Tag Archives: Anchorage

And the Winner of the Tart Side Challenge is… Me!

Turnagain Brewing graciously hosts a contest each year for members of the Great Northern Brewers Club called the Tart Side Challenge. Ted and Mary Rosenzweig, owners of the brewery, give each club member one gallon of wort containing the brewery’s proprietary sour culture from the solera tank we all affectionately call Big Bertha. Our task is to flavor the wort any way we wish, and to ferment it into beer. The entries get judged at the GNBC annual summer campout, and then Turnagain Brewing brews the winning recipe. Last year, Maria won the contest. When I created the recipe for my entry this year, I referred to my experience making small batch beers. I had been mixing beer and fruit for a couple of years now, and I know how much fruit to add to make a beer explode with flavor. I wanted to bottle-condition this beer, since oxidation is one of the easiest and worst things that can happen to a beer at this stage.  I also know that people generally tend to like slightly stronger beers over weaker ones. Since this was a beer tasting committee I was aiming to please, I added a 1/2 cup of malt extract to not only slightly increase ABV, but also to restart fermentation. I also added some of my own yeast from my yeast ranching project, since bottle-conditioning doesn’t work without yeast present.

I was unsure what fruit I wanted to put into the beer. Last year Maria won with a blueberry recipe, so I knew blueberries were a crowd pleaser. I also love the Piña Colada beer Ted has been making for Serrano’s Mexican Grill. It all became clear to me when I was making my morning smoothie with a healthy dosage of sour yogurt, pineapple, and blueberries.  Blueberries and pineapple would play the starring roles in my beer.

Ted didn’t have enough space to ferment my beer, so he used a French oak barrel, which added Brett to the equation. Ted and I were sipping on the finished beer at the brewery and I suggested that he bottle my beer, so we could cellar it to allow the Brett to develop. Since I’m the local beer artist, I also offered to make a label design for my beer. 

I had to design the label quickly, and I think best when I am out running on the trail. The next morning I figured it all out when doing my five mile loop.  I came up with the name, “Solera Eclipse” and decided upon a design inspired by the yin yang of T&C Surf Designs.  Ted’s solera is where the wort originated, and an eclipse is a noteworthy astronomical event.  The yin yang showed off the the contrast of the blueberries and pineapple perfectly.  Since it was fermented in Ted’s favorite old wine barrel, I included some barrel parts in the design making a sun. 

I am very excited to try the commercial version, I have one bottle left of my homemade version, and I look forward to sampling them back to back! The beer will be released at my art opening at Turnagain Brewing tomorrow (12/03/2021)! I’ll be there 5-8pm, and hope you’ll stop by to try my beer, check out my art, and buy a couple bottles to cellar.

Cheers to Turnagain Brewing for doing this fun contest for GNBC!

Ted taking a small sample of my beer from the barrel to see if the Brett flavor had sufficiently developed.
My design for the bottle label.
Solera Eclipse sour ale with blueberries and pineapple.

First Snow Day of the Year!

The first real snowfall of the year covers the grass and leaves, and provides winter light during the long, dark nights. Last night I was excited to see the tips of the stalks of grass obscured from view. The entire city illuminates from the reflective properties of the falling snow. This morning I was surprised to see eleven inches on our back porch. We went for a lovely 3-mile walk to the Helen L. McDowell Sanctuary, breaking trail the whole way! Upon our return, Maria and I spent a little over half an hour shoveling our driveway and walkways. There was about a foot of light and fluffy snow, so it wasn’t that hard. It’s still snowing as I write this, and all the clearing we did is now under another two inches.

I get really excited about the first day of snow, because I love winter! Skiing, fat-biking, ice skating and winter walks are all things I enjoy in winter.  Don’t get me wrong, I also love summer.  The hectic pace that ensues with all the daylight, the out-of-state visitors, and the insidious mosquitos that come along with the warmer weather make it a second best to me.  Third, comes late fall when it is cold, dark, and there is usually freezing rain.  Last, is early spring, when the meltdown makes everything ugly, and going outside is difficult due to half-frozen swampiness. 

Winter is my favorite.  There is a special quality to winter, especially in Alaska.  I mentioned the light from the snow. I can easily navigate at night without a headlamp, if a blanket of snow is reflecting any bit of moon or starlight.  My favorite thing about winter though, is semi-hibernating.  Nobody expects you to answer your phone after 9pm, and if you say you can’t make it because the roads seem too dangerous, people completely understand. In the summer people want you to go to work for 10 hours, then expect you to climb a mountain.  In the winter, if you spend 4 hours riding a chairlift, people might expect you to fall asleep while watching a movie afterwards. 

Snow is great! It makes winter real! Let it snow! I will shovel the driveway again this evening, right before I climb into bed at 9:15pm.

We Bought a House and Moved out of the 4th Avenue Market Place Studio!

Moving everything from the studio to the new house, including large paintings. Good thing it wasn’t raining!

When we moved into my studio space at the 4th Avenue Marketplace, we were ecstatic to be downtown, and to have extra work space!  I loved the view, and I loved working there.  Having people come by for open studio events during First Fridays, Fur Rondy, and the Iditarod was always a great experience, and we usually made enough money during those events to cover our lease payments. Making the move to 4th Ave really cemented that I am a professional artist.  However, I missed working at home. Packing a lunch was a drag, the bicycle commute across downtown was annoying (especially in winter), and the local street people seemed to always be present to greet me at the door to the building (when they were awake).  I always seemed to have left this tool here, or that tool there, right when I needed it, and I was making another traffic-heavy bike trip back to one of the two locations.    

I am happy to say that last weekend we moved out of the studio, and I am setting up my new studio on the first floor of our new house! It is a huge mess right now! I need permanent storage for tools, supplies, and paintings. I hope to be back to work by Monday, taking a week to move the condo and studio to our new house, and to get the condo ready for sale!  The house is “not perfect,” as my father told me, but to us it is so amazing!  It is quiet at night, there is more space for living and for the studio, and best of all, it has an oversized two car garage!  No more carrying the table saw down stairs to work in blizzards for me!  I can park my truck inside when it is cold out! Not to mention, the obvious home-brewing improvement!  I brought my big smoker grill home from my parents’ house, and I’m going to smoke a brisket when I have everything set up. When brew day rolls around in the new garage, I’ll brew a big batch for a big housewarming celebration.  

Until then there is a lot of work… Anybody want a cute little apartment-style condo in West Fairview? It would make a great Airbnb rental!

Cheers to making life better!  May your day be brighter today than yesterday, and tomorrow be even better than that!    

Sad the downtown studio is closed?  You can still meet me for a beer at Midnight Sun Brewing. My art is there until the end of June!  I will be having more out-of-the studio shows, so keep following Real Art Is Better on this blog, or on social media and we will keep you informed where and when we will be having in-person events!

Spring is in the Air!

You can smell spring in the air!  That means pollen, dust, dog poop, and lots of muddy puddles here in Anchorage, Alaska.  This is the time of year when I start to really miss our cabin in McCarthy, and looking forward to escaping there.  We’re planning to head out there the day after Mother’s Day. That’s right, you still have a little time to order a present for your mom, before May 9th!  I’ve gone to MXY (the airport code for McCarthy) earlier in the year, but the driveway to our cabin gets really swampy during meltdown, so I’ve found it’s better to wait until the second week of May. This year will be especially swampy, considering the heavy amount of snow. I hope the wood shed is still standing! On big snow years, piles of snow are still sitting around through Memorial Day weekend!

I love the first trip in spring to the cabin, because we no longer have to do too much building, mostly just opening up the cabin, setting up the rain-catchment system, and seeing my MXY friends. I always bring my painting supplies with me, so I can keep working in my little studio out there, which was formerly our shelter while we worked on the cabin. This year I hope to go on a couple over-night backpacking trips into the National Park, and plant a big garden. My mother-in-law came to visit last year, and decided that we needed a garden, so she ripped out a lot of bushes, and cleared a nice spot for it. Then I cut down a few trees, tore out the stumps, and rototilled the dirt. We just need to build a fence to keep the critters out, and then we can plant the seed potatoes we’ve been saving all winter, and the little starts that are growing nicely in our condo right now.

Summer isn’t even here, and I’m already planning out the entire season. We all kind of go nuts here in Alaska in the summer with all this daylight. Here’s hoping for plenty of sunny days, but also enough rain to keep the forest fires at bay.

Brand new leaves on the aspen trees on our property.

Pandemic Art Show #2

I’m currently having my second art show during a pandemic! The first one was in June at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., right after the brewery was allowed to open for on-site, indoor dining/drinking following the first shutdown. Right after that show ended, the Mayor limited restaurants and breweries to outdoor on-site consumption only. So I got pretty lucky on my timing. The show was surprisingly successful given the circumstances!

Fast forward six months, and I’m doing another art show during this pandemic, this time at Turnagain Brewing Co. I didn’t get as lucky on my timing for this one, because during December, we’re only allowed to drink beer outside per the latest hunker down order. Despite this obstacle, we decided to go ahead with the art show, but scaled it down just to the downstairs wall of the taproom, because people can still see the art while they go inside to order their beers. I hung original, one-of-a-kind oil paintings on the wall, and brought limited-edition prints and Beer Art Coloring Books to sell at the brewery. So far, I’ve actually sold some books, and prints, which is more than I was expecting.

I could have used this new hunker down order as an excuse to cancel the show, but I decided to push through this thing, and keep doing what I do, because I still can. Drinking beer outside by a fire pit is nothing new for Alaskans. Most of the breweries adapted quickly to the new restrictions, and put several fire pits outside, in festive beer gardens. I’m about to have my third pandemic art show, back at Midnight Sun Brewing Co., but in January I expect everything to open back up at reduced capacity, so maybe everyone can admire my art while eating and drinking inside.

My pandemic art show at Turnagain Brewing Co.
Oh look! You can see my paintings from the outdoor beer garden!

Zip Kombucha Taproom Review

~ by Maria Benner

I try to find places to hang out before they get discovered by everyone else, and become too crowded for my comfort.  Mostly because I dislike waiting in line (like a typical Alaskan), and prefer less noisy environments where I can easily communicate with my friends.  The Zip Kombucha tap room is one of those places that is still mostly under the radar.  I shouldn’t even tell you about it, but at the same time, I want it to prosper.

I prefer brewery taprooms over bars, because they offer a comfortable setting without the meat-market/sketchy vibe that most bars have.  This taproom is unique in that it offers draft beer in a brewery-taproom setting, but can stay open past 8pm.  It can also have live music and games.  The craft beer selection is really top-notch.  Last week it was the only place in Anchorage that had No Woman No Cryo IPA by Girdwood Brewing on tap.  The price is a very reasonable $5 per pint!  For those who don’t want to drink alcohol, or are gluten-free, kombucha is on tap in several delightful flavors like blueberry, ginger, or mint.  Wine is also on the menu.  Delicious and healthy food is available as well.  Recently, Glacier Bowl teamed up with Zip to offer poke bowls.  Several nights a week there is live entertainment including open-mic night, and music by local musicians.  The large space in the brewery even has enough room for dance lessons.  The taproom also exhibits art by local artists.  In April the featured artist is Scott.  His oil paintings and limited-edition prints are on display and available for sale through Zip until May 2nd.  This place has it all!

What is kombucha?  It’s a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria.  It tastes sweet and sour at the same time, but the flavors are not overwhelming.  The yeast eats most of the sugar, so this beverage won’t rot your teeth, and it’s loaded with probiotics.  Added flavors like ginger, berries and mint really shine in this clear and fizzy drink.

So next time you’re looking for a quiet, yet hip space to meet your friends where you can get food, craft beer, and non-alcoholic, gluten-free beverages, along with entertainment, and art, check out the Zip Kombucha taproom at 3404 Arctic Blvd.  The location in midtown is convenient, with plenty of parking.  Open every day 4-9pm.

Kombucha and draft beer menu.

Live music in the Zip Kombucha taproom.

Ahi poke bowl by Glacier Bowl.

Mint kombucha.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #159. La Potato Restaurant in Spenard.

We’ve been taking a week-long break at our cabin in McCarthy, and this morning I rose before daylight at 7:30 AM here in the Wrangell Mountains.  We have been doing some fat biking around the roads and trails that connect key places in the Kennicott Valley.  On our ride from our cabin south of McCarthy to the town of Kennicott, the glaciers and mountains were spectacular, Mt. Blackburn looming in the evaporating clouds, and the Root and Gates glaciers glistening in the distance like diamond encrusted jewels.  Our route took us past the new and ever popular The Potato Restaurant in McCarthy.  It is slumbering like all the bears out here with a “Closed for the Season” sign and all the picnic tables put away for the winter.  Meanwhile in the big city of (Los) Anchorage, a new hipster hangout has popped up like a mushroom in the sun after a fall rain shower.  La Bodega teamed up with McCarthy’s Potato crew to make a pop-up restaurant called La Potato, located in Mr. Whitekey’s old haunt, the Fly By Night Club.  If you are newer to town you might know this place as the Taproot, or the most recent, and briefest occupant, Route 33. 

Pamela Hatzis, the proprietor of La Bodega, the cool liquor store where you can get boutique wines and by-the-bottle beers, wanted to have a place of her own where she could host tasting events.  She has been doing a righteous job running the ever popular liquor store with two new locations springing up in the last four years, one in Girdwood and a second Anchorage location at the Northern Lights Center Mall.  Rebecca Bard, one of the owners of the McCarthy and Valdez Potato restaurants has been wintering in Anchorage and working for Pamela at La Bodega for a while.  She has endeavored to school the Bodega team on how to run a successful restaurant.  The end result is a spectacular success with the pop up restaurant everyone is raging about, La Potato.  Raging is the word.  Maria and I attempted to go there on Saturday late afternoon, on the second day in business, and the parking lot was overflowing like Moose’s Tooth during a First Tap event.  We came back when we thought it would be less busy Thursday last week.  We easily found parking and came in to find a lovely draft menu, as well as great canned and bottled beer offerings.  I am sure there was some good wine and saké offerings as well, I just neglected to search them out.  I ordered some rosemary garlic fries and the duck egg kimchi plate, and I recommend both.  Watch out though, the garlic fries are a litmus test for how much your date really likes you…  Better if you both consume that much garlic in one sitting.  I ordered My 85th Rodeo IPA from Woodland Empire Ale Craft in Idaho (pictured in this painting in front of the iconic Spenard sign that hangs next to the stage) and a Solid Gold from Founder’s Brewing Co.  I exited right before a secret show began featuring The Lucky Chops, because I didn’t bring hearing protection, and I’m just too old to handle loud music at this point.  The place went from being modestly busy to teeming with people for the music.  It’s like Anchorage has been starved for a hangout that isn’t a bar and people are finally finding their fix.  We have Koot’s and Van’s Dive Bar, and even the newly revamped Carousel Lounge, but La Potato is different because it is a restaurant first. 

As I pack up my bags tonight and make the grueling drive back to the big city tomorrow, I am not sorry to leave, because the fun is in Spenard where the spirit of McCarthy is alive and well.  I will pass the slumbering Roadside Potato as I drive out and will look forward to its glory in the summer months, but this winter is all about Ancho“RAGE,”!

Cheers to Pamela and Rebecca’s brainchild that is rocking the socks off the block in Spenard!

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

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #159.  My 85th Rodeo by Woodland Empire Ale Craft, pictured at La Potato in Spenard, Anchorage, AK. 6"x12", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #159. My 85th Rodeo by Woodland Empire Ale Craft, pictured at La Potato in Spenard, Anchorage, AK. 6″x12″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel.

   

May First Friday Art Walk | Open Studio Mode vs. Work Mode

~ by Maria Benner

This Friday, May 4 is the first Friday of the month, which means that most local art galleries will have new art shows and will be hosting receptions.  The artists are normally present at these events, and often there is live music and complimentary refreshments.  Most of the action happens downtown, but there are many venues around town that host First Friday events.  The Anchorage Press is a good source for event listings.  Scott and I usually open our studio to the public for First Friday Art Walk, but not every month.  This one in May will be the last one we’ll host at the studio until October.  Scott will have an art opening in June, but it will be at Midnight Sun Brewing Company.  In preparation for an open studio event, we always have to do quite a bit of cleaning and rearranging of paintings and studio equipment.  Work mode and open studio mode are very different.  We completely clear my desk to make room for prints and greeting cards, put away all the painting stuff and scrub the floor.  Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what the studio looks like in work mode, versus how we make it look for visitors during open studio events.  We hope you’ll stop by this First Friday from 5:00 – 7:30 pm.  We’ll have cookies that Scott will bake from scratch, and new paintings that have never been shown before.  The address is 333 W 4th Avenue, Suite 4 (inside the 4th Avenue Market Place).

Work mode

Work mode

Work mode

Open studio mode

Open studio mode

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #133. Day Old White Beer by Anchorage Brewing Co.

What do you do with some day-old bread… besides eat it?  If you are Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, or Anchorage Brewing Company, you make an avant-garde Belgian wit-bier with it.  Some 130 pounds of day-old sourdough bread from the delicious Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop were added to Anchorage Brewing’s mash tun to make this untraditional wheat beer.  Wit-bier by definition is a Belgian-style wheat beer with as much as 50% wheat in the mash.  It is spiced with coriander and orange peel.  The world’s most famous wit-bier, Hoegaarden, made in a huge factory in Hoegaarden, Belgium makes the whole town smell like SweeTARTS candy.  ABC’s Day Old White Beer is a good representation of the style despite its unique addition of whole loaves of Alaskan sourdough bread.  I thought I would taste some sour notes, or funk, but I guess that was all killed in the boil.  Delicious beer made by one of my favorite breweries and tied to my favorite neighborhood bakery!  If you haven’t had some baked goods from Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, you are due to take a field trip there and get some goodness!  Also get in to ABC to pick up a four pack of some of the last remaining cans of Day Old White Beer, as this is probably a one of a kind batch.
Cheers to Anchorage making some artisanal goodies!

The original oil painting was a commission, but 52 limited-edition prints are available at our Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #133. Day Old Wheat Beer by Anchorage Brewing Co. 8"x10", oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

Thirsty Thursday Beer Painting #133. Day Old Wheat Beer by Anchorage Brewing Co. 8″x10″, oil on panel. By Scott Clendaniel

A thank you note to our local community

Scott and I just got back from a two-week trip to Washington and Oregon where we visited many of our wonderful friends and family.  We had an amazing trip, but are glad to be back in Anchorage, where the pace of life is slower, and life seems easier in general.  We don’t have to structure our daily schedule around peak traffic times, there are fewer people competing for the same things, and the scenery is breathtaking.

On the first day back in Anchorage we drove around to replenish our supplies, and almost everywhere we went, we knew someone.  The best part is that several people told us they needed to meet about a painting, or a stickers order, or help with graphics.  That’s when we realized that our local community is the reason that we are able to survive on the income from our little art business.  Without long-standing relationships in our home town where we have lived for over 20 years, our business wouldn’t be possible.  So, thank you to all of you who choose to buy locally!!!  That really does make a difference!  We feel the love, Anchorage, and we can’t think of a better place to live and work!

~ Scott and Maria

Thank you note to Anchorage, Alaska

Year of Beer 07.27. Thank You German Hefeweizen by Anchorage Brewing Co. Oil on panel, 8″x10″.