In my life, I've had my fair share of domestic big brand schwill beers, as well as many, many nights spent in a 40oz blur. I had fun, I was young, you know how it is. I liked how it felt, and it went well with sitting in parking lots waiting for the band you went to see to go on. But, what started by having an over 21 coworker at my high school restaurant job who refused to buy me malt liquor out of principle, turned into a lifelong love for craft beers. That first beer was a 22oz Samuel Adams's Boston Lager, and it changed my life. Aside from the said Sammy, some of my early favorites were Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, Anchor Steam, and later North Coast's Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
Being a teen in the early 90's, American Craft Beer wasn't huge like it is now, but it wasn't new by any means. Sure, Sierra Nevada stared in 1979, Samuel Adams in 1985, and Anchor Brewing as far back as 1896(!!!!), but small breweries were still at the mercy of the distribution monopoly and retail cooler real estate dictates of the American corporates. Hmmm, that sounds a little like America in general? European brewery dynamics weren't much different.
Yes, the Euro giants are far better than their American counterparts, but they're not amazing. There are more than a few brews that they make that I do like, but they don't stand up to their craft contemporaries to be honest. Sorry, but it's true. At that time, craft European breweries were near impossible to find, at least where I grew up. And, what I did find was quite challenging to my young taste palate. By then, I'd been exposed to Barley Wine and other strong beers like Young's Old Nick. But to be honest, I wasn't ready yet. It went over my head, and I wasn't able to understand and appreciate what it was I was drinking and how amazing it really is. That was soon to change.
The second time craft beer changed my life happened when I moved to San Francisco in 1999 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. It was having great bars like Zeitgeist, The Toronado, and Kennedy's Irish Pub & Indian Curry House that really gave me my crash course in craft beer appreciation. No, not appreciation, connoisseurship! Still not the mainstream craze that it would become, craft beer was so much more represented in SF back then than in Southern California, where I'm grew up. Further discoveries and new favorites of mine from those days were: Anchor Porter, Lagunitas IPA, Mad River's Jah Red, Rogue's Dead Guy, Ayinger's Celebrator and Lost Coast's Downtown Brown.
The Most Happiest Place on Earth (Zeitgeist) - Acrylic on 11 x 11 panel, 2009 *Private Collection
A lot more than beer has happened during this time. I've bounced around from San Francisco to Oakland. From Oakland to San Francisco. From San Francisco back to Ventura. From Ventura to Seattle. From Seattle to Los Angeles. And, from Los Angeles to South Pasadena, where I have been living for the past 3 years. The East Bay and Seattle have great craft beer scenes, and over the past 7 years here in Southern California, I've felt lucky to witness and participate in the craft beer renaissance that is fully alive and well here, let alone continuing to expand and improve itself each and every day. There are great bars and breweries up in my part of town, and you could quite easily find me at one of them on any given weekend if you wanted to say hi.
I also have to make a special mention of my hometown, Ventura. If ever find yourself there, you must visit Surf Brewery. It makes me happy that this place exists.
Meat and Potatoes (Stumbing Monk, Seattle) - Acrylic on 6 x 8 panel, 2009 *Private Collection
Simply put, I love beer. I love the experience of finding a new beer and sharing it with those who are as devout appreciators of it as I am. These paintings are my ode to craft beer, and those who brew it. This series, which I started in the spring of 2011 and completed in early 2012 is comprised of 100 "portraits" of beers that I am a fan of. It in no way captures every great beer or brewery that I've experienced and enjoy. It's just the beginning. Future plans for this series include a possible self published book of the entire series, as well as gallery exhibitions. Stay tuned for all new news as it happens. A big thank you goes out to fellow artist, Angel Villanueva, who shot all 50 canvases for me!
So, without further adieu, I give you 99 BOTTLES OF BEER. And if you were wondering...yes, I drank all of them! And, on that note...CHEERS!