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 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 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.
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Whether choosing the life of a brewer or the life of a musician, it’s a choice that means committing to a challenging career that often requires long hours. Those who succeed are the ones who combine skill and commitment to crafting a product that they not only can be proud of, but their fans can consume.
John Harris, an icon in Oregon craft brewing, has managed to balance his primary career as a brewer with a love of music by sitting in as a guest for bands with both a local and national reach. As a kid, John said he was "always banging on stuff," which led to banging on things in a more musical manner — playing the drums in junior high band. Between band and private lessons, he learned to read music and keep rhythm, skills that he would draw upon years later. Attending a concert in 1985 he saw Billy Hults, a washboard player who, according to his posthumous induction into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, "played with about everyone in Portland in the ‘70s and ‘80s." John thought what he was doing with the washboard looked fun and he proceeded to pick one up for himself at a thrift store.
When asked how he learned to play it, John replied "You just kind of do it." No doubt his background in playing the drums helped him figure it out, and for a couple of years he was officially part of a band called the Hardly Boys. Being a musician generally isn't a high-paying gig and since washboard players don't hold the cache that a lead guitarist or vocalist does, there’s a greater likelihood that they won't be paid often, so when he was kicked out of the band it wasn’t the blow it could have been. At the time, John was beginning a career in brewing, something that would be at least a bit more lucrative than playing the washboard.
In 1986, John had a roommate that saw a brewer position advertised in Willamette Week by McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House and encouraged him to apply for what he felt should be "his job." John had done some homebrewing and read up as much as he was able to on it, which didn’t amount to much formal literature at the time. Feeling light on qualifications, he was somewhat surprised when McMenamins offered him the position. His boss proclaimed his chances of success directly from the get-go: he would either get the flow of brewing or not. As it turned out, John got it.
Two years later, with some professional brewing experience under his belt, he once again saw an ad, this time with Deschutes Brewery in Bend. They were looking for someone with two years of experience, which was considered a lot at that time. John knew that this was his job to go after and he was in a position to be able to relocate to Bend, which is what he proceeded to do after accepting the job.
When he came on board at Deschutes, owner Gary Fish taught him to brew three year-round offerings: a golden ale, a bitter and a porter along with seasonal beers. John's first seasonal was a wheat, followed by what is now a Deschutes staple — Mirror Pond. Sales of it quickly outpaced the bitter 3-to-1. But even with numbers to prove its popularity, Gary resisted replacing the bitter with Mirror Pond. He finally gave in a bit by bringing it on as a nine-month seasonal.
While John and his beers were successful at Deschutes, he said living in Bend wasn't much fun for someone who was an outsider. After four years, an opportunity with Full Sail Brewing came along that would allow John (and his now-wife) to return to Portland. John had known the Full Sail guys before they started looking for someone to head up their Portland location and both parties were comfortable with the autonomy John would have to run Portland operations.
Compared to the amount of beer the Bend facility turned out, the Portland location’s annual maximum capacity of 5,000 barrels was small, but it allowed John to continue to develop new beers for the Full Sail Brewmasters Reserve series. It was there that he also got the chance to learn more about the business of having a brewery, which included traveling with distributors and selling what he was making. From the beginning, John had viewed Full Sail as a good place to work and it was a solid job for a guy with a wife and two young kids. John was loyal to his job and ended up spending 20 years at Full Sail.
Throughout his career as a brewer, John continued to nourish his love of music, attending concerts and getting to know bands. That interest garnered invitations to play a lot with local bands Crawdads of Pure Love (based in Eugene), Ed and The Boats, and The Buds of May. He has even played with national bands such as The Mother Truckers, Zero, and Kingfish, fitting in appearances around their touring schedules and his brewing schedule -- a brewing schedule that changed in 2012 when he left Full Sail.
Some might have considered a 26-year run as a brewer a good one, especially when taking into consideration that he created recipes for Mirror Pond, Black Butte, Jubelale and Obsidian, among other things. Perhaps this would be when John started to think about spending his time doing something else. In his own way, John was. He was brewing up a plan for opening his own place and applying what he’d learned on both the brewing and business sides at Full Sail. In 2013 he opened Ecliptic Brewing, a brewpub whose name and the names of the beer, along with its interior design, speak to another love of John's: astronomy. When you have your own place, you set the rules -- and at Ecliptic, John has also brought music into the mix with a regular schedule of live performances. One band in particular, Off the Cuff, plays often -- with John shifting from brewer/owner to washboard player when he can.
Beyond the regular schedule of live music at Ecliptic, John has put together an event that will take place there Thursday, June 16th. Brewers and Their Bands will feature five brewers and bands they play with: John and Off the Cuff, The Moonshine with Max Skewes of Burnside Brewing, Indiana Tex Mex with Matt Swihart of Double Mountain Brewery, and Left Coast Convicts with Shaun Kalis of Ruse Brewing. The music will start around 5:30 p.m. and it will surely be an evening filled with great music, great beer and great people whose talents go beyond the brew kettle.
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Just imagine: an artist stuck in a dark office staring at a windowless wall. No light. It happened to Ron Pomeroy.
He’d been a lawyer for years, working in private practice and as a deputy prosecutor. Now, he was ready to retire. He gave his boss a generous notice. His boss told him, “A couple of months before you leave, we’re going to move you into a different office because we’re going to reconstruct the space.” Ron explains, “I’d had an office that was a large space with a lot of windows. I got moved to an interior office with no windows. And I thought this is really kind of confining. I think I’ll bring some of my art to work.”
That decision convinced Ron retirement was right for two reasons. The first, he says, was soul saving. He describes he “wanted to do something that used a different part of my brain.” He was tired of “being geared up and kind of intense about life.”
Also born in that dingy law office was a new career. When he hung his paintings, he heard from coworkers who were interested in the subject matter. “This was primarily birds. People said, ‘That’s really cool! Can you do my bird?’ So that’s kind of how I got started.”
When Ron boxed up his law career in 2011, he also changed his style of art from representational to abstract. Shapes and colors replaced those birds. But the paint he uses had changed long before that.
In the fall of 1986, Ron was painting a version of “American Gothic” using his parents’ faces. It was a Christmas present for them. That’s when Ron ran out of water for his watercolors. “I was drinking a beer at the time, so I started painting with beer.”
“I paint with combinations of regular watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor paint) and either beer or wine. Ninety-five percent of what I use is beer.”
“The darker the beer, the more effect it has.” The beer can make the colors more subtle or less brilliant by having more pigmentation. Ron can simply use less beer and more watercolor when he wants to soften the stronger pigmentations. He also strives to stick with local breweries.
“I try to emphasize Northwest beer. Right now I just finished one with Pfriem. It’s a stout that’s just come to market. I like Breakside Brewery. I enjoy Widmer. And I like Full Sail. I like beers I can trust for their quality and consistency.”
Yes, beer. And not just dark porters or stouts, but also light-colored pilsners and IPAs. They don’t add any color, Ron says, but he can use them “to get some carbonation effect in the painting.” Ron will add the carbonation for the same reason he paints on watercolor paper or uses a particular printing process — to make the work pop. High-resolution giclee printing highlights the vibrancy of the colors in Ron’s paintings, how those colors relate to each other and creates that visual jazz. “I have evolved into doing primarily shapes and colors,” Ron says.
Ron has done some 1,200 pieces using about 150 beers. He says he can do one painting per 16-ounce beer. “Art is a highly personal experience and the beauty of abstract art is that you can kind of see what you want to in it. But what I like is that just doing it with beer is doing something outside the norm. It puts me in an ‘outside the norm’ frame of mind.”
There is a liveliness to Ron’s work; whether it is a palette of colors rolling across the paper like a stormy sea, tiers of color stacked one on the other like a multilayered hamburger or spears of color growing like hallucinogenic blades of grass.
But there is something missing. Ron has won awards at art shows and is developing a marketing plan that will include putting his images on things like t-shirts and coffee mugs. Oddly, though, you won’t find a Pomeroy original on your next bottle of beer. A while back, Ron did ask a few breweries if they were interested, but that was when he was still doing birds and he was turned down.
Of course, breweries have signature labels that quickly identify who they are: Pelican’s pelican, Breakside’s chair or Hopworks’ tricolored circle. But perhaps more brewers could employ a method popular with winemakers — using unique labels for special releases. Chateau Mouton Rothschild has been doing this for years and the labels, let alone the wine, are collectible. At a time when more beer lovers are collecting and storing beer, artistic labels could add to their experience. Besides, when you pay $15 or $20 for a 22-ounce bottle of beer, wouldn’t it be nice to also have something intriguing to look at on the label?
For a look at Ron Pomeroy’s “Beer Colors,” go to beercolors.net. There will be a reception for a display of Ron Pomeroy’s work from 7-9 p.m. Jan. 16 at Frame Central, 6639 SW Macadam, Portland. You can also participate in Oregon Beer Growler’s Perfect Pints tasting for the February issue at the same location that afternoon.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.