There’s a new winning artist on the block this year in the third annual beer label contest hosted by the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
This year’s winning label was created by James Schloemer, breaking the two-year winning streak of artist Lydia Johnston in the 2019 and 2020 contests. The label now adorns bottles of Grace Ridge Brewery’s ‘64 Afterbock, and can be seen on display at the brewery along with the other design entries, which were unveiled at a First Friday art exhibit opening on Feb. 5.
Now in its third year, the contest continues to serve as a fun way to engage the community with the reserve and a vector for teaching more people about its mission. Environmental Education Specialist Dana Nelson said the idea sprang from the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, which partnered with Kenai River Brewing Company on a special beer, proceeds from which go to support the land trust’s Stewardship Program.
Three years ago when the reserve started the beer contest, it was turning 20 years old. Nelson said she felt the contest would be a good way to celebrate that, and the event continued annually from there.
It’s just another way to promote estuaries “and just how resilient they are,” Nelson said, especially since “I Heart Estuaries” week falls in the month of February, when the contest winner is announced.
Especially this year, Nelson said she felt like people might need a creative outlet.
This year, the unveiling of the winning label took place during a First Friday art exhibit opening. In years past, staff from the reserve have also attended to hold short presentations and answer questions about the work they do for the local estuary, which is one of just 29 in the country, and the largest.
“We’re here to educate and research about our backyard,” Nelson said.
The goal is to get more people outside and learning about the benefits of an estuary, which include reducing the effects of pollution and erosion, she said.
The reserve staff choose the winning label each year. Nelson said they pick the design that best incorporates the theme. This year’s creation by James Schloemer was great, she said, because it did that while also incorporating the beer itself right into the art.
The ‘64 Afterbock is a red lager with Guatemalan black lime and chilis from Turkey, said Sherry Stead, who co-owns Grace Ridge Brewery with her husband Don.
“This is all community driven, and they’re all local artists which makes it a lot of fun,” Stead said.
She and Don like to stand behind anything that supports Kachemak Bay, she said.
If those interested in the reserve want to continue learning about estuaries, I Heart Estuaries runs for three days from Feb. 12-14, hosted by the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association. Learn more at www.nerra.org/i-heart-estuaries.