Hand in hand

Local art combines with local beer at neighborhood breweries

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Amanda Willshire uses discarded materials from beer bottles and cans to make art that decorates breweries around the Front Range.
Courtesy of Amanda Willshire

While sipping your favorite craft brew, you might have noticed artwork adorning the walls at many local breweries. It seems as though these two creative worlds, brewers and artists, are collaborating to gratify palate as well as sight.

“Brewers are artists themselves using a palette of hops, malts and other yummy ingredients to create their masterpieces,” artist Amanda Willshire says. “Since most of their time is spent perfecting their own craft, they look to visual and performance artists to bring something special to complement their space.”

Willshire creates sculptures out of recycled beer bottle caps that local businesses and friends put aside for her. Her work, from bottle cap Colorado flags to brewery logos to bicycles and animals, are often featured in breweries in Boulder and across the Front Range. She says she’s met a lot of great people from displaying her artwork at several local breweries, including Vindication, Upslope, Twisted Pine, Great Divide, and Odell, to name a few.

She says having cool artwork to look at and talk about while enjoying beer enhances the experience even more. “It’s such a fun environment and folks are happy and relaxed and love talking about the art,” she says.

Jesse Crock is another Colorado-based artist whose acrylic paintings are often featured in breweries around the state. Known for “painting the Colorado experience,” the elementary school art teacher says he got his “big break” with Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista. In addition to his art displaying at the brewery, his paintings are featured on their Pumpkin, Raspberry, and Red Chile beer labels and he painted the mural inside their tap room. He’s also done a large mural on the north wall of  Mountain Toad Brewery, in his hometown of Golden.

He feels breweries also have something to gain from displaying art.

“Just like a café or a coffee shop, it’s a place where people can gather and hang out, and the owners get to have the benefit of works on the wall,” he says.

One brewery he enjoys working with is Odyssey Beerwerks, in Arvada, which is displaying his artwork throughout the end of the year. Taproom Manager Jeremy Sisco opts to hang local artwork at the brewery because he believes artwork and beer go hand in hand.

“The process of brewing can be so creative, just like visual art,” he says. “Brewing may be more scientific, but without a creative mind neither would be very good.”

Sisco says that choosing the right artwork for the brewery can be a bit of a challenge.

“Sometimes patrons question my sanity when we have an artist showcase that doesn’t fit what they like,” he explains. “But we believe that art is doing its job if it sparks conversation.”

Nate Luebbe serves as both the  photographer and brewer at Upslope Brewing.Susan France
Nate Luebbe serves as both the
photographer and brewer at Upslope Brewing.

He understands that just like certain beer styles, not all art is going to appeal to everyone, so he keeps an open mind and tries to pick artists that will interest brewery-goers. Changing the artwork every month, or on a rare occasion after two months, gives more opportunities to area artists outside of gallery setting. And it gives patrons a reason to keep coming back.

Sisco says there is always an excitement at the beginning of each month as people anticipate the new art that’s going to be unveiled at the brewery. He says the goal is to have the taproom feel like an extension of their home.

“We want it to be warm and inviting, so seeing the interest they have in walking around to all the new pieces at the beginning of the month is really cool,” he says.

That same motivation is fueling many more breweries to feature local art work, including Wibby Brewing. Ted Risk, director of business operations at the Longmont brewery, says including artwork in the brewery for people to enjoy is a natural fit.

“We love taking the opportunity to showcase local art work from creative people that are a part of the community,” Risk says.

They’ve worked with a variety of independent artists, including a favorite, Matt Gutshall, who uses a variety of media including glass mosaics and acrylic paint, among others.

All of the artwork is switched out the last Friday of each month. What goes up next is up to the Left Hand Artist Group, led by Donald Wilson. The group is a collection of artists, musicians, poets and comedians who join together to share their talents. They connect artists with local businesses, such as Wibby Brewing and Left Hand Brewing, to display their art and share it with the community. Brewery patrons often strike up a conversation about the group itself and the artistic culture they’re helping to create around them. Risk says while the group handles the artwork, they know what fits well with the brewery and accommodate accordingly.

At Wibby, landscape paintings and landscape photographs seem popular. Risk thinks these pieces work because they complement the modern-rustic aesthetic of work already on display at the brewery, namely the stained glass pieces of the Flatirons by Boulder County artist Judy Batty.

“It’s a fun conversation starter,” Risk says of the displayed art. “And it gives people a chance to meet more people in the community.”