Read Issue 20 here for free

READ ISSUE 20 FOR FREE HERE

In Remembrance of beer past and future

Memory is a great trickster, on a par with Loki (that’s the character of Norse myth not Tom Hiddleston btw). The years roll by and a pub or a beer we frequented when the world was young changes, becomes warm and tender in the embrace of memory, taunts us almost with its insubstantiality — was the beer really that bad/good; did the reek of tobacco or the streak of meanness in the regular customers really matter; what was the first beer whose branding meant something? As you might be able to guess, memory and time are the twin themes of the latest issue of Original Gravity, that wisp of smoke on the horizon, that biscuit dipped in tea that creates something greater than the act, the remembered glass with friends who are no longer friends.

Boak and Bailey have seized upon the Portuguese word saudade, which describes a vague, melancholy yearning for something/someone/somewhere that has been lost, or is slipping away, and applied it in their own distinctive way to beer. Pete Brown investigates the fifth (or missing) ingredient of beer — time — something which it is all too easy to forget about in this world of Sunny Delight-lookalike IPAs, whose brewers call for them to be drank as soon as the can is brought home. Talking of time it’s 100 years since the war to end all wars came to an end and Katrien Bruyland tells the tale of that most enduring of Belgian beers Duvel (and also manages to uncover an intriguing connection it has with Leffe). Elsewhere San Francisco and Belfast’s pubs are celebrated with gusto, I try to understand what led me to end up writing about beer and we celebrate heritage beers and anatomise porter (that’s porter porter btw, not pastry or puff adder porter). Do take the time to enjoy!

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor

 


Review: Fyne Ales, The Mystic

Tasting Notes: Fyne Ales, THE MYSTIC [9.7%]

The kind of barley wine that turns every sip into an occasion and a moment to remember

This is a lightly smoked barley wine, potent and muscular, complex and quite content to be sipped as the sun goes down. A winter beer yes but also ideal for drinking in the spring to remind yourself that winter has thankfully just passed. Light amber in colour, pulsating with a Bakewell tart aroma and a secondary note of Isley-like iodine smokiness, the carbonation is gentle, the mouth creamy, with a variety of toffees, chocolates, fudge and dark candied fruit being handed around by a much loved great aunt. There’s a power and intensity about the beer, a heft and a weight, yet it’s easy going in the way it delivers. A masterpiece of a beer and definitely one to age to see how the mystery of beer changes through time.

ATJ / fyneales.com


Beer & Cider Marketing Awards Shortlist

SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR BEER & CIDER MARKETING AWARDS

The Shortlist for the 2018 Beer & Cider Marketing Awards has been revealed. Winners of the awards, which set out to discover and celebrate the UK’s best marketers and campaigns across the industry, will be announced at an event at London’s Truman Brewery on September 20th, 2018.

The Shortlist for the 2018 Beer & Cider Marketing Awards has been revealed. Winners of the awards, which set out to discover and celebrate the UK’s best marketers and campaigns across the industry, will be announced at an event at London’s Truman Brewery on September 20th2018.

The Shortlist of the awards, which are open to all brewers and cider makers with a presence and focus in the UK, is as follows:

BEST ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

Camden Town Brewery – Hells Lager – The Garage Soho

Thatchers Cider Company

 

BEST ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS

Bright Signals – Tennent’s Lager

Fuller’s Brewery

 

BEST BRANDING/DESIGN

ByVolume/Orbit Beers

Hiver, The Honey Beer

North Brewing Co and Refold

Designers: The Potting Shed Design / Client: Gareth Chandler – Winslow Brew Co.

Signature Brew

Small Beer Brew Co.

Zerodegrees Microbrewery

 

BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN

Marston’s Brewery – Beer Town Film Festival – Vital

Meantime Brewing Company

Old Mout Cider

Tribute Ale – We’re happiest in the pub poll

Wire and Tennent’s Lager – Making Mates With Influencers

 

BEST INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN

Bright Signals – Wire Media – Republic of Media – Lucky Generals – Tennent’s Lager

Innis & Gunn, Studio Something

Marston’s Brewery – Beer Town Film Festival

St Austell Brewery – Tribute ‘Quality Speaks for Itself’

 

BEST BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS CAMPAIGN

Charles Wells

Camden Town Brewery – Beer School

Content Coms

St Austell Brewery: celebrating five years of Nicholson’s Pale Ale in 2017

Thunderclap Creative – Pillars Brewery

 

BEST INNOVATION

Hawkes

Meantime Brewing Company

Small Beer Brew Co.

 

BEST NEW LAUNCH

Cave Direct Beer Merchants

Small Beer Brew Co.

Wye Valley Brewery – 1985

 

BEST USE OF SPONSORSHIP

Brakspear

Paolozzi lager, Edinburgh Beer Factory

 

BEST USE OF MERCHANDISE/POINT OF SALE MATERIAL

Camerons Brewery

Fourpure Brewing Co.

 

BEST CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY INITIATIVE

Brakspear

HEINEKEN / Star Pubs & Bars

Toast Ale

Hiver the Honey Beer

 

BEST TARGETING OF ALTERNATIVE MARKETS

Big Drop Brewing Co Ltd

Club Soda

 

BEST EVENT

Club Soda

Fourpure Brewing Co.

Marston’s Brewery – Beer Town Film Festival

 

BEST STUNT/GUERRILLA MARKETING

Badger Beer and Joint

Meantime Brewing Company

Tiny Rebel

—-

Beer & Cider Marketing Awards co-founder and Head Judge Pete Brown commented: “The spread of entries we’ve had this year was the best yet. Together they showcase a real broadening of creative ideas in the beer and cider market – and it really is in both beer and cider. After somewhat muted debut in the awards last year, cider has come through very strongly this year. The judges’ discussion was robust and yet mostly positive – it kept us busy well into the evening! There are going to be lots of insights to be learned from this year’s winners.”

The awards are run in partnership with national drinks supplier, Matthew Clark. Justin Wylde, Category Manager – Beer, Cider and Soft Drinks at Matthew Clark, commented: “There is no better example of an industry celebrating all that is great about beer and cider. Supporting these awards is important to us as it highlights all the creative work that goes in to showcasing categories that have grown in popularity and truly champions the marketing prowess of not only the big guys but the smaller independents doing incredible things to excite consumers to brands.”

For more information go to www.bestofbeerandcider.com

To buy tickets for the event go to http://beermarketingawards.co.uk/buy-tickets/


Safe

SAFE

We love the comfort and care that a pub provides, but not all of them are equal in the welcome they provide. By Emma Inch

I’ve pushed open a lot of pub doors. The flush of warm air, the growing babble of chatter, and the scent of beer-tainted wood have rushed towards me many thousands of times. But, as I stand on the threshold of an unfamiliar venue, even before my eyes adjust to the yellowed light, even before I lift my palm away from the door handle, the feeling that most engulfs me is often not one of comfort, but one of ‘will I be safe here?’

Some people achieve immediate contentment, even in a pub they’ve never previously entered.

They find relief in an anonymous corner where they can muse over a solo pint, or they boldly claim space in which to celebrate successes with friends, or share quiet intimacies with lovers. But the privilege of never having to wonder whether what makes you different will also make you the target of abuse, harassment or violence is a luxury not always afforded to everyone.

Throughout my drinking life I’ve been asked to leave a pub on the grounds that it’s a ‘family friendly venue’; I’ve witnessed a friend being ejected for giving his male partner a dry peck on the cheek; I’ve had a fellow customer shout homophobic abuse in my ear whilst the bartender calmly continued to ask me to pay for my pint.

Once, I had to shield my face from flying glass as the pub windows were kicked in by bigots outside, and I still remember the sharp, breathless fear in the days following the Admiral Duncan pub bombing, not knowing if it was all over, or who and where would be targeted next.

I’ve encountered whispered disapproval, open mockery and the saliva-spraying, salacious questioning that forms the threatening precursor to abuse should any query be left unanswered. Pubs have not always been safe spaces for me, and many — including, I’m saddened to say, a few of the pubs closest to my own home — remain places that I am simply too afraid to enter.

But, that’s not to say that all pubs are sites of fear for me. At times, the pub has also been a source of enormous strength. When I first came out as lesbian in the early 1990s, gay venues were places of great wonder to me. When I entered them, I found people who looked just like me — and people who looked like no one I’d ever seen in my life — and the pub became a location in which anything might happen: a meeting of minds, a brushing of arms and the promise of a beer-drenched kiss. I met many of my best friends and most of my partners in pubs, and I learned the importance of those spaces for bringing people together, offering validation, and creating resistance.

For a while I only drank in gay venues, always seeking them out if I went somewhere new. I could plot my way across the country, from city to city, via my mental map of the best gay pubs. Even in other countries, some in which homosexuality was barely legal, I sought out subterranean gay bars, sometimes ringing the bells on unmarked doors in order to be snapped into dark alcoves where my authenticity was appraised before I was allowed passage into the pleasures below.

In much the same way that we drew on music to comfort, unite and coalesce, those of us who were excluded also used those hot, dark, beer-sweaty spaces to gain some sort of affirmation. And, all these years later, as I enter gay venues, that feeling of strength is still there. As the beer pours into my glass, I feel the good humour, and, just sometimes, the anger that has protected me from the hostility of the world, and I understand that it’s not by chance that Stonewall — perhaps the best-known symbol of resistance to prejudice and hatred — is a New York bar.

Of course, I no longer drink exclusively in gay venues. Many have disappeared, victims in part perhaps of our new ways of interacting with the world. And, in common with many other beer lovers, I am forever chasing that feted brewery, the brand new beer, the brew that will make my taste buds dance outside my mouth.

And, as I re-draw my mental map of the country, I’m back to pausing at the door, considering my safety. I anticipate the shared glances between other drinkers, the trivial hesitation of the bartender’s hand, the almost imperceptible smirk, and the just-too-slow welcome. I jump at the soft shove as someone passes by me on their way to the bathroom, and at the visceral roar that goes up each time a goal is scored or a glass is smashed.

But, somehow, the worst of it is that even though in the vast majority of pubs I am not abused, and no one ignores, insults or ridicules me, as I leave I still sometimes feel like I’ve narrowly escaped something, as if just this once, I was permitted to experience that unequivocally benign harbour that draws other people in and holds them safe.

And I feel gratitude.

And I wish that I didn’t.


Beer Meets Love

Beer Meets Love

We’re getting all mushy in this feature, when beer meets, love. Ahhh

Love is in the air or has the neighbourhood prankster popped a St Val’s card through the post-box? Whatever, spring is also around the corner and our thoughts turn with the sure steadiness of a merry-go-round to love and romance and also a glass of beer at the bar. And just like love, beer comes in all shapes and sizes, in all kinds of moods and mazes, but whoever or whatever you’ve found to fall in love with, why not celebrate this sense of gladness with this trio of tempestuous romantics. ATJ

/ Siren Craft Brew, I Love You Honey Bunny, 6.3%

Love is the only answer when you’re faced with Siren’s self-proclaimed honey smoothie IPA (blossom honey and oats have gone into the mix), and you know what it’s rather good – lemon-yellow in colour, blessed with a juicy fruity nose. I took a gulp and uncovered more fruit, a smooth hint of sweetness in the background and a dry and bitter finish. / sirencraftbrew.com

/ Thornbridge, I Love You Will You Marry Me, 4.5%

Named after a well-known well known piece of graffiti in Sheffield, this blonde-hued beer has a subtle aroma of strawberry sweetness on the nose (real strawberries) alongside a hint of citrus, while there’s more strawberry on the palate alongside citrus, a refreshing tartness and a creamy mouth feel. An elegant thirst-quencher and a passionate pint. / thornbridgebrewery.co.uk

/ Marble/Fuller’s Gale Prize Old Ale, 10.9%

There’s a romance about Gale’s Prize Old Ale, a beer that used to be regular but then became a special occurrence when Fuller’s bought the brewery. With this expression, Marble has brewed the beer and left it to sleep in four separate barrels. This one has a kiss of Brett, dark fruit and the deep vinuousness of the barrel. / marblebeers.com


Of Belgian beer and mystique

OF BELGIAN BEER AND MYSTIQUE

Ardent Belgo-phile Joe Stange muses on the magic and fantasy that runs through Belgian beer

As a longtime atheist — sceptic, realist, whatever you prefer — the only ‘magic’ I know lies in those parts of the mind we have yet to understand. These can be uncomfortable areas to explore. They occasionally manifest in the real world, often through the creations of the right-brained or the intoxicated — or, in the case of the Belgians, both.

I’ve walked into hundreds of different Belgian cafés. They lean more eccentric than most pubs, to put it lightly, so we could fairly describe many as odd but charming. Beyond those, things can get really weird. A select few are more like sweaty obsessions than cafés. Upon entering you get a palpable sense that you’ve walked into a dark corner of someone else’s brain; you obviously don’t belong there and must immediately choose whether to turn around and walk out before committing to the experience any further.

The Velootje in Ghent is one of those, a thick, dusty hoard of junk and memories, with just a bit of space cleared for a few people to sit. It’s a work of art, in its way, a mishmash of cobwebbed antique bicycles, candelabras and Jesus busts in party hats. Authorities have closed it four times for sanitary reasons, though it serves no food whatsoever. The owner Lieven De Vos keeps several different beers in his fridge, but the only brand you get is whatever he chooses to serve you. The whole experience is as unsettling as it is entertaining. To say I recommend it would be an exaggeration. It’s not for everyone.

Another of these obsessions, less well known, is the Bezemsteeltje in Antwerp. This is on the Varkensmarkt, about 10 minutes walk northwest of the Cathedral. The café’s whole interior is layered in witches — mannequins, toys, masks, statuettes. They gaze into crystal balls and seem to cackle from the rafters. It is not a destination beer bar, though they tend to stock a few witch-themed ales. It’s worth the detour if you collect that sort of experience.

Belgium excels at fantasy. They know better than us that life is too short for the mundane, just as it’s too short for boring glassware, dull-looking beer, or a Sunday without a visit to the café. Thus fantasy finds its way into all sorts of beers and associated marketing. There are witches and elves and trolls and things all over the artwork — the labels, the breweriana, and in the brand names.

Many of these legends spring from local folklore, like the witches of Ellezelles, in the hill country of north Hainaut. The Quintine brewery there has long embraced the witch theme (I once visited to find an ad out front for a used broom — ‘only 600 flight hours’). The Quintine ales got their name from a 17th-century woman burnt at the stake for ‘witchcraft’ along with four other women; the real evil, of course, was superstition and those who used it to manipulate fools. Inevitably there is a medieval, horror-themed knees-up every year in Ellezelles to commemorate this grisly event. Meanwhile the town’s answer to Brussels’ Manneken Pis is a charming fountain named Eul Pichoûre. She is a squatting witch who relieves herself at a shocking velocity.

Mind you, Ellezelles is the same town (pop. 5,000) that decided — entirely on its own, since Agatha Christie never specified — that it was the birthplace of Hercule Poirot. To state the obvious, we are referring to a fictional character. Yet the local authorities can produce a birth certificate. It says he was born on April 1.

That’s the sort of nonsense that keeps me toiling happily in the mines here, in the decidedly un-lucrative field of Belgo-philia — part drunkard, part foreign ethnographer and cultural appropriator. I share this self-awareness to prepare you for what comes next: some dubious notions about Belgian art.

My impression is that the Belgians would be more into magical realism, but it’s just too realistic for them. Fantasy is their thing, and by fantasy I don’t mean wizards and dragons (although they like that stuff too).

I mean they are into the fantastic — anything goes, as long as it’s out there and detaches from the mundane. In Brussels there is even a Museum of Fantastic Art — full of weird and surreal objects — right next to the Horta Museum, a temple of Art Nouveau. Speaking of which, the very best of Art Nouveau architecture — born in Brussels, mind you — tends to look rather elvish. One of the best places to admire the style is the swooping interior of the brasserie Porteuse d’Eau (perhaps with a bottle of Lindemans Oude Gueuze, its own label drawn in Art Nouveau style). The fact that the place is an imitation only reinforces the theme. It doesn’t have to be real; it’s better if it isn’t.

Why be real, after all, when you can be surreal? Many of the surrealists, incidentally, subscribed to a method called automatism. The idea is to lose conscious control of what you are creating, and submit to the creations of your subconscious mind. Altered states of consciousness fascinated them. How often, do you reckon, were they sober?

The Belgian painter René Magritte didn’t embrace that method. His deliberate creations were more like visual poems, meant to create mystery. He said he did not intend them to ‘mean’ anything; they were supposed to be unknowable.

In Brussels, Magritte drank sometimes with other surrealists in the Fleur en Papier Doré, perhaps 10 minutes’ walk from the art museum that now bears his name. You can enjoy a tumbler of draught Oud Beersel lambic there and admire all sorts of odd things on the walls. My favourite is this scrawled bit of wisdom: Nul ne m’est étranger comme moi-même. No one is as foreign to me as I am to myself.

——————

Along with Tim Webb, Joe is the co-author of the latest (and 8th) edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide Belgium which is now available, £14.99. We think it’s rather essential if you’re catching the Eurostar to Midi.


Fourpure Brewing Co acquired by Lion

FOURPURE ACQUIRED BY LION

 Australian beer company Lion has acquired 100% of Fourpure Brewing Co

VERBATIM PRESS RELEASE BELOW

Lion has a long history of investing in great businesses and empowering them to keep doing what they do best, while giving them the financial and strategic support to get their products to more people.

Fourpure Co-founder and CEO Daniel Lowe said: “Over the past 12 months we’ve been working hard to find the right investment path for the next phase of the Fourpure story.  While in four short years Fourpure has grown to become one of London’s leading independent modern craft brewers, we knew we couldn’t take the next adventure alone.  We met Lion towards the end of our process after a wide range of funding options had been considered, and quickly realised we had a shared vision and values.”

“It was clear from the very first meeting that Matt and the Lion team understand the needs of a craft brewery and share our aspirations for quality and sustainability. Lion’s past investments in craft breweries in Australia and New Zealand, including Little Creatures, have always respected the beer and the people.”

Lion is already active in the UK and Europe, selling a range of Australian and New Zealand craft beers and fine wines from the US and New Zealand. In time, there will be an opportunity to look at how both businesses’ sales and distribution channels can be used to reach more drinkers, not only in the UK but also in Europe and global markets where both businesses are already growing.   Daniel Lowe remains CEO with co-founder and brother, Tom Lowe also staying on with Fourpure.

Lion Global Markets Managing Director Matt Tapper said: “Lion has a long and proud history in craft beer in Australia and New Zealand and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to back Dan, Tom and the team to take Fourpure into its next chapter. The guys have done a superb job in getting the business to where it is now and we love how innovative they’ve been in both beer styles and the way they have positioned the brand. We’re making real progress in making our craft beers like Little Creatures available in the UK and Europe and we see some great opportunities to work together to get these and Fourpure’s brews in the hands of more beer lovers.”

Fourpure is known for its approachable styles and flagship beers like its World Beer Cup medal-winning Pils Lager and popular Session IPA. Founded in 2013 by brothers Daniel and Thomas Lowe, Fourpure’s brewery and hospitality venue is part of the renowned ‘Bermondsey Beer Mile’ craft brewing hub in South East London. The modern UK Craft market is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing globally in volume terms. It currently represents around 5% volume share of craft beer.

The commercial details of the transaction are confidential.


Canadian Issue 1 free to read here

CANADIAN ISSUE 1 FREE TO READ HERE

 We’ve just launched our free, independent magazine in Canada. Read it all here. 

Illustration by Adam McNaught-Davis

Finally, Ontario Gets the Beer Publication it Deserves!

If you have seen fit to pick up this inaugural edition of Original Gravity, chances are that you have at least a passing familiarity with what’s been going on in beer in this city and province over the last several years. And if you don’t, or if you’d like to freshen that knowledge, Jordan St. John’s story on Toronto brewery taprooms, found on page 16, will go a long way to updating you.

The point being that beer in these parts has changed almost immeasurably over the past three decades, from just a small handful of breweries and brewpubs – anyone remember Upper Canada Brewing? How about Denison’s? – to 41 operating within the city limits and 250 scattered across the province, according to the latest numbers from the Ontario Beverage Network, which probably became out-of-date the day after we went to print, such is the pace of brewery expansion in 2018.

Yet beer literature, never much of a thing around Ontario, simply hasn’t kept up with developments. Until now, that is.

What you hold in your hands is a beer publication of a different ilk, one that seeks to challenge as much as it does entertain, to inform as well as to provoke. You will find beer reviews, of course – Greg Clow and I take on a quintet of brews on page 22 – as well as style features and profiles of the people who work hard to bring you great-tasting beer – both starting to the right. But you will also discover within the following pages things that you might not expect to find in a beer magazine, like Robin LeBlanc’s wrenching essay of loss and community on page 19 and our quirky spotlight on The Art of Beer on the page opposite this one.

In short, what we are aiming to bring you with Original Gravity is a magazine thatís as challenging, diverse, surprising, illuminating and captivating as is the Ontario beer market we cover. In other words, the kind of beer publication this province so richly deserves!

Stephen Beaumont, Editor-in-Chief

 

 


Ritual

RITUAL

‘It is like saying grace. In the wine cellars of Baron Bachofen von Echt, under his schloss at Nussdorf, on the edge of the Vienna Woods, I have raised a glass of “Sir Henry’s” dry stout, brewed on the premises, and said a silent prayer of thanks to the Campaign for Real Ale.’

Called to the Bar — an account of the first 21 years of CAMRA, published 1992

By Adrian Tierney-Jones

If we define ritual as an act that is always repeated, as an act of devotion, sometimes as an act of exaggeration, often as a sense of belonging and being in the vanguard of something with its own quirks and language and a heightened sense of its own reality, then brewing and beer is as ritualistic as say the Tridentine Mass or the fulsome applause whenever Kim Jong-un utters some proclamation. Think smells and bells, chants, Gregorian or otherwise, gestures or fingers crossed in the air, prayer and meditation, the unknown and, when it comes to working with mixed fermentation and barrels of various denominations, an act of blind faith.

Like many a writer and brewer, I have heard the tale of a head brewer at Guinness’ former Park Royal plant in west London, who at the start of the brewing day would sit on a chair (or a throne even) overlooking the brewing kit, and, at the appropriate time, fob-watch in hand, boom out ‘let the mash begin’. Whether true or not, the very existence of the story (or myth, another important part of ritual) seems to suggest that ritualistic practices have their place in the world of beer. On a personal level, I’m reminded of my experience at St Austell about 10 years ago during the first brew of the day — it was customary to taste the runnings of the wort from the first mash. It was horribly sweet, but at least it didn’t have a raw egg in it, an experience Roger Protz wrote about in The Ale Trail.

So how is brewing ritualistic? The same procedures are adhered to for each brew of a certain beer (unless of course you have split away, hammered your theses on the door and work with the uncertainties of wild yeast); the correct amount of salts are added to the liquor; the same temperatures for the mash and the boil; the same time given to the length of the brew. Meanwhile, hop varieties — Citra, Cascade, Centennial and Eukanot, perhaps — are intoned with the dedication of a prayer, an evocation that these hops will make the beer that beguiles drinkers, batch after batch after batch. And finally, the quiet slumber of fermentation and conditioning, head bowed, thought cowed, the mediation on the ritual taken.

There is also ritualistic behaviour in the pub. We buy rounds for each other, we say, ‘cheers’, ‘good health’ or (in my case) ‘long legs to the squadron leader’s baby’. A multitude of Maß brimming with gold-flecked Oktoberfest beer is clinked with gusto at Munich in the autumn. Smartphones are tapped and glasses snapped with metronomic passion and Instagrammable aptness at beer bars up and down the country, companions to those for whom beer festival programmes and spiral bound notebooks are chapbooks for the faith when face to face with new ales.

With all this in mind, it makes me think: are the rituals that run rife through beer and brewing a case of making the ordinary extraordinary? For after all, it does seem that the fermented juice of the barley has had the power to cast a spell on men and women ever since the first brewer stood up and said (for all I know) ‘what has happened here is magic’? Or are they, as could be ascribed to any ritual, a nervous tic of behaviour, an itch that needs to be scratched, a way of celebration that leads to ecstasy? Is this the real magic of beer: the unknowable?

——————

First published in Issue 17 of Original Gravity. Click here to read Magic & Loss by Pete Brown and Brand, Myth and Magic by Daniel Neilson here.  


Brand, myth & magic

BRAND, MYTH & MAGIC

Daniel Neilson plots barstool stories from the very first trademark to the new age of label legends

Labels sell beer; we know that. On New Year’s Day 1876, under registration code UK00000000001, a red triangle, known in the file as the Bass Triangle, became the first registered trademark in the Intellectual Property Office. Under the List of Goods, it reads Pale Ale. It was first used in an advert in the same year. It worked.

The logo appears in a Manet painting, and more than 40 Picasso drawings. James Joyce wrote about it in Ulysses. It distinguished Bass from other beers ‘many years before 1855’. The Guinness Harp, based on Ireland’s oldest surviving harp dating back to the 14th century, was registered not long after the Bass Triangle. It’s a better logo.

Why? There’s an emotional connection: it was designed to appeal to a renewed interest in Gaelic art and music, but also to appeal to homesick Irish workers in London. The harp is a symbol of their homeland. It tugged heartstrings as well as thirst. Other early labels are a nod to the city or country: Amstel’s lions are from Amsterdam’s crest, and Beck’s key is on Bremen’s coat of arms.

Others are symbolic: the chimerical creature of the kirin, appearing on Kirin Beer, is a harbinger of good luck. Some are even politely mocking: the goat on bottles of German bock comes from the accent of Bavarians, who apparently when asking for Einbeck, sounded like ‘ein Bock’ or ‘a Billy Goat’. Labels sell. But so does myth; everyone likes a good story. No matter how authentic the origins, however, having a good story is also Marketing 101.
Take another classic logo: the red star of Heineken. Even the brewery’s own historians haven’t unearthed a definitive answer, but a favourite is that it was a symbol of European brewers in the Middle Ages, ‘who believed it to have mystical powers to protect their brew’. Cool.

More modern breweries also look at myth and legend for inspiration. Beavertown’s cans tell a story of something, though I’m not entirely sure of what: Star Wars viewed through the prism of Futurama perhaps? Take a browse of Magic Rock cans.
There’s a story there, an intrigue that allows you to draw your conclusions.

Designs on Burning Sky and Cloudwater all invoke something other than mere brand recognition. Sierra Nevada has an imperial stout called Bigfoot while Great Divide’s is called Yeti.
By latching on to existing myths, a brewery can set out a stall of enticing curios of which the beer inside is just one of them.

Allegory and myth have carried the human story since man first traced a handprint on a cave wall in somewhere like France and said here I am. The fear in stories where Prometheus ends up chained to a rock or Oedipus descends to the underworld warns us mere humans, against moral failure or mortal danger. Except, that is, in beer. In beer it means one thing: drink me, I’m interesting.
You hope.

——————

First published in Issue 17 of Original Gravity. Click here to read Magic & Loss by Pete Brown and Ritual by Adrian Tierney-Jones here.