“I find I get my best ideas while driving,” says Em Sauter, founder of Pints and Panels, her brand of educational cartoons about beer. (“Visual beer education” is what Sauter calls it.)
Ideas are important for creative types like Sauter, which explains the 145,000+ miles she has put on her 2015 Subaru Crosstrek. She purchased the vehicle new in Torrington, Connecticut, from her Subaru salesperson father-in-law, and often drives to pop-up events and speaking engagements for Pints and Panels.
Forging a Path as a Cartoonist
Sauter obtained her Master of Fine Arts in 2011 from The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. She founded Pints and Panels in 2010 while attending art school, but it took over 10 years of hard work before Pints and Panels could become her full-time job.
“I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist all my life,” says Sauter. “I still remember my first cartoon. When I was 4 years old, I drew my first stick figure cartoon, ‘Peter at the bus stop.’ Peter was my imaginary friend.”
The Center for Cartoon Studies was matter of fact in warning its students about the difficulties of cartooning as a profession. “They were very realistic about not being able to make money as a cartoonist,” she says. “But you have to try, and then maybe something happens.”
Sauter received her share of rejection, including from a cartoon editor of an influential national newspaper. “I was straight-up told that my style had nothing unless I was funny. I was devastated.” But setbacks never stopped Sauter from pursuing her passion. “Don’t give up – and have a ton of patience,” she advises. “I lose sight of that sometimes myself, but if you love art, then you have to keep creating it.”
A New Path is Fermented
Sauter discovered good beer in 2006. “I had a Sam Adams white ale while watching the Super Bowl. It was a religious experience. It was this crappy sports bar, and the 25-ounce beer cost $4.50,” she says, noting her ability to remember the strangest things. “I knew, that day, that I would devote my life to beer.”
That memory for details has proven a great asset for Sauter. Evaluating beer requires the ability to remember and describe flavors and chemicals – isoamyl acetate, pentanedione and ethyl caprylate, for example.
Sauter’s ability to memorize such things helped her earn her Advanced Cicerone® designation in 2017, the second-highest designation in the beer service Cicerone Program. And today, she’s a highly sought beer judge, having traveled the world tasting beer at professional brewing competitions across America and in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and Belgium.
“I was driving when I got the idea to combine beer and cartooning,” says Sauter. “I never thought I was a great artist – I still don’t – but I know I have my own style. So, I thought it would be a cool idea to review beer in cartoon form.”
As with all artists, Sauter’s work evolved. From cartoon beer reviews, she shifted into visual beer education, with infographics explaining all aspects of brewing, different beer styles and different hop varieties.
Sauter Expands Her Craft to Books
In 2017, her first book, Beer is for Everyone! (Of Drinking Age), was published by One Peace Books and was followed in 2022 by Hooray for Craft Beer! published by Brewers Publications®. She is now working on a third book in Spanish and Portuguese and a self-published fourth book, a collection of her educational cartoons. Her work has been seen on every continent except Antarctica.
Max Finnance (himself the proud owner of a 2015 Crosstrek with 200,000+ miles) is senior manager of Education & Training at Artisanal Brewing Ventures, which owns the Southern Tier, Victory and Sixpoint beer brands, along with Bold Rock® Hard Cider and Southern Tier Distilling. Finnance is a fan of Pints and Panels and uses it in his work.
“Em’s work is approachable and easy to digest. Combined with the colorful nature and a bit of whimsy, it livens up an otherwise dense PowerPoint training,” he says. “I love how Em distills difficult concepts down to easy-to-grasp ideas. Their approachability makes beer education accessible to audiences that may not otherwise be interested in reading a more traditional textbook or may have felt unwelcome in a more traditional craft beer environment.”
Trekking Across the States in a Crosstrek
Sauter now uses her Crosstrek to trek across America. “I can put all my books, merchandise and my fold-up table and displays in the car for my pop-up events at breweries,” she says. She’s even confidently driven around a surprise tornado on a trip back from New York’s Hudson Valley, knowing the Crosstrek would help keep her safe.
In addition to selling her own merchandise at pop-up events, Sauter does book signings and is paid to speak at breweries, restaurants and libraries about beer history or to conduct beer pairings for restaurants. “My beer and ice-cream pairings are very popular,” she says.