Phil Lewis /

I remember the first time I flipped through Ram Dass’s classic Be Here Now. The spiritual book first published in 1971 features illustrations that made me feel funny -- in a good way. Phil Lewis’ artwork isn’t quite as trippy, but I challenge you to look at it and not feel like it has flipped a light switch in your brain. This Boulder, Colorado-based artist draws nature landscapes with some distinctly psychedelic overtones. And he’s a serious craft beer drinker. I wanted to have a brew with him and pick his brain about art and the alcoholic beverage we both love.

Welcome to Let’s Have a Beer With…, an ongoing series in which I sit down with interesting Americans and talk to them about their lives and love of beer. If you’re thinking this might just be an excuse for me to expense free beer at some great bars and’re not wrong! But it’s also a nice reminder that having a beer with a stranger is the first step towards making a new friend.

So let’s have a beer with Phil Lewis, shall we?

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We sit down at Fate Brewing Company, which, like many growing breweries, also cans and bottles its beers. I've been here for lunch and dinner a couple of times, but Phil is a little more familiar with its beer list than I am. (So much for me being the The Beer Industry Professional.)

“There's a really good Kölsch, and a good IPA,” he recommends. “And a coffee IPA.”

I smile and appreciate his recommendations, but I'm ordering a grand total of none of those beers, as I have something else in mind. This new friendship is off to a great start!

He orders a Moirai IPA -- one of Fate's flagships -- and I get Savor the Haze, a New England-style IPA collaboration with the fantastic Reuben's Brews out of Seattle. Give me a beer that tastes like orange juice, all day.

With that, we clink our glasses, and I start getting nosy.

On growing up in the outdoors:

“I have two younger brothers, so we were always outside. I grew up running around, riding bikes, digging holes, playing in the creek. It was long before smartphones and all that.”

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Why the landscapes in his art seem pretty…trippy:

“In some cases [that word] can pigeonhole [my art]. But it’s been years and years since I’ve 'experimented'. I do feel like it opens your minds to new ways of seeing the world. And once that door’s open, you can’t close it. I appreciate having been exposed to all that stuff in my earlier years, and forging that path.”

How fantastical creatures end up in his art:

“I have somewhat of a photographic memory for scenes, places I’ve visited and things I’ve experienced. Sometimes I can so clearly remember what something looks like, especially if it’s a cool place like the sand dunes. I feel like I can take a mental snapshot of something I might try to capture, and when it comes out again, it may not look exactly like that. But my visual memory helps inspire settings for the art.”

How he creates his art:

Draws freehand with pencil on paper, scans it into Photoshop, and then “starts to build in layers of colors, shading, lighting, and effects, and Photoshop wizardry.”

His favorite Colorado brew:

F.Y.I.P.A. is my go-to everytime I'm at Mountain Sun. I'm a longtime fan.”

On beer label art:

“I always try to notice visuals, what’s coming at me visually. Some breweries like Odd13 does some radical cans that are out of this world. Like Robot Librarian. It’s different!”

What it looked like when he designed a label for a Twisted Pine saison:


Upon reflection, our conversation was a reminder of just how subjective art and beer both are. One man’s whale is another’s drain pour. And if you think Salvador Dali’s art is trash, it’s your right to believe it (but you’re wrong).

“Art is like a mirror in some ways,” Lewis explains. “You’re looking into it, but what you’re seeing is a reflection of your own existence, your own experience. How does it make you feel? It makes everyone feel something different. That’s the beauty of it.”

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