Couch Brewery looks more like a living room than a taproom.
At this Washington Boulevard brewery, guests escape the day’s stress by nestling into comfy sofas, love seats and chairs while sipping a beer or two. Just like they might at home, some even pursue total relaxation by watching Bob Ross — in all his fluffy-haired, ’70s/’80s glory — slowly and cheerfully teaching “The Joy of Painting” on TV.
It’s inexplicable how Bob Ross, once only a staple of PBS, has become a pop culture icon and buzzword. But it’s true: Thanks to his YouTube fame, you can buy Bob Ross t-shirts and coffee mugs, a Bob Ross Chia Pet and even a wallet emblazoned with his cheerful, paintbrush-wielding image. Comic book stores sell the Bob Ross Funko doll alongside Captain America and Black Panther.
If you’re trying to sell lots of beer in a competitive market, and your customers are likely to have grown up watching Bob on air, why not embrace the trend? So Couch Brewery made Ross’s somnambulant painting classes available on screen.
But “people asked for more Bob,” says co-owner and brewmaster Cary Shaffer. “So we responded by offering a class.”
On the afternoon of May 20, certified Bob Ross instructor Sandy Hughey will conduct a class at the taproom. The $55 fee includes two 16-ounce beers or two 8-ounce glasses of wine or cider and the satisfaction of walking away from the building with a self-made masterpiece.
“When I started researching the idea, I had no idea about the certified instructors,” Shaffer says. “I went to the Bob Ross website just to see what was there and I stumbled on the instructor’s page. It was like gold! There’s a list of painters state by state, and Sandy was the first local person to respond to any of my email inquiries. I checked out her work and was very satisfied.”
Just like at the ubiquitous “paint and sip” wine bars popping up all over the world, no experience is necessary to create your Bob Ross painting.
Hughey “will be supplying all the materials and equipment. It’s pretty cool that people can just show up and paint,” says Shaffer. “That was the icing on the cake to get the event up and running.”
The Sewickley resident runs an art studio, Sandy’s Inspirations, out of her home and travels throughout the region sharing her knowledge of Ross’s style so students can create their own frameable landscapes and floral and wildlife scenes.
In 2001, after an injury left her unable to continue working as a merchandiser for JCPenney, Hughey decided to enroll in the Bob Ross teacher training program in Sterling, Va.
Ross, the famously soft-spoken artist with permed hair and a beard, hosted “The Joy of Painting” on PBS from 1982 to 1994. His gently encouraging, step-by-step instructions made average folks feel like professional painters … and also made them feel drowsy.
“I can’t watch him without falling asleep,” Hughey admits with a laugh.
When she teaches people how to paint the landscapes and “happy little trees” Ross is famous for, she’s actually creating a bunch of happy little artists. Like Ross, Hughey is patient with her students — who range in age from 7 to 99 — and will literally hold their hand until they master the techniques. The laidback nature of Ross’s instructional approach makes Couch Brewery the perfect venue for a class.
“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” she says. “It’s more of a therapy session.”