Monthly Archives: March 2018

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #132. Spruce IPA by Alaskan Brewing Co.

What is the official Alaska State tree?  The Sitka Spruce, which is also the source of the critical ingredient in Alaskan Brewing Company’s Spruce IPA, a beer brewed with Spruce tips.  This IPA is a must-drink!  I know New England IPAs are all the rage.  “Have a milkshake,” people are saying.  “Try this coffee-infused IPA, it has never been better.”  I will, and have tried all these varieties.  The flavor Alaskan Brewing put out in its Spruce IPA is unique.  IPA is rapidly becoming the largest style with the most variations.

“I made this weird beer, it has a lot of hops in it, but I don’t know what to call it.”

“Dude, it has lots of hops, call it an IPA.”

This seems to be the most common solution to these unique beers and I can’t really say the hop-forward Spruce IPA is any different, but it is different, and that is the problem.  What do you do with these avant-garde beer styles that do not fit any of the specific BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines?  Craft beer is evolving too rapidly for the BJCP to keep up.  The answer is easy, just drink the tasty beverage and quit complaining about the name.

Cheers to Alaskan Brewing Spruce IPA, a great ale that brings a smile to my lips!

The original oil painting, and 52 limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop Real Art Is Better.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #132. Spruce IPA by Alaskan Brewing Co. 8"x10", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #132. Spruce IPA by Alaskan Brewing Co. 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

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Winter Trip to McCarthy | Good Idea, Bad Idea

~ by Maria Benner

Log Cabin in Alaska in winter

Did you watch the Animaniacs in the 1990s?  One of my favorite segments was Good Idea, Bad Idea.  On our recent trip to our cabin in McCarthy I kept recalling the comical cartoon as we stumbled through our winter adventure in a remote section of Alaska.

Good Idea: Driving over 300 miles to our cabin in McCarthy in a 4×4 Chevy truck. We had chains, a snow shovel, winter gear, and plenty of food and beer in case we got stuck.

Bad Idea: Not checking the weather report before departure.  Minutes after leaving our condo in Anchorage we were driving through a snow storm that lasted for half the drive.  Once we got to the McCarthy road we had sunny weather, and the first part of the road was not bad, but then the snow got deeper and we ended up getting stuck, and had to put on tire chains.  The drive was super slow after that point.

Good Idea: Buying a snow machine last fall so we could take all our stuff from the truck to the cabin quickly in the winter.  We parked it by our cabin up on blocks so it wouldn’t freeze to the ground, and covered it with a tarp.

Bad Idea: Buying a 1993 machine and neglecting to get it tuned up in Anchorage before bringing it to McCarthy.  In the winter we can’t drive all the way to the cabin, so we park about 3 miles away, and ski up to it.  Once we got there we uncovered the snow machine, dug it out, and tried starting it.  We were really close a couple times, but it just wouldn’t start.  So we had to ski back down to the truck, and haul everything that couldn’t freeze on sleds up to the cabin.  We arrived after midnight!  That was a really long day!  In the morning we got the snowmachine to start, and got the rest of our stuff up to the cabin with minimal effort!

Skiing up to the cabin with a few supplies.

snow machine snow mobile in Alaska

Scott hauling supplies with our snow machine across the frozen Kennicott River.

Good Idea: Picking a week to go to the cabin when we don’t have any major projects going on, or looming deadlines for about a week after our scheduled return date.

Bad Idea: Assuming that we can drive out of McCarthy on the scheduled day, and get back to Anchorage to complete projects before deadlines.  While we were in McCarthy there was a big snow storm that lasted for two days.  It was a gorgeous day, and we went for a long ski in the snow, but we were really nervous about how much snow was accumulating on the McCarthy Road, our only way out of McCarthy with our truck.  We have a big deadline at the end of the month, and if we got stuck in McCarthy for a few extra days, we would have missed out on a big opportunity.  The road only gets plowed when the airstrip in McCarthy has over 18″ of snow and a plow needs to get to the runway.

Snow storm in Alaska

Heavy snow storm.

Good Idea: Making a meal plan and bringing enough food for a week.  There are no stores or restaurants open in the winter in McCarthy.

Bad Idea: Forgetting to leave extra food at the cabin just in case we got stuck for a few extra days.  We followed our food plan, and ended up having a bit of extra food that could last for about two days, but we decided to stock the cabin with dried goods for future trips.

Good Idea: Going skiing on the glacier, visiting friends, and relaxing around the wood stove in the cabin.

Bad Idea: Planning to do a little bit of work during our week long vacation.  We brought our laptops and Scott packed his oil painting kit, and we did manage to work, but we were really tempted to play hooky the whole time.

glacier ice in Alaska glacier ice cave iceberg

Checking out an iceberg on the Kennicott Glacier.

Overall I have more fond memories of the trip, and am starting to forget all the inconveniences and challenges.  I can say we learned many lessons from our experience, and hopefully our future winter trips will go much more smoothly!

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #131. Lucky Lager.

Feeling lucky tonight?  For this week’s Thirsty Thursday beer painting I decided to paint a vintage beer I grew up loving.  This was the first beer I ever drank.  Lucky Lager is not only a pretty tasty beverage, similar to beers nearly twice as expensive, but also has this vibe to it making me think, “If I drink this elixir I could win at gambling, I can dance better, or I might even get lucky tonight…  If I play my cards right”.
General Brewing from San Francisco started brewing this American adjunct lager in 1934 with the intent to make a beer as well as the Germans on a large scale.  Becoming the second most popular beer in America off and on during the 50’s and 60’s, its popularity dropped off in the seventies and the product name was sold to Labatt Brewing and Pabst, and is still sold today in parts of Canada.  I’m hoping to find some when I go there next year.  Although this is not a craft beer, I always thought it was very refreshing, and I loved the aesthetic of the label.  This verbiage on the can sold me on the contents when I was young and impressionable, “This Traditional Lager Beer owes its distinctive character to the finest quality ingredients and purest brewing water. In addition, long aging in ice cold cellars makes Lucky a true Lager beer and is the reason Lucky has been a favorite since 1934.”
I hope you have  fond memories of Lucky Lager like I do.  Raise your cans, stubbies, or 40s high, and make a toast, “Cheers to getting Lucky!”

This original oil painting, and 52 limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #131. Lucky Lager. 8"x10", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #131. Lucky Lager. 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #130. Trio — Fatbike World Championships

Bikes and beers!? Heck yes! Make it fat-bikes and a couple of growlers, and now you have a party in Alaska. Last weekend I participated in the epic fat-bike race called the Trio – Fatbike World Championships in Talkeetna put on by Speedway Cycles and Denali Brewing.  The name Trio is symbolic of the three mountains you can see during the ride, Denali, Mt. Hunter and Mt. Foreaker. The sixth annual bicycle and beer super party celebrates the life of Mike Sterling who passed away from liver disease a few years back.

The weather couldn’t have been better! The sun was out, and there was plenty of fresh snow to validate the use of my 5-inch wide tires. I felt fast and also pretty glad I opted out of the 60-mile race and settled for the 30-mile loop. Next year, I will attempt to do the sixty, but will have to do some upgrades to my bike. The last ten miles were a bit rutted and pretty soft. My single speed was not in the proper gear for climbing, but it looked like it was pretty impossible to ride up most of the bluff trail anyway, so like everyone else, I pushed. I was pleased with my 20th place finish.

For those less serious about racing and more serious about partying there was a 20-mile party lap option with beer, whiskey, and other treats provided around a raging bon fire half way down the trail. There was even a helicopter that landed right on a patch of snow on the river next to the party. Its mission was to deliver some more beer! As I passed the partiers, I should have stopped for a beer, but at the moment I rode through I thought I could actually get a pretty decent time, so I forewent one of my favorites — free PBR, to save drinking points for the delicious after party beer that Denali Brewing brewed up –Trio Pale Ale. The beer is a wonderful 6.5% ABV and 52 IBU pale ale that was brewed with cryo Mosaic and Citra hops. At the big after-race-party everyone was starving, and good Indian food was served up, and the band Hope Social Club played right after the awards ceremony. Racers still had plenty of energy left for dancing.

The next morning Denali came out of the clouds for the first time that weekend, so we went to Talkeetna River and took the photos for this painting. Denali never looked better! If this painting looks familiar, that’s probably because you saw the one that is very similar on the big office window at Speedway Cycles. I created that one several years ago and Greg Matyas printed it on the privacy screen.

This painting depicts three things I love: fat-biking, beer, and Talkeetna! Cheers to good times with good friends!

The original oil painting sold. Limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

fat bikers beer denali trio fat biking race painting Scott Clendaniel

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #130. Trio – Fatbike World Championships. 12″x24″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #129. Deschutes Brewing Growler on the Red Chair at Mt. Bachelor

I remember when Red Chair NWPA came in a 22 oz bomber, and was dubbed an IPA.  I loved the graphics on the bottle!  Since I’m a skier, I bought a bunch of these and included this beer in the original 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall painting series.  I revisited the production version rebranded NWPA for North West Pale Ale as my 13th Thirsty Thursday beer painting, pictured at Arctic Valley Ski Area up here in Anchorage, Alaska, since we have two beautiful Riblet red chairs nearly exactly as pictured on the NWPA label.  A month ago we were cruising around Oregon and Maria and I hit up Mt. Bachelor to ride the “real” red chair that inspired this delicious ale.  The original double chair was installed in 1964, and upgraded to a triple chair in 1981.  Unlike the cushy modern quad chairs, this one comes at you fast and hot, and you better be ready for it, or it will knock you right down on your face!  During our lunch break on the mountain I ordered a pint of… you guessed it… Red Chair NWPA.  Maria and I shared a burrito that was larger than my head!  Sure tasted great with the NWPA!  The next day I went to Deschutes Brewery in downtown Bend and bought this growler, because it’s so cool, and I thought it would look good on the vintage chair in a beer painting.  The Deschutes pub glass looks right at home riding the chair as well (how else do you think they get beer up the mountain?).
Cheers to riding the cool red chair!  Raise your NWPA high to keeping the traditions alive!  May your ski day be epic, and your Après ski be well-earned!

This original oil painting and 52 limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter. 

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #129. Red Chair NWPA by Deschutes Brewery. 11"x14", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #129. Red Chair NWPA by Deschutes Brewery. 11″x14″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

Our 5 Favorite Experiences in Oregon

~ by Maria Benner

We recently returned from a two-week trip to Washington, Oregon and Arizona.  In Washington and Arizona we visited family, but the reasons for going to Oregon were purely to have fun and to visit good friends from our college years.  Downhill skiing, long walks on the beach, visiting breweries, and eating donuts are all things that make us happy, so that’s what we did in Oregon.  Here are our 5 favorite experiences in the Beaver State.

5. Tillamook Cheese Factory. The last time we were in Tillamook more than 15 years ago, we forgot to bring our wallets to the cheese factory tour, so we couldn’t buy any ice cream at the end of the tour. I did not make the same mistake this time, and got to enjoy a delicious waffle cone with rocky road ice cream fresh from the factory. The new visitors center is under construction, but is scheduled to open sometime in 2018.

4. A donut shop on every corner in Portland.  We had been meaning to try a VooDoo donut for years, but didn’t want to stand in a long line. This time there was no line around 2pm. I ordered the Portland Cream (raised yeast shell filled with Bavarian cream topped with chocolate and two eyeballs, representing the vision of the great city of Portland), and Scott had a traditional cake donut.  Delicious!  Then we found out about the new donut place in town called Blue Star Donuts, so of course we had to test them as well. I ordered the Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk cake donut, and got a bonus Blueberry Bourbon Basil donut for free, because the donuts were not very fresh that late in the afternoon.  I thought they were a bit dense, but Scott liked them more than his VooDoo donut.

Blue Star Donuts things to do in oregon

Blue Star Donuts

3. Craft Breweries. Oregon is a destination for world-class craft breweries that are creating avant-garde recipes, and reinventing the craft brew scene. We visited the new Pelican Brewing facility in Tillamook and Block 15 Brewing in Corvallis.  Block 15 really impressed us with its spot-on hazy IPAs and decadent imperial stouts. In Bend we went to Crux Fermentation Project, Boneyard Beer and Deschutes Brewing. We showed up to Crux during Sundown Hour when all beers are $1 off, and everyone watches the sunset while warming up around the fire pit, or playing lawn games. In Portland we sampled brews at Culmination Brewing, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Great Notion Brewing, Fat Head’s Brewery, Back Pedal Brewing, and Hair of the Dog Brewing.  Scott painted live at Cascade (click here to read about that).  Every brewery had something unique to offer, and we couldn’t get enough of the fruity, hazy, hoppy IPAs and the barrel-aged sours.

Best breweries in Portland Great Notion Brewing

Tasters at Great Notion Brewing in Portland.

2. Skiing at Mt. Bachelor. We rented ski equipment, and hit the slopes of Mt. Bachelor for the fist time. The resort is only a half-hour drive from Bend. Unfortunately we didn’t have good luck on snow.  There wasn’t much of it, and the groomed runs were icy.  The Summit was closed, so we missed out on skiing a large percentage of the terrain.  The views were incredible though, and we had a great day outside in the sunshine.  We’ll have to come back when conditions are better.

Mt Bachelor ski area

View of Three Sisters from the top of Mt. Bachelor

1. Oregon Coast. We couldn’t go to Oregon without visiting the Oregon Coast, so we booked a hotel room with an ocean view in Rockaway Beach for one night.  We got really lucky on the weather, and enjoyed a five-mile walk on the beach during sunset.  The next day we experienced typical winter weather, but we left it behind as we drove over the mountain pass to Portland.

Oregon Coast sunset rockaway beach

Sunset on the Oregon Coast.

People ask us why we would ever want to leave beautiful Alaska.  Well, we try to only go to remarkable places, and Oregon is definitely one of them.

 

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #128. Rondy Brew by Anchorage Brewing Co.

Today is the first day of March, which begins my favorite stage of Alaskan winter — early Spring. We’re still in winter mode, but we get extra daylight, and with a bit of luck the snow is in perfect condition to get outside and play.  Here in Anchorage we have a big festival known as Fur Rendezvous.  Dating back a bit longer than 80 years (originating in 1935), local Alaskans (miners and trappers) traditionally met up for a huge fur auction and a bit of fun.  Today we still don our furs (or fur like garments) as it is still cold outside, only 2 degrees above zero this morning.  The fur auction is still on, but there are so many great events and traditions that it’s hard to name them all.  Maria always buys a Rondy pin, but my favorite tradition is to buy a Rondy Brew from Anchorage Brewing Co.  This year available in pint-size cans and served up in a four pack as well as on draft around town.  I am impressed with this year’s recipe, a nice IPA at 6.4% with 55 IBUs.  Brewed with Mosaic (one of my favorite aroma hops) and Idaho 7, which is new to me, but seems to be just right for drinking while watching the fireworks display.  Maybe don’t have more than one before getting on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the annual Rondy Carnival.  Best save that for afterwards!  This weekend is the end of the festival, and also the beginning of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.  The ceremonial start is this Saturday in Anchorage on 4th Avenue, right in front of our studio building.  If you are in Anchorage, stop by the Real Art is Better headquarters (333 W. 4th Ave, Suite #4) this Saturday, March 3 for some fresh baked cookies, or to warm up.  We’ll be open 10 – 5pm.  Running of the Reindeer, another epic Rondy event is to be held at 4pm.  Don’t delay getting your Rondy-Brew on, as this is a once a year beer, and next year will be changed.  Who knows?  Gabe Fletcher may make a sour lemongrass saison again (also very good, but decidedly different).
Cheers to Rondy — a great festival, and to Rondy Brew — a great beer!

The original oil painting sold. Limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #128. Rondy Brew by Anchorage Brewing Co. 11"x14", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #128. Rondy Brew by Anchorage Brewing Co. 11″x14″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel