For more than 30 years, Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, OR, has worked with local artists to commission special packaging and label art for Jubelale, their annual winter seasonal release and the first beer that the venerable brewery packaged. But this year, for the 31st release of the Jubelale, they turned inward. Focused on the sense of community that has grown over the decades at the brewery, the employees gathered to celebrate the company’s birthday—and to paint, creating an abstract expressionistic piece that adorns the label of this year’s edition. The graphic almost looks like Monet was commissioned to make a stained-glass window, and tripped over Kandinsky on the way to the canvas. It’s a bold, striking image that’s just as inviting as the holiday season, though the beer itself is more concrete than abstract, a winter warmer replete with spice, cocoa, dried fruit, and toffee, making it bold enough to stand up to most holiday fare.
We caught up with Brewmaster Brian Faivre to talk about the 30-year history of brewing Jubelale and selecting one-off art for its labels. And then he gathered a handful of folks at the brewery—Assistant Brewmasters Tim Alexander, Scott Birdwell, and Ben Kehs; Quality Manager Shawn Theriot; Quality Assistant Manager Alicia Hicks; and Amanda Benson, who runs the Sensory Program at Deschutes—to toss back a few Jubelales and select seven of their favorite labels from the last three decades.
Paste: Thirty-one years is a long time in the craft beer space. How did Jubelale become your first packaged/bottled product?
Brian Faivre: Jubelale was first brewed in late October of 1988 and the first beer Deschutes Brewery ever bottled. It was hand-bottled directly from the taps at the Bend Public House in 750ml bottles with festive holiday labels and foil tops. The festive nature of Jubelale was meant to be shared, so this winter warmer was packaged and sold to local patrons to share with their loved ones around the holidays.
Paste: How much has the recipe for Jubelale changed over the years? Do you strive to replicate perfection, or riff on a different version each year, much like a band covering a song?
BF: While the recipe for Jubelale has remained the same, it has been through a lot of change. Originally brewed at the small brewhouse at the Bend Public House, it was then brewed on a larger scale at our original brewhouse at the production facility and is now brewed each year on our largest brewing system. In addition to equipment and process changes, the raw materials vary each year. We rely heavily on our Sensory Panel to flavor match Jubelale from year to year and the classic joke amongst the team each Jubelale season is, “It’s the best year yet!”
Paste: And was the notion of using local artists to create distinct labels always part of the plan?
BF: The original Jubelale labels from 1988 through 1994 were designed by Deschutes Brewery’s graphic artist at the time, Ed Carson, and incorporated a timely wreath into the iconic mountain and river oval adorning the label. Because of the holiday scene, once Christmas was over, the beer wasn’t as desirable. To highlight Jubelale as a festive winter ale, every year since 1995 a new regional artist has been commissioned to create an original work of art, inspired by Central Oregon storybook winters and Jubelale.
Paste: Did the brewery ever try to implement a similar label-making process with other limited-release bottles?
BF: While many local and regional artists have helped create labels over the decades on several of our beers, typically with our Just Tapped and Reserve Series, Jubelale is the only one or our yearly offerings that changes that experience from year to year.
Paste: Talk to me about this year’s label. I know Deschutes is BIG in terms of employees. How did you corral all those desperate artistic inspirations into one graphic?
BF: We managed to gather almost everyone in the company together at our brewery in Bend, for a companywide meeting the day after the brewery’s 30th anniversary. There was an element of fun around that day, not your typical PowerPoint presentation, and this artwork was created. Every co-owner at the event had a hand in making this art and helps bring home our longest-held value, community.
Paste: I trust creating new labels follows a slightly different process. Do you typically work the same cadre of artists?
BF: If you’ve ever had the opportunity to walk through the “Jubelale Hall of Fame” at the Bend brewery, you’ll see that there is a wide representation of various media including collage, wax, painting, and more. The artists do not have to design a label, they create an original art piece that is then turned into the label. An artist is chosen based on their portfolio and are asked to create something that inspires them based on Central Oregon winters and Jubelale.
Paste: Other than the beer’s taste and name, what other sort of guidance or inspiration do you provide the artist prior to seeing the finished work?
BF: Really that’s it. Since Jubelale has been a part of the Bend culture for over 30 years, most local artists have interacted with the beer or the packaging at some point. The only other guidance is to showcase their interpretation of Central Oregon winters. Legend has it that the amount of snow on the label represents what our ski/board season will be like that year!
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The 2012 label designed by Kaycee Anseth Townsend was the top choice. The winter scene in this label struck the group. They felt that it really represented a festive winter ale and captured the warmth that Jubelale brings when you drink it. The best part of this label is that it's a collage made up of old Jubelale labels from years past.
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The 1999 piece by Susan Luckey Higdon was another favorite. Everyone loved the cozy nature of the cabin in the snow in the painting and the way anyone could imagine themselves inside with their loved ones staying warm by the fire with a hearty supply of Jubelale.
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The 2002 label by Douglas Campbell Smith, based off his original acrylic painting, resonated with the group as this truly represents the wintry scene along the banks of the Deschutes River, Deschutes Brewery's namesake. Many of our co-owners spend a lot of time on this gorgeous river that meanders through town and is a quick walk from the brewery.
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Similar to the label above the 2009 label by Tracy Leagjeld reminded the group of a great, clear day up at the local ski resort, Mt. Bachelor. Jubelale is always the best choice to warm you up après ski!
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The 2010 label by Natasha Bacca is a more abstract choice than the ones above, but was a favorite as it reminded them of the northern lights and is very eye-catching. The way this piece was created using light was especially appealing. The artist works in complete darkness, using beams of light projected from a custom-made tool to guide her. By manipulating the color and intensity of the light onto light-sensitive paper, she uses the light as her paint.
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The 2004 label by Kathleen Powers was a favorite because of its fun scene and whimsical script. It was described as "Hansel and Gretel grew up and love Jubleale!" It is also nostalgic for Assistant Brewmaster Ben Kehs and Brewmaster Brian Faivre as this was their first year with the brewery.
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Last year's labels created by MaryLea Harris were a favorite as there were four unique paintings that were mixed in each six pack. The team was drawn to the festive colors and the wintry scene. Every snowflake is unique, just like every Jubelale is unique.