A Simple Aesthetic

Local Artist, Nicky Gaston, Reimages the Aesthetic at Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

By Julie Horner

The community packed the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost on its final Friday to wish the business bon voyage as it prepares to move operations north of town. Local brewers, Donald and Susan Cramb, owners of Scotts Valley’s Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, were in attendance along with local artist, Nicky Gaston, their new beer label designer. Long a tasting room loyal, Nicky recently began work designing hand-illustrated labels for each of Steel Bonnet’s handcrafted brews. With a major artistic appetite, the labels are part of his freelancing efforts late into the night after his 9-to-5 in Santa Cruz.

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A full-time graphic designer currently working for NHS distribution, the parent company of Santa Cruz Skateboards – and a voracious skateboarder himself – he’ll stop by Steel Bonnet on his way back to Boulder Creek and “get a beer…maybe two!” With an impressive graphic art portfolio in hand, Nicky remembers his initial meeting with Don: “After about five minutes, Don said, ‘when can you start?’”

He began work about six months ago producing the labels in batches of four. “Don trusted my creative judgement.” It was Nicky’s design for Hop the Heck IPA – his favorite of the brews at Steel Bonnet –  that inspired the aesthetic for the other labels in the series. “There are roughly five colors per graphic,” he says, and each graphic is reflective of the theme of the beer itself, rich in finite detail and saturated hues that you would find in nature. Hop blossoms are naturally green and yellow, for instance, and he’s matched the color of the real thing as closely as possible on the label. Likewise, the color of a Hawaiian sunset for the Pau Hana brew, or the tones of the forest for Bear Creek Brown, the nano brewery’s tribute to Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek; stomping grounds for the Crambs.

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Already known for his graphic artwork for Alice’s Restaurant and for the Parks Project, among others, and enthusiastic about continuing to build his freelance opportunities, the labels he’s created for Steel Bonnet will also translate to tap handles, T-shirts, and other merchandise. For Nicky it’s all about mutual respect and keeping it local. “Their beer is good, I support what they’re doing and how they make their beer. Not only do I want to work with them, I love what they do.”

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Nicky just finished the last of the 14 labels, which was in honor of Donald and Susan’s new grandbaby, Connor. “The beer is entitled ‘Conski Cream Ale’ and the graphic consists of an illustrated image of Connor after a full messy meal.” Ironically, the graphic was completed on the day of Steel Bonnet’s recent 2nd year anniversary, “which was a wonderful way to finish up all 14 images,” Nicky says. “Steel Bonnet does an excellent job at both perfecting their crafted beers and staying innovative with new limited releases of seasonal offerings.”

“Stop by Steel Bonnet’s wonderful Scotts Valley location and grab a pint of some of the best beer around!” And while you’re there, check out the new beer labels created by San Lorenzo Valley’s Nicky Gaston.

Nicky Gaston: www.instagram.com/nickygaston | http://ngcreativeco.com

Steel Bonnet: www.facebook.com/SteelBonnetBrewing
20 Victor Square B, Scotts Valley

Copyright 2017, Julie Horner for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin November 2017 print edition. https://santacruzmountainslocal.comwww.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletinwww.facebook.com/leap2threepublications

Boulder Creek Brewery Switches Hitches

Locals Set Adrift Without “The Fishbowl” and Times Together at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost

By Julie Horner

On March 29th, 2015 the well-loved Boulder Creek Brewery was gutted by fire. The building remains, an empty shell, at 13040 Highway 9, the epicenter of Boulder Creek. A “For Sale” sign tacked to the façade has signaled the end of an era for months now. They’re not going to rebuild.

Moving to Boulder Creek from Ben Lomond some years ago, refuge and solace was found after tedious upheaval, boxes and belongings, with a late-night plate and a velvety pint. Relative newbies to town at the time, Moe was quick to put us at ease: “No sleep ‘til Brookdale!” he pretend-screamed into an imaginary mic, putting a local twist to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn” and setting the scene for life in our new digs. Hell yes, we could stagger home on foot, and all would be right with the world! What a find, Boulder Creek and its Brewery!

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Home of original on-site brews such as Dragon’s Breath IPA and Redwood Amber Ale, the Brewery was a hub for wonderful food and good times for local characters and travelers through. After the fire, which is believed to have been sparked by an electrical wiring failure, the heartbeat of a small mountain town was silenced for a few breathless, unbelieving months. The day after the fire, neighbors wandered down in a daze to stand outside the building squinting up at the morning light pouring through where the roof used to be. The brand-new awnings and “Boulder Creek Brewery” sign remained intact as if nothing had happened.

For regulars, the ghostly absence of colorful family friendly community gathered together over a solid meal and a tasty pint was deafening. Rarely has an off-the-hook burger, locally brewed beers on tap, and a catch-up on current gossip (and the wedge-cut fries) been more sorely missed.

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Time heals and the spirit of a mountain town always prevails. A stroke of good fortune after bad allowed the business to move sideways and kitty-corner one block to the just-vacated Boulder Creek Music storefront under the I.O.O.F Hall at 152 Forest Street. For the better part of two years, the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost kept the vibe alive with locals and visitors alike, stirring up small bites in a clever ‘kitchen-in-a-pinch’ and pouring exceptional guest taps. The lifeblood of a small town again found its course, and on most evenings “The Fishbowl,” as the seating area at the front of the establishment became known, would be bubbling with smiling faces, tall tales, and uproarious laughter.

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And seasons have turned again. The note taped to a late September window reads: “Nancy’s next chapter coming soon. I will be moving down the road a ways to open Boulder Creek Roadside Café. This will be in the old Burger 9 location. I look forward to having a real kitchen again. Hope to see everyone there. Thank you all for your support.”

Boulder Creek Roadside Café is expected to open its doors in December just a short jaunt north of downtown at 15520 Highway 9, across from Garrahan Park and near the Mountain Store. A hungry, thirsty mountain town anticipates slipping comfortably back into the familiar sharing the day’s travels over exceptional brews and sinking teeth into the best burgers in the county! Stay tuned: www.facebook.com/bouldercreekbrewery

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Copyright 2017 Julie Horner.
Leap2Three Publications | www.facebook.com/leap2threepublications

Photos by SLV Steve and Julie Horner. Text originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin by Julie Horner: www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net www.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin