Chris Jacobs isn’t your stereotypical small-town kid in a big city, but he doesn’t hesitate to credit his upbringing in secluded Northern California for his approach to art, beer and life.
Now the founder of Beer Zombies, a blog for craft beer lovers, Jacobs never imagined how his first passions — music and street art — could have led him to a love of beer and an enthusiasm for intertwining all three.
The relationship isn’t obvious until you hear Jacobs speak of it, starting with the punk scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“It was very do-it-yourself. If it was what you wanted to do, you figured out a way to do it,” he told me on a sunny afternoon at Atomic Liquors. “It’s the same with street art, and when it comes to beer, I feel like it’s the same way. You do it because you’re super passionate about it.”
Jacobs’ passion for music started in the late ‘80s, when he was drawn to punk rock because of its participants’ guerrilla approach to success.
“It was such an awesome community of people just making things happen for themselves,” he said.
It was a throwback to when he first got involved in street art, around age 12. Always an artistic child, he was drawn to the idea of having his art in public where people could see it without it being forced down their throats.
“You get older, but you never really lose that kind of rebel thought train,” he said. “It just shows itself in different parts of your life.”
Jacobs moved from Redding, Calif., to Las Vegas in ‘95 and started getting heavily involved in street art here in the early 2000s, focusing on sticker art. One of his most successful projects was one any downtown Las Vegan would recognize: the sticker wall outside of Commonwealth at 6th and Fremont streets.
At the time, he had an art blog called “We are Zombies,” and he issued a call for stickers from around the world. He ended up with “like 25,000,” he said. It was enough that he’s redone the wall at least twice since Commonwealth opened in 2012, all with the leftover stickers from his initial push. It was a tribute to the unifying power of art, whatever form it takes.
“I thought it would be really cool to have this wall where people from all around the world had their stickers,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t want it to be just about me.”
That’s Jacobs’ approach to Beer Zombies, too. It’s not about him — it’s about the beer. That’s why you’ll rarely see him in any of the photos he posts, just like you won’t find his signature on any of his artwork. He likes the anonymity of creating something he’s passionate about and releasing it to the world without a face behind it.
You might say Jacobs was destined to be a beer lover, if you believe in such a thing. Growing up less than an hour from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., based in Chico, Calif., gave him exposure to craft beer long before the scene exploded into the public eye.
His dad worked in construction, and took him along for the ride sometimes. Beer was a normal breakfast food at construction sites, and he remembers how cool he thought the men there were.
“Dad had his daytime beer, PBR, and his nighttime beer, Sierra Nevada,” he said. “I always thought that’s what you’re supposed to do: Grow up and drink cool beer.”
So that’s what he did. Next month will make 19 years behind the bar for Jacobs, currently a bartender at Blue Ribbon Sushi at the Cosmopolitan. Beer Zombies was a natural outgrowth of his bartending: As he talked to people about beer, he started getting requests for photos and reviews, so he decided to go for it.
“I started on a Monday and by the end of the week I had around 1,000 followers, he said. “If I hadn’t seen a reaction, though, I probably would’ve just done it for myself and not worried about trying to grow it”
Grow, it did, expanding rapidly from a few beer photos and reviews to include collaborations, art and merchandise, as well. And next month, to celebrate Beer Zombies third anniversary, he’s coordinated with Atomic Liquors to put on a craft beer festival focusing on out-of-market breweries.
“I never started out saying, ‘Hey, let’s do a beer festival,” he said. “It was during (Atomic’s) Sour Saturday and I wanted to have a party, but that little idea evolved into hopefully 500 people here enjoying beers.
“That little idea” sprang from a thousand other little ideas throughout Jacobs’ life that have turned into something bigger, from punk rock to street art to craft beer. He’s never sure where his ideas are going to lead him, but says making sure he’s passionate about everything he works on is where his success comes from.
“Being part of something I love is what really makes me happy,” he said. “You don’t get to buy into this. Either you’re a part of it because you want to be, or you’re not.”