave Fraser: McKeever has done hundreds of labels over the years, and each one is unique. But one thing he didn’t expect was that after the beer has been consumed, some of the labels live on.

Dean McKeever: People turn it into coasters, keychains, like, light switch covers. People will cut the top off the can and plant succulents in them once the beer has been consumed. It’s — it’s kind of about my artwork at that point and it gives it like a new life, which is pretty neat to see.