The Secret Origin of Galaxy-Hero | Revolution Brewing
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The Secret Origin of Galaxy-Hero

It’s been a momentous 2020 for Revolution so far. This year not only marks the tenth anniversary of Revolution, it’s also our eighth year as the official beer sponsor of C2E2 – the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo. So while Anti-Hero continues to lead the charge for us, this is the time of year when we spend a little more time celebrating all things Galaxy-Hero.

With roughly two dozen members of the League of Heroes (and more joining all the time), it’s easy to take our comic book influenced style for granted. But originally, Galaxy-Hero was more of a one-off concept. Our other label characters included Anti-Hero, yes, but also brewer Matty Kemp, the personification of grassroots organizations, and former socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs. Then, in 2013, Rev entered into a partnership with C2E2 and needed an official beer to mark the occasion – and Galaxy-Hero was born. Thanks to the skill of Revolution’s brewers and a shifting consumer preference toward fruit-forward tropical hops, it stuck around and then some.

It Starts With a Hero

Believe it or not, IPA was not always talked about as “tropical.” When Brewmaster Jim Cibak and the team created the first batch of Galaxy-Hero, the namesake Australian hop was relatively new and incredibly hard to secure.

“This was a beer that was originally just meant to be served at C2E2. Back then, Galaxy hops used to be incredibly difficult to find. Production eventually caught up with demand from brewers, but Galaxy-Hero was one of a select few at the beginning,” Cibak said.

Once Cibak and team secured enough Galaxy, they set about building an IPA to showcase the properties that would make it a craft darling for years to come.

“Galaxy brings low bitterness, with citrus and passionfruit shining through. We complemented that with a toasty malt base and much lower proportions of Centennial and Cascade in the dry hop,” he said. “They let the tropical fruit flavors of Galaxy shine while mellowing out the harsher grassy notes that can appear at higher concentrations.”

For the look of the beer, Revolution founders Josh Deth and Krista Sahakian turned to Ian Law, who created (and still creates) the unmistakable graphic look of Revolution’s beers.

“We had a few different directions in those early days. Designs had to be edgy and graphic enough to stand out. But it was also important to be fun and identifiable,” he said. “The only directive with Galaxy-Hero was to do a comic collaboration. It felt a little more retro at the time, with the character standing on a planet and the spaceship.”

Following the success of that first beer, Galaxy-Hero eventually found a whole League of Heroes, with the ninth iteration of the IPA variety pack on the horizon. As Law recollects, that shift happened naturally, rather than by design.

“I don’t know if there was ever a ‘this is where we’re going’ moment, but it just kind of went from Galaxy to an entire line of Hero beers when the style began doing so well. It just grew and grew from there,” Law said. “It just seemed natural, and it’s cool to see how things have grown up from that first design. There weren’t a lot of borders or restrictions on what we could do.”

Galaxy-Hero: Sketch to Label

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Comics and Beer: Faithful Comrades and Allies

It’s easy to take the comic book aesthetic’s place in craft beer for granted. From labels to merchandise to the branding of entire breweries, much of craft beer is awash in the colors, graphics, and tropes familiar to anyone who spent their youth tracking down their favorite story arcs. But it wasn’t always the way of things. And according to C.B. Cebulski, editor in chief of Marvel Comics, part of that was due to a misperception on the part of those tasked with messaging the nascent craft brew scene.

“I hate to talk stereotypes, but for years, there was this complete misconception that comic fans might not be big into beer,” Cebulski said. “That they’re not social, that they'd rather spend their money on comics, or whatever. What people weren’t realizing was that comic book fans are huge beer fans.”

Craft beer, Celbulski said, appeals to a lot of the same social, passionate, and compulsive traits that have made comics such an ascendant form of pop culture. Assisted by a new generation of brewers making the beer they want, with the aesthetic they want, comics are as ascendant in beer as they are everywhere else in our cultural moment.

“I think that's why particularly now, craft beer appeals to comic book fans. Just like with new series, issues, and crossovers, there’s always something new, or a different variant,” he said. “You can buy a beer and enjoy it on their own And then once you've enjoyed it, just like once you've read your comic, you go back to the shop, or to the brewery, or the bar, or online, and talk about and share your experiences with it. You change your opinions, change someone else’s, and you participate in that community.”

“I used to work with a lot of people very into beer, who would give me crap about my comic book collecting,” added artist Matthew Waite. “And then I’d point out that we’re doing the exact same thing -- trying to chase down limited editions, spending a ridiculous amount of money on a variant, putting together trades -- we're exactly the same.”

Click for a Bonus Secret Origin Story!

It’s no secret that Zombie Dust IPA has helped boost our neighbors at 3 Floyds to huge success. What you might not know is that it originally started as a beer created for C2E2, as a couple of one-off kegs for the hotel adjacent to McCormick Place. The beer got a tremendous reception, the brewery decided to bring it back, and the rest is history. But originally, it was the first beer ever brewed specifically for a comic book convention.

And if you look at the label of Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds (illustrated by longtime comic book artist Tim Seeley), it’s full of easter egg tributes to comic books – that recognizable Captain America “A” on the crown, a spider on the chestplate, and a hammer that will look familiar to anyone who can name Loki’s heroic brother. Look a little closer and you’ll see a stylized CB in the center of the hammer – a tribute to Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski.

Turning Beer Into a Comic

When 2016 rolled around, we added “comic book producer” to our list of things we’d always wanted to do and subsequently did. It wasn’t necessarily easy to build an entire world out of a character who had only ever existed on a beer label, but we found the right collaborators to bring the Galaxy-Hero (and the rest of the League) to life. The Salsa Sharks – a team consisting of illustrators Melissa Sue Stanley and Max Bare – provided the art, while Dave Schneider provided the wit, the plot, and a walrus in a bowler hat. Galaxy-Hero’s origin came via a fan contest, and the Sharks and Dave filled in the rest.

“We didn't have as much to work with because there wasn’t an entire League of Heroes yet. And we had a lot of creative freedom, which was great,” Stanley said. “And that's why the first couple of issues are full of the Walrus Man, and Doctor Skunk, and a murderous shrimp, because we didn't have anybody else! I think my favorite part is that it doesn’t at all feel like a corporate-directed comic.”

Five issues in, the comic team has imbued a whole range of hop Heroes with their own unique powers and personalities.

“We look at the characters and we always have come to a consensus. Crystal-Hero is like a golden retriever who also happens to be Superman,” Bare said. “But you can’t populate an entire universe with skin-swapped versions of Superman or it gets boring fast.”

“When we were designing an idea for Mosaic-Hero, it occurred to us that we could use that idea of change to create a gender-fluid character. Mosaic is definitely feminine in issue #2, then more ambiguous as they change in reaction to the situation around them,” Stanley said. “Obviously Anti-Hero came with a lot more built in, and he makes a great mastermind for the League. His name is his character, like Punisher or Wolverine. And the fact that he doesn’t get along with Galaxy just seemed natural.”

The result, up through the thrilling ending of issue five, is a high-action universe packed with cosmic peril, mantis shrimp, mycelium fungus, ancient temples, and an all-consuming robot empire. It just so happens to also have some beer mascots you know and love hanging out too.

The Adventures of Galaxy-Hero

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New Allies and Powers

Revolution has evolved a lot from the newly packaging brewery that released Galaxy-Hero for the first time in 2013. We’ve undergone expansions, elevated some beers, and sidelined others. We’re now the largest independently owned brewery in Illinois, and the 38th largest in the country. And like Revolution, Galaxy-Hero has changed with the times. He’s been double dry-hopped, he returned for the eighth volume of the League of Heroes in a Hazy IPA version, and most recently got the Hazy DDH treatment as part of our small batch program. Other members of the League will join him there, getting their own recipe tweaks, new looks, and massive infusions of American hops. And the League will continue to grow as our brewers continue to explore new possibilities in hops and styles.

Galaxy-Hero has had quite a journey – both on the page and in your glass. We hope you’ll join us at C2E2 to enjoy a cold beer and toast the adventure so far.

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Availability

Galaxy-Hero: Available only at C2E2

Galaxy-Hero with Haze: Available in the League of Heroes IPA variety pack, Issue 8

DDH Galaxy-Hero: Available in four-packs at the Brewery and at retailers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for a limited time