Natty-McNatty-Naturdays! I had a few of these strawberry-lemonade-light-lager-shandies when a friend brought them up to our cabin. Very refreshing and a nice lower ABV option to swill between double IPAs and imperial stouts. I love the pink can with the flamingo motif, which is why I chose to put this can in the Flamingo Hotel’s Flamingo Habitat in Las Vegas. It actually is a pretty good version of a shandy, not as sweet as you might imagine. For that matter, regular Natural Light is okay, just do me a favor and don’t ever buy the Natural ICE, it tastes like acetone. Cheers to friends, pink cans of beer, and the love of Saturday! Get natural this weekend and have a Naturdays!
I love traveling, and one of the best things about going to new places is seeking out new beers. Utah is one of my favorite destinations, but for skiing and mountains, not for the beer. There is some good beer to be found, but the strict alcohol rules make it difficult to purchase, or consume at most establishments. Luckily, last year they finally upped the percentage a bit, and now you can find 5% beers on draft. I have been asked to paint the Polygamy Porter for a long time, but until I actually went to Salt Lake City, I had a hard time coming up with a concept for the painting. When I finally went there last year, we visited Temple Square, where the Salt Lake Temple is located, and took a picture of the monumental temple with the intention of using it for a painting of Polygamy Porter. This beer is made as a tongue and cheek brew. The motto for the beer is, “Why have just one?” This painting is also made to be tongue and cheek, please don’t take it too seriously. When I was painting it, I was totally concerned that I might offend people, so my answer is please don’t be offended, it’s just a joke.
Cheers to Polygamy Porter! May the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints take my ribbing and Wasatch’s porter the right way, in good humor, if not in good “spirits.”
The original oil painting sold, but limited-edition prints are available at my Etsy shop.
When I tell people I’m the Beer Artist, they immediately think I make beer labels. I have to explain that I am an oil painter and I make paintings of beers. I have only made three official beer labels during my career so far, and two have been for special one-off beers for Midnight Sun Brewing Co. Former MSBC Chef, Chris Hilliard, and I brewed a Dopplebock called Feast with the brewing team. It was barrel aged in whiskey barrels. I made a special painting for the label with Alaskan animals drinking and feasting. When I heard MSBC’s General Manager Gary Busse, a.k.a. “The Adult,” was retiring, I asked if he had plans for a special retirement beer. He said, “Yes, a dunkelweizen.” I was excited about it, and said, “I have to do a special label for that!”
What most people don’t know is that Gary has been instrumental to my beer artist career. In 2006 I made a series of paintings called the Color of Beer, which was the first time I ever painted beer. The show was a huge success, not because I sold any work at the actual art show at Noble’s Diner, but because when I drove the paintings around town after the art show, I sold them at local breweries and at the home-brew shop. During a stop at the original MSBC location on Arctic Blvd I sold 3 of the 10 paintings! Two to Gary and another one to a customer who just happened to be getting a growler filled. It was because of this type of success that I made my second beer art series, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. It took me years to complete the small paintings and then I had no idea where to show the large body of work. I had grandiose plans to house the show in the Lower 48 (what Alaskan’s call the Continental US), and I had a long back and forth email conversation with Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. When that failed, I imagined Deschutes Brewing being the location for the show. Bend is where beer is more plentiful than water. When I visited the brewery, I couldn’t figure out where I would hang the pieces. Two years passed while I was searching for a location and I was chatting with Gary at the new MSBC Loft and asked what they had in mind for art. Gary explained that Barb Miller was going to do a rotating show every month and have a First Friday event called First Firkin Friday.
A firkin is a 10 gallon keg that is cask conditioned, i.e. fermented just enough in the keg to cause carbonation naturally. MSBC uses a pin for First Firkin Friday , which is a 5 gallon version of the firkin. Gary told me he would put a good word in for me with Barb, but that it was a long shot, because she had a specific vision. Barb and I hit it off, and she made me wait until January to have the show, because it was the first ever AK Beer Week! The show was a huge success, and I owe it to Gary and Barb! The following year Gary purchased a large beer painting I made for the next show at MSBC called Another Round, which consisted entirely of MSBC beer paintings. I continue to make beer paintings today, and completed my most famous series called the Year of Beer three years after the 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. I showed this series at MSBC as well.
Gary is the General Manager at MSBC. His nickname at the brewery is “The Adult.” He is the one who has kept MSBC profitable and in business. After art shows at MSBC Gary is the guy who writes and signs my checks. He has worked there for nearly 20 years! When I asked him what to do for his retirement beer label, he said it had to be a portrait of him with a bunch of kids running loose in the tasting room. He said the beer would be called “The Adult,” and that it was going to be a dunkelweizen, his favorite style. I am not a portrait artist and I have had some mixed reactions to my portraits over the years, and I mentioned this at our art meeting. I gave it my best shot and Gary was slightly disappointed with my first attempt at his portrait. He said the likeness maked him look like Butt-head, from Beavis and Butt-head. I gave it another try, working from a new picture that Gary send me of himself, and I finally got it right on the third try. The other characters on the label represent employees at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. It’s pretty easy to identify Davey with his mohawk and Barb struggling over toys with Mark. I imagined the girl in pink to represent some of the servers, and the others as brewers and workers over the ages. I know I missed many important MSBC people, but they are represented whether the likenesses are to be found or not. Leave it to “The Adult” to keep them in line.
What will MSBC do without this parental figure to check everyone and keep the brewery in the black? Luckily, Gary passed most of his knowledge to Jamie Schmitt, who has big shoes to fill. I am sure there will be many memories yet to be made at this iconic brewery in Anchorage, Alaska. With so many great beers and such a high quality bistro, MSBC has found its recipe for success! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next! I love going to MSBC and love adorning the walls with my paintings every June and January! Cheers to Gary!
Solid Gold — ice cold! I don’t know if I can call this the holy grail of beers, that distinction is reserved for barrel aged brews with an ABV over 10%. The Solid Gold Premium Lager by Founders Brewing Co. in Michigan is way better than any other beer you can buy at this price point. When I get done doing yard work here at our log cabin in McCarthy, Alaska, I don’t want a whale of a beer to quench my thirst and ice my aching hands. I‘m looking for a traditional American premium lager, something that is thirst-quenching and not too strong for the after workday libation. The first one goes down in about 10 minutes and that’s if I try to sip and savor. If I were to start with something stronger, I might have a good time, but won’t be good for much, except rolling around in the moss giggling to myself. This lager tastes as good as any premium Mexican lager, but at a much lower price point.
Founders opened its doors in 1997 right about the time craft beer was still called microbrew, and discerning Americans were still drinking wine. In 1997 ice beer was all the rage, and thank the heavens that Founders started to show the world that beer can be classy, should be drank from a glass, and should be valued rather than looked down upon. I say if you are a macro domestic lager fan and are tired of supporting the Clydesdale of brewing, give Solid Gold a try. A win-win — stay a bit less drunk and keep some extra money in your pocket. Your friends will thank you at the next backyard bbq, when you show up with a case of the SG when they can still drive home after dominating the corn hole pitch. A perfect brew for pong or any game that requires dexterity. Try new beers, but keep drinking this premium lager as new brews are silver but this one is Solid Gold!
This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are available at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
This original oil painting, and 52 limited-edition prints are for sale at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
~ by Maria Benner
One evening, while we were in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany last month, we were wandering down the narrow, cobblestone streets, looking for a good place to sit down for a beer. When we saw the Brewery Star hanging above a door of a restaurant, we immediately decided that it would be the right place for beer. The establishment had been a brewery several hundred years ago, but now was just a restaurant. The Brewery Star remained from the days when the place was a brewery, sometime around the 1600s.
Inside the restaurant we found more information about the ancient symbol. Here’s what we learned.
Beer can be seen as an alchemical concoction combining the four elements: Earth (grain), Water, Air (carbon-dioxide), and Fire (boiling). Beer, more than any other fermented beverage, is rooted in alchemy traditions and the belief that the brewer is descended from the alchemist is reflected in folk beliefs.
Thus, the symbol of the alchemists, the hexagon made up of two superimposed triangles, became the brewers’ trademark. Numerous medieval and early modern manuscripts depict a six pointed star as a symbol of fermentation.
The Brewery Star dates back to antiquity and originated in India where it was a symbol for the cosmic unity of male and female. Moreover, the Brewery Star is identical to the Seal of Solomon, the Star of David, or the Jewish Star.
Alchemists and brewers fused this symbolism with the theory of the four elements: Earth, Fire, Air and Water, which were placed in a cosmological context with the four quarters of the sky and four segments of a day. To the brewmaster the brewery star represented the inherent connectedness of the elements he used to brew beer and reflected the seasons of the year through the brewing and festivities around beer.
Scott has painted the Brewery Star once in this oil painting of 2XIPA by Southern Tier Brewing Company, which he painted during the Year of Beer Paintings. The original painting, and limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are for sale at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
I have been painting the beers from Kenai River Brewing since I started the Year of Beer Paintings project in 2014. I’ve done a painting of each of the canned beers, four total, and every one of them went to the private collection of Doug Hogue, the founder and owner of this great Soldotna beer oasis. Kenai River Brewing has been brewing up some avante-guarde styles like XPA, Black IPA, Honeymoon Heffe, and a Gummy Bear Belgian Triple, as well as some style-perfect traditional ales like the Peninsula Brewers Reserve Blonde, Skilak Scottish, and Sunken Island IPA. All I can say is this brewery is a gem.
Soldotna is on the way to Homer, and I was driving there to attend our friends’ wedding celebration, so I planned ahead and brought my painting kit so I could paint live at the brewery. This was my first visit to the new building, which now has a restaurant and a large dining room. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger (see picture below), and set up my painting station outside in the back. I should have included the colossal burger in the painting, which is as good as the best burger I’ve ever had. Half a pound of fresh beef, with a great bun, pepper bacon and crispy fries on the side. I think a brewery should have classic pub fare and KRB does this perfectly. Food and beer coming together in a great establishment with easy to access service, making this place a near perfect example of what a brewery should be! If you haven’t visited this stop when you are on the Kenai, you are missing out! You can get a taster paddle with four 3 oz tasters, made from local burl wood. I chose to paint my taster paddle because it looked like a work of art to me and showed off the dedication to detail that KRB consistently exhibits.
Doug found me outside while I was painting, and bought the painting. I took it back to the studio in Anchorage, so it could dry, then varnished it and framed it. I delivered the painting to Doug at the brewery while I was driving to go dip-netting at Kasilof, and we shared a bottle of my homebrew. I got a picture of Doug and I with this painting out back. I will be returning to KRB next time I head to Soldotna!
Cheers to great Alaskan beers, good food, and a beautiful place to enjoy it all! Way to go KRB!
The original oil painting sold, but limited-edition art prints are for sale at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.
Finally, the little ski town of Girdwood has a brewery! My prayers have been answered by Girdwood Brewing Company! Beer and skiing go together like bread and butter, and now, at the end of a day on the slopes, we can stop for pints of fresh brew. Last week I visited the tasting room for the first time. I sampled 3 of the 4 options, and all were solid. The coffee stout with K-Bay Coffee from Homer, Hippie Speedball, was noteworthy, as was the East-Coast-style IPA, No Woman No Cryo. I chose to paint the IPA because it showed off the printing on the glassware better. This place has some serious Girdwood-Alyeska ski culture as well as the yeasty variety. The walls have some cool skis on them, the menu board is made up of old skis and there’s a ski fence forming outside, as well. They even have an old red ski-lift chair hanging from the ceiling. For a brand new brewery, this place is going strong already. The only thing missing is food, but occasionally a food truck stops by. Cheers to local breweries! Be sure to visit this place next time you’re in Girdwood.
This painting will be on display, and available for sale at my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. during the month of June. The art show kicks off on First Firkin Friday, June 2, 5-8PM. I’ll be tapping a firkin of Panty Peeler cask-conditioned with pineapple at 5PM. Hope to see you there!
This original oil painting, and limited-edition prints are for sale at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.