The concept for the book cover of KC Ale Trail originated in 2014 with a photography shoot at The Belfry in Downtown Kansas City on this day, seven years ago.

Designer Eric Schotland and author Pete Dulin met at The Belfry, a craft beer, bourbon, and cocktail lounge, to collaborate on Dulin’s idea for the book cover. Published in November of 2014, KC Ale Trail featured 23 profiles of craft breweries in Kansas City, Springfield, Missouri, and Lawrence, Topeka, and Manhattan in Kansas.

“The book covered nearly two-dozen breweries that operated at the time in five cities across the region,” Dulin says. “Rather than highlight a specific brewery or display a generic image of beer in a glass on the cover, I wanted something different and more representative of an experience.”

The idea came to mind of photographing two people in a bar as they chatted over a beer. A timeless moment that could happen anyplace at any time. Dulin says, “I wanted a cozy, familiar scene where people could see themselves drinking a beer, talking with a friend, and, of course, reading the book to learn about the breweries.”

Several breweries and brewpubs in the book have closed since 2014, including Tallgrass Brewing, 75th Street Brewery, and McCoy’s Public House. Other breweries new or established in the early days of the modern craft brewing boom, such as Martin City Brewing and Kansas City Bier Company, have continued to grow.

Left to right: Carrie Alexander, Mickal Burrows, author Pete Dulin, Reuben Johnson, and designer Eric Schotland.

Above, left to right: Carrie Alexander, Mickal Burrows, author Pete Dulin, Reuben Johnson, and designer Eric Schotland.

The Belfry’s warm, cozy vibe and wood bar camed to mind as a good location for a photo shoot. The large windows with natural light enabled Schotland, who designed the book’s cover and interior layout, to take photos without hauling in lighting equipment. Shot in late afternoon, the backlighting from the window worked in favor of the final image.

“I put out a call on social media for a few people to come out, be models, and drink a beer on me,” Dulin said. “Mickal Burrows, Carrie Alexander, and Reuben Johnson showed up to participate in one series of shots.”

Ultimately, Schotland and Dulin decided to use another image instead of the shot featuring Mickal Burrows with Carrie Alexander in the background (right). The final image perfectly captured light filtering through beer in the glasses. “It is subtle but that light and amber-colored beer is a focal point that draws the eye. The silhouette of two people facing each other works because beer is the central element that brought them together. After all, beer is social.”

KC Ale Trail is no longer as a book. Still, its new form as a subscription-based digital magazine exists to explore and highlight the many craft breweries near and far that provide a place for people to gather and connect over a beer.

 

Left to right: Carrie Alexander, Mickal Burrows, author Pete Dulin, Reuben Johnson, and designer Eric Schotland.