Great Moments in Art & Ale

by Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

In anticipation of this Friday’s Art & Ale (get your tickets here), I’ve assembled this list of three instances where beer inspired artists to create remarkable works of art.

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, 1960, oil on bronze, Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, 1960, oil on bronze, Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Jasper Johns casts beer cans in bronze to spite fellow artist
Title: Painted Bronze/Ale Cans
Medium: Oil on bronze
Year: 1960

According to the now legendary story, Willem de Kooning, a painter known for his large-scale, gestural canvases, badmouthed gallerist Leo Castelli, exclaiming the “son-of-a-bitch” could sell two beer cans as art. When word reached Jasper Johns, an artist represented by Castelli’s gallery, he cast two Ballantine Ale cans in bronze. Castelli sold them. Johns’ sculptural wisecrack now resides in the collection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany. Works like Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, in which Johns depicted everyday objects, helped usher in the transition from Abstract Expressionism, a dominant style of the 1950s which focused on monumentally scaled works reflecting artist’s psyches, to Pop Art, a movement in which artists looked to imagery from popular culture as sources of inspiration.

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, 1970 – 2008, 1979 installation view at SFMOMA; © 2008 Tom Marioni; photo: Paul Hoffman

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, 1970 – 2008, 1979 installation view at SFMOMA; © 2008 Tom Marioni; photo: Paul Hoffman

Tom Marioni drinks beer with friends, leaves the cans behind, calls it sculpture
Title: The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is the Highest Form of Art
Medium: Beer, friends
Year: 1970-current

Curator George Neubert brought the beer and artist Tom Marioni brought the party for this after-hours artwork in the empty galleries of the Oakland Art Museum. Sixteen of the artist’s friends joined him for beer and conversation, leaving the empty bottles behind to serve as a record of the gathering. This project continued as a regular series of private social events on Wednesday evenings in Marioni’s San Francisco studio, which the artist hosted to help foster community in the local art scene. Marioni enacts a version of The Act of Drinking Beer… in museums today, although it’s evolved to include an artist-designed bar, fridge and shelves of beer. A pioneer of participatory art, a type of practice in which an artist conceives of a situation creating social engagement, Marioni helped pave the way for artists like Eric Steen, whose Beers Made By Walking is next on this list.

Homebrewers enjoy beer and conversation during the first Beers Made By Walking tasting session. Image courtesy of

Homebrewers enjoy beer and conversation during the first Beers Made By Walking tasting session. Image courtesy of

Eric Steen turns hikes into inspiration for tasty brews
Title: Beers Made By Walking
Medium: Beer
Year: 2011-current

In 2011, artist and beer aficionado Eric Steen invited homebrewers and naturalists to accompany him on a series of seven hikes around the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. His guests identified edible plants they used to flavor eight specially formulated beers which were then brewed at a local commercial brewery and sold at pubs in Colorado Springs. Steen considers the beers portraits of the hikes. Like Tom Marioni before him, he is interested in the ways in which beer brings people together, and as demonstrated by Beers Made By Walking, the ways in which the beverage might connect its drinkers to the landscape around them. The project continues to this day and has expanded to include such major breweries as Deschutes and New Belgium.


A Week In Denver Part Two: …and ALE


By: Corey Jenkins, Communication Volunteer/Visitor Services

Those of you who read my previous blog know that I recently  spent a week in Denver, during which  I was fortunate enough to experience some of the city’s art offerings. The art was only part of the experience. This particular region of Colorado is home to several breweries, two of which I visited.


My first night in Denver I was treated to dinner at the Breckenridge Brewery. Breckenridge is a microbrewery, and much like you might find at Goose Island in Chicago or Great Lakes in Cleveland, they operate a restaurant with their brewery. I enjoyed a platter of smoked wings and pork covered in a unique sauce that complimented the Breckenridge Agave Wheat ale that I had chosen to try. The Agave Wheat is an unfiltered American style wheat ale with a hint of agave. This particular ale was flavorful and bitter, yet still refreshing and light. Although I did not tour Breckenridge, it was an excellent experience and introduction to Colorado brew.

A couple of days later I made it the largest single site brewery in the world, Coors of Golden, Colorado.  I realize that those of you with sophisticated beer palettes may not be excited by Coors, however in terms of an everyday beer of choice Coors Banquet is my go to, so I was particularly excited for the tour. The brewery looks exactly like the Coors mythology would lead you to believe, nestled in the Rocky Mountain Foothills with a fresh flow of mountain stream water running beside it.


Coors offers free tours that guide the visitor through their entire process and history. From their beginning in 1873 with founder Adolph Coors to their survival during Prohibition making malted milk, to Bill Coors’ innovation of aluminum cans in the 1950’s all the way up through their merger will Miller and their latest offerings.



MillerCoors produces and feature a large variety of products including Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Keystone Light, the Miller Family of Beers, Killian’s Irish Red, Blue Moon, Colorado Native, Leinenkugel and Batch 19 among the others that they either produce, import or have partnered with. Midway through the tour, visitors of age are offered a sample of fresh beer. I opted to sample Banquet, and I can honestly say that it may have been the best sip of beer I have tried. It carried a quality that I have never experienced in any beer I have found at the store.


The end of the tour also included free beer, at which point I had the chance to enjoy Colorado Native, a superb lager that Colorado is apparently keeping to themselves, Batch 19, a lager brewed according to a Pre-Prohibition recipe, and of course a mug of fresh Banquet beer.

I would encourage any beer lover to check out the local flavors of any given region they are visiting, as well as the ones that may be in your own back yard that you never considered visiting. Many breweries and distilleries for that matter offer free tours along with free samples, and typically only take up forty-five minutes of your day.


Some of you might be wondering what this has to do with the museum. It has everything to do with Art and Ale on March 8, 2013. Each year some of the greatest local brewmasters in the region bring their beer to the museum for adults to sample while enjoying the museum and for the first time, the galleries will be open for the first hour. The sooner you purchase your tickets, the cheaper they are. Also, a “green” membership for the year is including in the price!