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 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.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The beer was flowing freely at The Workhouse on a recent Friday night.
Bottles and cans were scattered around long tables, as a group of about 30 women gathered at the Bend art gallery and studio. But only some of the beer was for drinking. The rest was for painting.
The women were there for a class taught by Karen Eland, who has gained fame for her ability to paint with things other than, well, paint.
A largely self-taught artist, Eland started painting with non-traditional media back in the late 1990s, when she first experimented with coffee.
She said she started painting with beer about eight years ago, when she moved to the beer mecca of Bend.
“It sort of dawned on me when I was surrounded by all this good beer, and actually, Bend was where I first liked beer. I never liked it before then,” Eland recalled. “And so I started off drinking dark beer and then I realized, ‘Oh, dark beer is dark. I can paint with that.’ Then I tried it out, and it worked.”
Eland’s artwork with beer spans a wide spectrum. She’s done whimsical takes on famous works of art (such as Rodin’s “The Thinker” reimagined as “The Drinker”; reproductions of iconic Guinness posters (painted with Guinness, of course); commissions for Deschutes Brewery and the Brewers Association, among others; and landscapes of iconic scenery in Oregon.
Perhaps her most famous work, at least in Oregon, is an installation than can be seen near the entrance of Worthy Brewing’s brewpub in Bend. For its opening in 2013, Worthy commissioned Eland to do four works of art, one panel for each of the main ingredients in beer: water, hops, barley and yeast.
Eland also sells prints and original pieces of art. And if you want to commission a piece to be done in beer, all you have to do is ask.
But now she is also teaching what she has learned from years of painting. Last fall, Eland started hosting classes where she shows others how to paint with coffee and beer.
Her most recent class was more of a private gathering of the Central Oregon Beer Angels (a social and fundraising group), but usually she holds one public beer-painting class each month.
The two-hour classes are more of a social gathering and an excuse to drink beer and try something new than a formal art class. Participants nosh on snacks and sip on beverages while they paint. (“I do like to at least have a sip of what I am using to paint with,” Eland confided. “But not too much,” she laughed.)
Students get a practice sheet and a pre-drawn sketch to fill in, along with an example piece to follow along with. Brushes and bowls full of beer -- Eland almost always paints with porters and stouts -- are scattered around the workspace.
“I’ll give them a few simple techniques, and then we jump into the actual painting,” Eland explained, noting that everyone completes the class with a finished piece of artwork to take with them. “Usually, it just kind of unfolds itself organically.”
The Beer Angels seemed to be having a good time, as the room buzzed with chatting along with periods of concentration as everyone tried to wrap up their artwork.
“It was really fun, and it felt creative to do this,” Tracey Wierman, of Bend, said while putting the finishing touches on her painting. “It didn’t even feel like I was painting with beer, really. It’s neat how the different shades come out.”
If you can’t make it to the class, Eland offered some advice for trying it at home. She suggested using watercolor brushes and paper -- the thicker the better. You can try using a dark beer right out of the bottle, pour it out and let it air dry to thicken it or microwave it a bit (although that doesn’t always produce a great aroma, Eland warned). From there, you just paint.
“I hope I don’t put myself out of a job telling people that, but that’s all there really is to it,” she said.
For more information on Eland’s art and classes, visit:
By Gail Oberst
For a man who will probably be the most toasted in Oregon this month, Art Larrance maintains a surprisingly modest office. Barely 10 by 20 feet, his office door at Raccoon Lodge opens directly onto the brewery, landing within smelling distance of the brewing kettles, bags of grain, and somebody’s wet dog in the office next door. The man who established Oregon’s largest beer festival and reinvigorated Oregon’s craft brewing industry has carved out a couple of hours to talk to me, and despite ringing telephones, staff at the door and dinging e-mails, he seems to have all the time in the world. I’m in interviewer’s heaven.
Most beer geeks know the public Art Larrance: He’s the guy at the Oregon Brewers Festival who welcomes everyone on the first day – his privilege because he actually owns the festival. He’s the guy that started Portland Brewing Company with partners, eventually selling it and opening his current Portland businesses – Cascade Barrel House, a unique “sour” beer brewery, and Raccoon Lodge, a family brewpub, brewery and bar in Raleigh Hills.
And speaking of brewpubs, if you know your geek history, he’s the guy – along with several other brewery owners – who made brewpubs possible in Oregon. Art, Fred Bowman, Nancy and Dick Ponzi, the McMenamins and the Widmers lobbied to change Oregon’s laws in 1985 so fans of Oregon’s craft beers could drink them at the brewery. Today, a brewery is barely considered to have arrived until it has its own brewery-based pub or tasting room.
For that effort alone, raise a glass to Art.
But who is Art? Enquiring minds and all that ... If you’re taking the time to read this, maybe you might like to know a little more about the man whose life twisted and turned its way into Oregon’s craft beer, to our advantage.
He was born in 1944 in Bremerton, Wash., the son of a sailor in the U.S. Navy. His dad was stationed in Honolulu but he married Art’s mom, a Portland native, on Nov. 12, 1941, in Portland. Three weeks later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Art’s Dad was, luckily for Art, in Portland at the time.
Art’s Portland roots go deep: his grandparents had lived in the same house on N.E. Fremont Street since the 1920s. His mother inherited 15 acres in what was then “Reedville,” now Aloha, and that is where Art grew up, attending Reedville Grade School and Hillsboro High School. He was an Eagle Scout and a baseball player, taking his teams to championships in high school in 1962 and Linfield College in 1966. Perhaps it was here that he developed the adage he shared with me: “Beer is the reason baseball was invented.”
During and after college, Art followed an industrial career, working for ESCO Corp., an international steel manufacturer headquartered in Portland. At the ripe age of 25 he opened his own real estate company, purchasing his first house, a Victorian triplex on NW Flanders, for $10,500. His Sylvan Development Company organized subdivisions, construction and sales of 125 houses.
Art and Fred Bowman, with whom Art would later found Portland Brewing, met in high school and have been friends since. Fred started home brewing in the ’70s and Art joined him, along with the late Jim Goodwin. “After a while, we started drinking and chatting and thinking our beer tasted real good,” Art said.
The Goodwin-Bowman-Larrance team began brewing up a dream brewery. “Stagflation” was biting into his real estate career. “I was looking for a change,” Art said. “I jokingly said I wanted to be in the booze business, and that’s proven to be true.”
To their credit, Art said they approached the idea of a brewery with the intent to make good beer. Art describes his quest-like visit in 1983 with Bert Grant, the founder of Yakima Brewing and Redhook, in tones of reverence. “He was the grandfather of brewing, a hop chemist,” said Art.
At the time, Redhook was operating out of an old transmission shop. The trio founded Portland Brewing Company in the working-class shipyards of Portland, writing their first checks to Grant for “consultation.”
Although he’s been a bachelor for most of his life, he was married early on for five years. He has two children, a son and a daughter, Tim and Alissa.
When he sold his share in the Portland Brewing Co., he took with him brewer Ron Gansberg with plans to open another brewery. It was 1998, and already hop-centric breweries were clogging the craft beer market. “Ron and I looked at each other and decided we had to make our own mark,” Art said. “We wanted to distinguish ourselves from the others.”
The “House of Sour,” AKA Cascade Barrel House, evolved from Art’s willingness to experiment, as long as the resources were local, readily available and inexpensive. The combination of local cherries, spent wine barrels from the burgeoning Oregon wine industry, and a surprising amount of press attention helped establish the new business. Medals at Denver’s Great American Brew Festival, followed by national and international accolades have further cemented success. Today, nearly 80 percent of the 3,300 barrels of beer brewed annually by Cascade is “sour” beer, with Kriek, its original cherry sour, still leading the pack.
So where does this festival business come in?
In 1987, while Art was still at Portland Brewing, Papa Aldos Pizza asked Art, the Widmer Brothers and two other breweries to serve beer at its new blues festival. The first year, Portland Brewing blew through 76 kegs by the end of the festival. “I said ‘holy smokes’,” said Art. The first festival cost $500 to rent the park. This year, park rental was $38,400 plus $6,500 in restoration fees. “Things have changed,” Art said. Art owned the festival with partners until 1994, when he bought their shares.
I asked Art if this is all a lot of work for a septuagenarian to undertake each year, and he laughed. “We have a good, organized team. Last year, we had one planning meeting. People are always amazed when I tell them that.”
And apparently, Art is not thinking of retirement. “I’m doing what I want to do, so why should I quit?”
In fact, Art’s plans for the future might be called the opposite of retirement.
This fall, Art’s well-oiled festival machine is taking the show on the road. He’s invited 35 brewers from Oregon to join with another 15 or 20 from Nevada to take part in a beer and music festival tentatively named The Boulevard Beer & Music Festival. The festival takes place Sept. 26-27 in a 13-acre location in Las Vegas. “There are lots of different beer festivals there, but we want to have the best one,” Art said.
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