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 San Lorenzo Valley Post

https://www.facebook.com/San-Lorenzo-Valley-Post-107557427361672/

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, Mo 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

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

https://www.facebook.com/San-Lorenzo-Valley-Post-107557427361672/

Photos by SLV Steve and Julie Horner

Associated story: https://slvpost.com/a-life-so-lush

With the Wind at His Back – Yeshe Jackson Art

By Julie Horner

A great rigged ship plowed through outer space, floating along in full sail aided by rocket thrusters. An astronaut tripped slowly down the plank into the vast starry vacuum while a great white shark and all the pirates looked on, big glass bubbles around their heads (the shark’s bubble was full of sea water, of course). “Everything was ridiculous but rendered with very precise detail…painstaking.” Space Pirates, the gigantic 4’x5’ original painting by Boulder Creek artist, Yeshe Jackson, hangs at Gilded Lily on Mission Street in Santa Cruz.

The SLV native met me at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost one sunny spring afternoon for a bit of refreshment and to chat about his art – now a full time occupation – his bread and butter. “Imagine an endless chasm and envision stepping over the edge with trust. Each month gets better,” he says.

Yeshe took his first art class at SLVHS during his junior year. It was an end-of-semester acrylic paint project that became the life-changing experience. When it was time to declare a major at Humbolt State, he said, “Art was the one thing that came to mind that I was good at and that I enjoyed.” And he didn’t do math. “Not that I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t want to do it. Art is real, a valid major…I went for it.”

And after graduation did the whole starving artist thing while trying to find his artistic niche, working in construction and taking what seemed like a pretty cool opportunity as an apprentice tattoo artist at the Gilded Lily in Felton. But tattoos didn’t work out. “I got zero clients, I was starving. Clients had been coming in for free tattoos but that dried up.

During long afternoons with no one to ink, he hand-painted “flash” designs (mockup tattoos in watercolor).  “A lightbulb went off. If I’m not doing tattoos, why not work on my art?” Canvases were on sale “so I bought two” and he started painting landscapes from a few photos that local landscape photographer, Neil Simmons, had let him have.” Someone came into the shop, saw the work, and asked if it was for sale. He sold the piece for a couple hundred bucks.

Now he paints prolifically from his home studio – “taking out all the crutches from under and digging a little deeper” – capturing the movement of life in his own interpretations of local landscapes, underwater creatures, swirling sea and breaking surf.

Recently momentum is off the hook for Yeshe’s “Pint and Paint” events, which he started almost a year ago at New Bohemia Brewing in Capitola. Nubo hosts twice a month and the events always sell out. He’s started a series at Boulder Creek’s lille aeske, Ben Lomond’s Casa Nostra, and other venues public and private.

“I’m still getting my feet wet, willing to try a bunch of different venues. These events help crack the shell on some people who haven’t painted in a long time or maybe never in their life. And having a pint or two is not a bad thing to do, helps people loosen up.”

$45 gets you free beer, a 16×20 canvas, brushes and paint, he provides all the materials. “You just show up and get to take home a painting.” It’s a great way to meet people and network. “Too many people spend too much of their time mind-numbing in front of the TV,” he says. “It’s so much more fulfilling to spend an evening creating something – we all have so much more potential than we realize. If you’re reading a book, painting a picture, sculpting – anything – there’s something about that that’s so much more satisfying.”

The success of Pint and Paint is a testament to the locals. “People want to support you, no matter what it is, like the wind at your back.” And there’s no better life than doing what he loves to do.  “I couldn’t fathom or even stomach the idea of not being an artist. When I think about art I think about possibilities for the future, and I have to be thankful – it feels pretty amazing.”

On the Web: squareup.com/store/yeshe-jackson-art

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/yeshepaints

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. #slvpost | http://www.slvpost.com
Email: leap2three@gmail.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/santacruzmountainslocal

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The ‘grass is Always Greener – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup

By Julie Horner

Singer-songwriter, Rick Ednie, has advice for budding musicians and writers: Keep whatever you do. In 1998 or so he first tried writing songs, by hand, which he held onto in a folder for years, dragging it around thinking, “why am I saving this crap?” “Some of the thoughts were immature,” he felt, “Not focused, rambling.” He kept the old material anyway and it has proven to be a goldmine. “It might instill something in you that might inspire something else.” Like a seed. “I have this image of people writing something then saying, ‘oh this sucks,’ and crumpling it up and throwing it in the trash. Don’t do that!”

Locals will recognize Rick as a lead proponent in Santa Cruz Mountains-based band, Heathen Hill, favorites on the regional Americana folk music scene who play regularly at the Trout Farm, Joe’s Bar, LuLu Carpenter’s downtown Santa Cruz, and who used to have a regular Sunday slot at the Boulder Creek Brewery before fire gutted the building in March, 2015. Rick is quick to mention that Heathen Hill is far from a bluegrass band. “There’s no fiddle, no banjo.” It’s something they’re always talking about, he says.

In the meantime, Rick has branched out by forming another musical endeavor, which he calls Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup. “I’ve been a gig getter for many years. I wanted to get gigs but didn’t necessarily have the musicians to support it.” So he’d call around to find players to plug in to various gigs as he got them, basically rounding them up. He’d get calls from musician friends saying, “Hey Rick, why don’t you do another roundup gig?” So with a core group of four or five members in rotation, he started at farmers’ markets then helped make popular the Wednesday night Java Jam, which used to be at Coffee Cat up in Scotts Valley and is now down at LuLu Carpenter’s with a rotating roster of top folk musicians.

And with the help of his core posse, Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup has a new CD called White Turtle Dove. It’s his second CD and third time working in a studio environment. “I find it a challenge – the right people have to be together – there are so many variables, like getting the same people to focus on similar goals. We’re all just weekend warriors; I try to make a better effort.”

Most of the people on the CD are close friends, a few were hired as professional studio players. The album includes Rick on guitar, vocals, and mandolin; Bradley Richter on mandolin and vocals; Suzanne Suwanda on bass; Jason Lampel on banjo; Luke Abbott on fiddle; Liz Smith on fiddle and vocals; Mike Witcher on dobro; and Jered Chaney on banjo and vocals. Recorded at Joe Weed’s Highland Studios in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the album features outstanding bluegrass musicianship and showcases Rick’s songs, some new, some reworked from his saved archive of originals from his early songwriting years.

“I’m really happy with it. The first CD I did was definitely Americana, singer-songwriter stuff. This one is contemporary bluegrass. Or at least it’s structurally traditional – but I’m not from Tennessee, it’s how I hear the music, my expression.”

“Recording is a great way to improve your craft, to learn what you can do in that kind of environment – it’s not forgiving – it’s made me a better musician.” And he’s still feeling the love of recording with really professional players. “To have them on the project was encouraging for me, made me step up to the plate to play at a better level.”

This year Rick has been invited to play at the upcoming Brookdale Bluegrass Festival Spring Fling put on by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. The event takes place March 18 and 19 at Scopazzi’s in Boulder Creek – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup plays Saturday the 19th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Rick says they’ll be doing a lot of songs off the CD. “The CD has some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”

“It’s my hope to get my music out there – I like to play music with people, and I also want to do more solo work.” He thanks the guys in Heathen Hill for being patient while he reworked his originals for the CD and for performing with them. “They allowed me the space to do that…to work through that. They weren’t judgmental about it…I mean, sure, they’d bust my balls about it, ‘You’re changing the song again?’ But they always allowed me the space to do it.”

Rick is a “project person” and with White Turtle Dove has a hand in everything from the artwork and design of the trifold CD case (make sure you look for the insert) to the promotion and booking. “I love the project aspect of it – it’s there to do – I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

The songwriting is the heart of it. “When I get a song the right way, I can say it’s new, it’s very fulfilling. I have the experience at the Brewery to thank for that, Heathen Hill, the music rights people,” who forced him to turn away from performing cover material and focus on writing his own songs. With White Turtle Dove “It’s not all me. I produced it, I’m on the cover, it’s got my name, but it’s more than that.”

Rick’s CDs, A Fine Place to Start and White Turtle Dove, are on the Web: www.rickednie.com/home/

Experience Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup at the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival at Scopazzi’s March 19th at 6:00 pm, 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006. Full festival schedule: http://www.brookdalebluegrass.com/

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com | http://www.slvpost.com

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A Toast to the Craft – Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing at The Cremer House

By Julie Horner

For two luxurious sun-drenched days, the Santa Cruz Mountains Art, Wine, and Music Festival invited revelers to stay local, kick off their shoes, dance on the green to live music, and enjoy a final taste of summer among the redwoods. On hand to pour hand-crafted suds: Boulder Creek Brewing on Saturday and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on Sunday.

Local brewer and owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Emily Thomas, remembers when the Art and Wine Festival was on the street and how, like the Redwood Mountain Fair, these home grown festivals bring everyone out. “The mountains needed another incarnation of being outside as a community.” Now that the Art and Wine Festival is at Garrahan Park, she says, “It’s successful and will continue to keep growing.”

“So many places are void of life and creativity. A mountain town so close to the beach captures the best of both types of people, mountain people and beach communities and brings them together. You want people to come here and experience it…if you’re raised in Fresno and that’s all you know, that’s kind of a shame. Living in the mountains – the nature of it – can change your whole perspective on life.”

Fresh from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery to the redwoods, Emily welcomes visitors to her new tap room and restaurant, a clean, simple space without pretention at the historical Cremer House in downtown Felton where locals and travelers enjoy tasty plates and award winning, certified organic craft brew.

The Cremer House will celebrate its one-year anniversary in December and from all accounts the endeavor has been a raving success with a consistent customer base of mountain dwellers and weekend warriors from over the hill and Santa Cruz. Emily says Saturdays and Sundays are busiest. “We get a lot of foodies, and the beer selection is pretty unique” from flagship ales to “wildly inventive seasonals that will bend your taste buds and challenge your senses.”

Emily has always loved food. Her mom was the cook at the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond when Emily was growing up in SLV. But it’s the brewing that ultimately sparked the idea of getting into the restaurant business.

While at college in Portland in the early 90s, two uncles who “didn’t believe in books” taught her how to “brew beer, work on cars, and clear brush.” She did earn her software engineering degree and moved to San Diego to live the corporate life. Eventually eschewing cubical confines and back in the Santa Cruz area to raise her family, the urge to brew bloomed and she opened Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on the Westside in 2005.

“Our original model was a tasting room to take your beer home with you. But the first week we opened there were hundreds of people drinking the beer in the sun along the railroad tracks.” That got her thinking, “What are the spaces where people hang out?” So she created the tap room and beer garden.

That’s where the beer is brewed for the Cremer House because Felton’s infrastructure at the site won’t support the necessary ebb and flow of craft brewing in volumes enough to serve throngs of the curious thirsty.

Emily made the proposal to SCM Brewing co-owner, Bob Locatelli, to do a joint restaurant as well. She said that neither of them was initially of a mindset to take on a project that big but in the end decided to go for it. It took four years to get all the permitting in place, and the old Cremer building needed to be retrofitted to support modern requirements while still maintaining the historical elements. Emily designed the interior space, local contractor, Chuck Reason, updated the structure.

“That’s how we differentiate ourselves – craft brewers are only 10% of the market, big corporations are still dominant – so small brewers work together, looking for things that make us look unique in our own business.”

The Cremer House serves lunch and dinner and showcases a variety of 25 craft beers on tap including Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and select offerings from other local brewers, ciders, wines, and homemade sodas.

The Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Wine, and Music Festival thanks Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing for sharing their hand crafted brew at the festival and for keeping gracious community spirit alive in the mountains.

Cremer House
6256 Highway 9
Felton CA. 95018
http://www.thecremerhouse.com
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
402 Ingalls St #27
Santa Cruz CA. 95060
http://www.scmbrew.com

(c) Julie Horner, September 2015 for the San Lorenzo Valley Post.

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com

On the Web: santacruzmountainslocal.com

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