By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Bend artist MaryLea Harris wasn’t a beer fan when she moved to Bend four years ago. But she quickly learned to love the artwork that changes annually on the packaging for Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale.
“When we moved here, I remember being at the grocery store here in Bend and there was this amazing display of beer,” Harris said. “I was blown away by the artwork on the cases of beer, and I actually bought one because the art was so cool. I had no idea what the beer inside would taste like, but it was so pretty I had to buy it.
“There’s judging the book by its cover, this was buying beer by its box.”
Just four years later, Deschutes tapped Harris to create the artwork for the 30th anniversary of Jubelale, the brewery’s signature winter beer. And for the occasion, Harris accomplished a first in Jubelale history — Deschutes actually commissioned four pieces of art for this year’s beer. Harris’ series of snowflakes appear on different bottles in each package.
“I suggested the idea of doing a series,” Harris said. “Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two beers are alike.”
Harris specializes in mixed media. And while that might be difficult to pick up from the two-dimensional beer packaging, paint wasn’t the only medium employed in creating the art that inspired the labels. Harris’ snowflake series uses plaster, acrylic paint and Jubelale posters glued to the background.
The result was the latest unique take on winter in Oregon for the Deschutes seasonal. Even though Harris is an experienced artist, the project could be intimidating at times. Deschutes approached Harris to do the artwork in April. When she met with the brewery’s founder Gary Fish, she wondered what she had gotten herself into.
“He took me through the gallery of the past artwork and told me what we liked and didn’t like about each piece,” Harris said. “I walked out of it like, ‘Please don’t mess this up.’
“But the best advice Gary gave me was when he told me: ‘We still want you to make it your art. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s only beer.’”
The turnaround time from commission to completion was just under a month, which presented challenges beyond the timeframe.
“I was painting at Easter time trying to channel wintry thoughts,” Harris said laughing, recalling the process. “So I actually psyched myself out by closing the blinds to my studio. I played Christmas music. I burned a candle that smelled like a wood fire. I made hot cocoa.”
She also had inspiration from the Bend art community, to which Deschutes usually goes for the Jubelale commissions. From living in Bend, Harris eventually got to know Avlis Leumas, who did the artwork for the “owl” Jubelale in 2013 that so struck her when she moved here. As she came up with this year’s art, she confided in Karen Ruane, a good friend who did the 2016 label. (The Jubelale art is often kept “top secret” until its release.)
Harris said she approached the process perhaps a bit differently than some past artists likely did. With a background in marketing as well as fine art, Harris said she was very concerned with producing images that would look good on the packaging, even though that part is taken care of by Deschutes’ marketing team.
“My trick when I was painting, I would take photos of the painting, and then hold my phone with the photo up to a beer bottle and see how it was going to look at that size and shape,” Harris said. “It really helped the process.”
Four years ago, when Harris and her family moved here, she said she wasn’t a big fan of beer. But drinking a Black Butte Porter soon after she got to Bend changed her tune. “I became a Deschutes girl from the very beginning,” Harris said.
Now the art of the converted beer drinker is on shelves around the country.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At first glance, Eric Steen didn’t look like a teacher, an artist or a beer maker. It was a rainy early autumn day and Eric was shuffling past noisy customers in Hopworks Urban Brewery dressed, head-to-toe, in white, furry costume. At better than 6 feet tall, he makes a good mascot for the business’s Abominable Winter Ale.
After taking off the comic book-looking yeti head, he offered an explanation on the melding of his roles as teacher, artist and beer maker: “I very much think of beer as a form of art. I’m very interested in the idea that, from start to finish, beer is a social act.”
Several dozen blocks and a couple of traffic jams to the west of the HUB taproom, in the quiet of the Portland Art Museum, associate director of education and public programs Stephanie Parrish admires Steen. “Eric and I went through the collection of a thousand pieces of art and tried to understand where we had works. How much do we have of Eastern Oregon? How much of the Oregon Coast?”
Getting these two folks working together is how to stage a unique art show and beer tasting.
The full name of the Nov. 4 event is “Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon.” It’s the centerpiece of a larger, two-year exhibit called “Picturing Oregon.” (Who says museum-types don’t have a punny bone?)
Stephanie says the “Picturing” exhibition celebrates the museum’s 125th anniversary and includes about 60 of the more than 1,000 Oregon-themed works in its permanent collection. “It was a matter of sorting through all the paintings and photos and then finding those that we thought were kind of representative of the collection. We wanted to have earlier works, 19th century, to more contemporary works. Wanted to have women included. As many different options as we could uncover.”
When it came to the “Pitchering” centerpiece, Stephanie called in Eric. As an art teacher at the University of Colorado and creator of the Beers Made By Walking project, Eric sees community involvement as a key to good art and good beer. He took immediately to the idea of foraging through the museum’s collection. “The thing that excited me was that they have all this Oregon-based paintings and photography.”
And Stephanie wanted to portray the entire state in Pitchering Oregon. “Organized by the region: Coast, Southern Oregon, the Willamette Valley, Portland, Mount Hood and the Gorge. We’re sort of following Travel Oregon’s seven regions.”
Stephanie and Eric whittled down the Pitchering exhibit to 18 photos, paintings and etchings. They next offered those works to 16 breweries and 2 cideries for inspiration to create a beverage.
To help HUB create its beer, Eric chose a platinum print by Lily E. White. It’s a photograph of the Columbia Slough taken more than 100 years ago. Eric grabbed brewer Trever Bass and “We checked out parts of the slough, looking at invasive plants, what grows there naturally. It’s a very strange area. The brewer just chose a random selection of plants he found there. Then he decided to layer everything on top of each other, prettily, into the mash tun and then passed wort over the top of it as it went into the boil.”
The works in the exhibit come at you like photos from a magazine, an old newspaper or a family album. They are more than images. They represent our collective backstory. Lisa Allen, brewer at Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, chose a wood engraving of the 19th century block house at Fort Yamhill. A sixth-generation Oregonian and trained anthropologist, Lisa began by thinking about the people in the artwork: What kind of beer did they drink, did they make? Her brew is characterized by the use of oak-smoked wheat malt and rye malts. She kept the alcohol level at 5 percent and came away with a beer she says is heavy but refreshing with both smoky flavor and spiciness.
Larry Chase is head brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland. His Pitchering Oregon piece is a 1911 oil painting by Frank DuMond. The “Sketch of Table Rock near Medford” is a landscape done on a bright, but cloudy, day. Larry made a table beer, a Berliner weisse, much like beers made in Belgium to be enjoyed by all members of a farm family. The beer will be golden in color to reflect the sunniness of the painting. Larry will serve the beer at the exhibit three ways: straight up and with two fruit or herbal syrups to cloud the beer, mimicking the clouds in the painting.
Pitchering includes a variety of scenes depicting the people and places of Oregon; some are very realistic, some romantic. But the starkest is an oil painting entitled “Harvest.” The huge work shows a sinister-looking raven flying over a clear-cut forest. The beer to go with this piece was made by Trevor and Linsey Rogers at De Garde Brewing in Tillamook. “Ferme et Foret” (Farm and Forest) features dried and fresh hops with spruce tips added to the blend. Are the painting and the beer things to be enjoyed simply … or is there a deeper meaning?
That’s the kind of question folks might get together and hash out over a couple of beers.
Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum 1219 SW Park Ave.
General Admission 1–6 p.m.; $25 general/$20 museum members
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
For fans of Deschutes Brewery, the release of its holiday beer — Jubelale — is one of the highlights of the craft brewing calendar.
That’s not just because the winter ale is one of the seasonal favorites of beer lovers in Oregon and beyond. Each year also brings a new piece of original artwork from a local artist, which adorns Jubelale’s label and packaging, a tradition that dates back to 1995. Anyone who has taken a tour of the Bend brewery has seen the Jubelale art commissioned by Deschutes on display in its main offices.
That artwork usually depicts a winter or holiday scene in a fairly traditional manner. But this year, Deschutes went in a totally different direction with an abstract take on “winter” from Bend artist Karen Ruane. She specializes in a fine art technique called marbling, first developed in East Asia more than a millennium ago. Marbling consists of paints being floated upon a viscous surface; the artist then spreads and manipulates the paint to create intricate designs before a contact print is taken.
“The process of marbling is mesmerizing,” Ruane said, recounting how she took up the art form about five years ago after observing an artist at a street fair in California. “For me, it is about taking this art form and pushing it to a place that I don’t see anyone else pushing it to.”
Ruane got the call for the Jubelale artwork by virtue of a happy accident. Last winter, a representative from Deschutes came to a co-working space in Bend co-founded by Ruane called The Wilds, which was home to a number of fine artists at the time. Ruane showed the rep, who was looking for art for a “special project,” around the various studios.
Ruane said she didn’t even intend to show her work, but they passed it on the way out the door. Deschutes fell in love with the idea of putting Ruane’s marbling artwork on the label, and the rest is history.
Ruane said she was mostly left to her own devices in creating her vision of winter, with one exception.
“They threw in the superstition that the amount of snow that you put on the Jubelale label is directly related to how much snow we’re going to get that season. And I didn’t want to let the entire city of Bend down,” Ruane said with a laugh.
The result is a piece that evokes the feeling of winter and snow, along with the warmth associated with the holiday season and drinking a winter ale.
You won’t see the entire piece in any of the Jubelale packaging, which just uses portions of the overarching artwork. The original piece is on display in the tasting room at Deschutes’ brewery.
Ruane said the reaction to her Jubelale artwork has been positive since the reveal and launch party at the Bend pub in October.
“I am still sort of processing it, the initial excitement when they picked me was amazing,” said Ruane, noting it was her first major commercial commission. “Then the elation turned into being curled up in a little ball on my couch for a couple weeks, like I got in over my head, how is this not going to be that label that everyone asks ‘What happened that year?’”
Despite Ruane’s worries, the result of her efforts was a beautiful and wholly different take on the Jubelale theme that will appear on shelves around Oregon and the country throughout the holiday season.
This Year’s Jubelale, at a Glance:
Brewer’s Description: Cocoa, dried fruit and toffee notes. A robust ale with a warming spice.
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Right now, Greg Swift’s shop might not look like much. The converted detached garage behind his house in Portland’s Arbor Lodge Neighborhood — about a block away from stop-and-go traffic on North Lombard Street — is a patchwork of organized spaces, like the pegboard where wrenches, hammers and tape are hung with care, and pieces of disorder as evidenced by the planter supporting the weight of an old microwave and some lime green Top-Siders resting on the appliance. It is clear, however, that this is the home base of a carpenter, as varying lengths and widths of lumber lay against the roll-up door. Plain old planks like these — scrap wood, really — provided Swift with the inspiration to create his first tap handle. And it didn’t take long before the budding hobby grew into a full-time business, allowing Swift to move into and develop the backyard shop.
You probably won’t find any of Swift’s tap handles at breweries around town just yet, but there’s a good chance that buddy of yours who homebrews has picked up a few for a home kegerator. Swift’s creations are hot sellers at beer-making supply shops like F.H. Steinbart Co., Homebrew Exchange and Mainbrew. Two years ago, Swift actually started his business (currently called glsDESIGN, but he expects to change the name this summer) by selling the handles on Etsy, the website dedicated to handmade goods. Since he had some extra wood left over from other projects, the newcomer to homebrewing wondered whether he could put the supply to good use and turn it into tap handles. The resulting smooth rectangles with a mini chalkboard in the center looked pretty good — good enough to try to sell.
“And I had, like, 20 or so and I was like, ‘I’ll sell them on Etsy and make a couple of bucks.’ And then immediately they all sold out within a week,” Swift recounted. He made another batch, which was also snatched up. “And then it was just like, OK — I guess there’s a niche for this.”
The handle design has changed slightly from the original — it’s now a bit thinner and lighter. There are also two sizes: a 6-inch tap that costs $20 online and in stores and a taller version that retails for $5 more. Both come in cherry, maple, oak and walnut, with walnut being the most popular wood. Swift guesses it’s due to the darker, rich color, but cherry is also a solid performer. While sales are strong, the carpenter was initially met with some doubt when he approached local homebrew supply stores about stocking his product, including his first account Mainbrew. Swift said they were hesitant because the handles they had weren’t exactly flying out the door.
“And I was like, ‘I’ll show you them.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh yes -- these handles we’ll take.’ So it was something about the chalkboard. Steinbart jumped right on it too. I know Homebrew Exchange, they were like, ‘Yes, we need these.’ Something about it seems to be working,” Swift said.
That something is the ability to personalize the product with the chalkboard feature. Consumers can write and draw on the handles, but easily change up those images when they put on a new batch of beer. And that can happen quite often with an ambitious homebrewer or even at a busy bar.
“Homebrewers often have a lot of turnover. Or bars have a lot of turnover. And most of the time, like, a brewery will send their tap handle [to a bar], but a lot of times they don’t. I know Side Street bar off of Belmont — that was the reason they got some,” Swift explained.
Beyond homebrewers, taprooms are becoming a lucrative source of business. Swift recently shipped 36 tap handles to one in Chicago, and his creations have been ordered by customers as far away as Germany and Australia. To fill orders, he’s primarily worked out of ADX, a shared workspace with tools available via membership in Southeast Portland. The facility has some key equipment that his shop lacks, including a laser cutter, that would allow Swift to add engravings. However, he hopes to purchase a table saw, joiner and planer — moving most, if not all, production to his home address.
From start to finish, Swift spends approximately 15 minutes on each handle by working on bundles at a time. Getting the raw shape is the quickest part of the process, while adding finishing touches takes the longest. Swift hand sands every block, tapes off each handle to spray paint the recessed middle three times to create the chalkboard and then oils the wood at the end. It’s a job that might sound repetitive and one that surely keeps Swift on his feet, but it’s the kind of job he prefers.
“I like working in a woodshop much more than just sitting at a desk all day,” Swift said. “I find it hard sitting at a desk.”
His previous work as an architectural designer was more sedentary than his current endeavor. And while he’s been formally trained in the field at the University of Oregon, Swift has sawdust in his blood. His grandfather was a carpenter. He grew up with a dad who had him by his side completing house projects — and this wasn’t just fixing a creaky step or hanging a shelf — Swift’s childhood chores included finishing the attic. But growing up in a shop class on steroids prepared him for UO’s architecture department, which has its own woodshop where Swift spent much of his time. After college, he took positions at local architecture firms, but the rise of the tap handle business put him on the path to self-employment.
Being his own boss and setting his own hours have obvious benefits, but by crafting these particular handles he’s also helping homebrewers tell their own stories about the unique personalities of their beers. Taps have become a critical medium for craft producers to introduce drinkers to their brands. A simple piece of wood or metal needs to convey a lifestyle, message or feeling that’s easily identifiable. But homebrewers largely lack the ability to provide a succinct narrative in their own bars at home, where friends are just as likely to gather as they are at the neighborhood bar.
“I think the people they like more design than just black tap handles, like a little black piece of plastic,” which is the common handle available at homebrew shops. “Yeah, I think it’s just more, I guess, why do we buy nice furniture or other nice accessories? So I think it’s just this nice added touch that has, like, it’s just more impressive to look at than the black plastic.”
Beyond bringing flair to the functional, Swift gets most of his satisfaction by creating something out of nothing. He wants to expand his focus by also building carriers for six-packs and 22-ounce bottles as well as taster trays. So if you happen by a home in Arbor Lodge and catch a glimpse of an open garage with the sound of a table saw buzzing as a man’s hands make quick work of a piece of walnut — that just might be Swift in his completed shop.
“When you get a piece of wood from the store, it’s really rough around the edges and then it comes out as this nice polished piece of craft,” Swift described. “Yeah, it’s rewarding to see that.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When Bend’s Kimberly Markley decided to make her first pair of earrings in 2012, she says she just wanted to make some cool-looking jewelry shaped like hop flowers.
She had no idea it was the start of what would become a full-time business.
From making beer-themed earrings just for kicks, Markley turned her hobby into a growing endeavor called Hopped Up Jewelry.
Through her sole proprietorship, she now makes earrings, necklaces, rings and more, all based on her own hops-shaped designs. The basic designs are made of machined stainless steel, brass and copper, and she finishes the pieces by hand. Her business includes an account with the state’s biggest beermaker, Deschutes Brewery.
But the decision to go from amateur jeweler to starting a business wasn’t an easy one.
“I don’t have a business degree or a background in jewelry making, so I started learning from scratch — just reading books and branching out,” Markley says while sitting in her studio in Bend.
She relates the story of making her first pair of earrings, simply to express her individuality while waiting tables at a Bend tavern called Brother Jon’s Public House.
When she made that first pair, a friend and regular customer at Brother Jon’s machined an initial design — based on her artwork — on a plasma cutter. She finished it off on her own, and the reaction was almost immediate.
“I think the thing that really got me started on starting a business were my friends,” Markley says. “They were like ‘Kim, these are really cool, you should make them. We want them!’ And I had to be convinced that it was something that people would actually want to wear.”
That reaction from customers and acquaintances is what eventually led to Hopped Up Jewelry.
“So I just started making them for people who asked,” Markley says. “It was definitely a labor of love the first couple of years, because I was working full time and I wasn’t making anything on them.”
She continued making earrings on the side before doing some traveling in 2014, which included a stint living and working in New Zealand. When she got back, she decided to give Hopped Up a go as a full-time endeavor.
Despite a lack of jewelry-making experience, it’s not like it was a huge leap for Markley, at least from an artistic standpoint. She had been a wedding and portrait photographer in the past, and photography is still one of her passions.
That artistic creativity comes out in the packaging as well — the products are mounted on beer coasters she stamps by hand.
Hopped Up Jewelry is still pretty small; Markley does everything from the jewelry making and finishing to sales and order fulfillment on her own. Her studio is in an RV, which she affectionately refers to as Stella. “Good creative vibes happen here,” Markley says with a smile.
But with two years of business under her belt and a growing line of products, Markley says she has aspirations of growing the business.
It’s a pretty good career fashioned out of some earrings made on a whim.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.