Reservoir Dogs Beers

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The debut film of auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was the violent heist film Reservoir Dogs. I remember being blown away by it when I saw it in the theatre when it was released in 1992, and especially the stylish opening credits scene with the principal characters walking down an alley in slow-motion to the nearly forgotten 1970s hit Little Green Bag by the George Baker Selection.

One of my favorite devices is that the six characters involved in the heist are each given code names so they won’t accidentally reveal their names during the diamond robbery and be able to give away each other’s identities should they be caught. Here’s the main cast, in order of their appearance in the slow-motion opening credits:

  1. Harvey Keitel as Lawrence Dimmick: Mr. White
  2. Michael Madsen as Vic Vega: Mr. Blonde
  3. Chris Penn as Eddie Cabot: Nice Guy Eddie
  4. Steve Buscemi: Mr. Pink
  5. Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot
  6. Edward Bunker: Mr. Blue
  7. Quentin Tarantino: Mr. Brown
  8. Tim Roth as Detective Freddie Newandyke: Mr. Orange

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Earlier this month, Brazilian art student Peter de Andrade, for a school project created a series of beer labels based on the film, using “cães de aluguel,” which translates in Portuguese to, of course, Reservoir Dogs. The artist created the labels as if they were brewed by the Brazilian brewery Cervejaria Wäls, which each label and type of beer based on the film character’s code name color. As far as I know, Wäls was not involved and isn’t planning on making the Reservoir Dogs beers. Coincientally, there is a Reservoir Dogs Brewery in Slovenia.

Mr. White, a Pilsner
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Mr. Blonde, an Ale, presumably a Blonde Ale
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Mr. Blue, a Weisss beer
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Mr. Brown, a Stout
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Mr. Orange, an Amber Ale
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It’s a pretty cool idea, and I’d love to see the actual beer made. There’s really only one question about all of this. Where the hell is Mr. Pink?

The Orchid Of Beer: Women’s Beer Circa 1953

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I believe we tend to think of marketing efforts to create a beer specifically aimed at women as a more recent development, but apparently that’s not the case. I recently discovered that in 1953 the Storz Brewing Co. of Omaha, Nebraska was trying to sell beer to women using the same tired tricks that are often still being used today.

Apparently, in 1953, Storz created the “Storzette,” a smaller package designed for the ladies to be “calorie controlled” and less bitter, and which also had a pink and lavender package with orchids on them, and whose slogan was — believe it or not — “The Orchid of Beer.” Rusty Cans has the full story, from 2004, of the brewery and this dalliance into women’s marketing.

In 1953 Storz tried to market a new product for women, “Storzette.” Designed to be a beer for the ladies it was supposedly not too bitter and was calorie controlled. It also came in a smaller can, 8 ounces, which Storz called “Queen sized” and it came in four can packs called “Princess Packs.” The brewery noted that market studies showed that many women felt that the standard 12 oz can provided too large a serving. The beer inside was also different, made to be less bitter than standard beers. The can even had a pink orchid pictured on it to help it appeal to women. It’s initial test market results in San Diego seemed positive, but in the end the effort was not successful and Storzette did not last long on the market. As a result, the little can with the orchid is very scarce. Storz also used a slogan on its regular cans for awhile in the 1950s, “the Orchid of Beer” which has to be one of the more unusual beer advertising slogans.

Absent any additional information, I can only assume “Calorie Controlled” is done through offering a smaller size can. Smaller portions equals less calories. Of course, you could just drink less, couldn’t you? The control aspect of their claim seems entirely up to the drinker rather than anything designed by the packaging or the beer itself.

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According to orchid websites, the particular type of orchid on the label is a cattleya. Not only do they use a flower, but the color palate is soft pastels, pinks and purple.

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I presume this is a vintage grocery display using a cart filled with six-packs and surrounded by banners. Notice on the side there’s a gal wearing glasses saying the beer is “Strictly for the Girls.”

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And finally, here’s an ad for the beer using an orchid in the advertisement.

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Interestingly, a group of local folks from Omaha revived the Storz brand and opened a newer version of the brewery in 2013.

The Battle Over Beer Label Approval

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The Daily Beast had an interesting profile of Kent “Battle” Martin, the person responsible for approving every single beer label at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, in Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator. I’d heard of Martin — um, Battle, I mean — before, but didn’t realize he was the only person approving or denying label applications. I think I assumed he was simply part of a larger staff. I can’t say having a single person in charge of interpreting a fairly vague set of laws in a particularly good idea. There have been some very strange, seemingly nonsensical and contradictory decisions over the years, and I’d always thought that was because those were made by various people interpreting the regulations differently, the way the California ABC does, or the arbitrary way that movie ratings are given. I have to say, I don’t think that should be left to just one individual, no matter how dedicated or hard-working, as Battle apparently is, according to the article.

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Pixelated Beer

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If you’re as old as me, you probably remember when video games had very limited graphics and most were pixelated, only roughly approximating what the characters and backgrounds in the games looked like. I remember getting an Atari 2600 right after high school and playing it a lot while I was in the Army, when we had long blocks of time to kill. Worse still, the very first videogame I played was — believe it or not — Pong, in a stand alone cabinet that was inside Shea Stadium, when my step-grandparents took me to see the Mets play sometime in the early-to-mid-1970s. It must have been after 1972, since that’s when Pong debuted. I was Orioles fan back then — Brooks Robinson was my guy — so I don’t know why we went to see the Mets. Anyway, pixelation seems to be hot again these days in design, some kind of retro nostalgia no doubt. An artist in Spain, Iñaki Soria Izquierdo, did a series of designs of well-know beer bottles using a pixelated style. He appears to go by just his middle name professionally — Soria — and at his site, in his portfolio, is what he calls IcoBeer. I assume because he’s in Spain, the designs are all for well-known international brands, because it would be great to see his treatment of some American brands.
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His website includes only the following description:

Pruebas gráficas de representación iconográfica de objetos (Estrella Damm / Heineken / Corona Extra / Guinness) a partir de estructuras y formas geométricas básicas.

Which Google translates as:

Graphic evidence of iconographic representation of objects (Estrella Damm / Heineken / Corona Extra / Guinness) from basic geometric shapes and structures.

But they remind me of those early videogame designs, with just simple square and rectangular shapes, and very few curves, to give the impression of the bottles and labels. Anyway, I think they’re pretty cool. Here are the four designs Soria did:

Corona

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Guinness

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Heineken

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Estrella Dam

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Fairy Tale Labels From the Brothers Grimm

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Like most kids, I read (or had read to me) a lot of fables and fairy tales growing up. But a class I took in college on them reinvigorated my love of the genre, and I’ve continued to be a fan of fables ever since. Today, I have about two long shelves dedicated to collections of fairy tales from around the world, including the complete Brothers Grimm and an annotated volume of their more well-known tales. So I was excited to see the labels for the Grimm Brothers Brewhouse of Loveland, Colorado. The brewery opened in mid-2010 but somehow escaped my notice until recently. I don’t know if any of the brewery owners are brothers, or even named Grimm, but I’m guessing not, because their names are not readily available at the website or their Facebook page. But they’re certainly using the mythology of the Grimm stories to great effect in their beer names and especially the artwork, created by Ten Fold Collective, a local graphic design firm.

I just love the graphics for their labels. All of their packaging just looks amazing. I know that good packaging won’t mask a subpar beer for long, but it will enhance a good beer’s reputation and will help any beer stand out on increasingly crowded retail shelves. If their beer is only half as good as the packaging, it should be terrific. But it’s best to find out. Loveland is only about an hour north of Denver, on the way to Fort Collins. I definitely have to make a point to get out there during GABF week next year.

Here’s what the bottles look like, followed by close-ups of the labels themselves:
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Snow Drop Honey Wheat Ale

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Fearless Youth Dunkel Lager

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Little Red Cap Alt Style Ale

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Master Thief German Porter

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The Griffin Hefeweizen Ale

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The Farmer’s Daughter Oktoberfest Lager

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And these labels are part of their “Fabled Series.”

The Count Imperial Stout

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Big Bad Wolf Sticke Alt Ale

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Sooty Brother Gratzer Ale

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Weihnachts Bier Weizenbock Ale

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Mirror Mirror Imperial Kottbusser Ale

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Hare’s Bride Hefeweizen Ale

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And this is a special release they did for Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Bleeding Heart Cherry Chocolate Porter

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Mockingbird Beer Bottles

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Sam Wiley, a Brooklyn-based designer and advertising artist who’s done work for Anheuser-Busch, was asked to create packaging for a brand to be called “Mocking Bird Lager” and “Mockingbird Pilsner.” I don’t know if these were done for ABI – she doesn’t say — and as far as I know, no one has launched this line of beer, so it’s anybody’s guess, but it’s a great looking design. I don’t like clear glass because it’s not good for the beer, but from a purely design point-of-view she used the clear glass and the gold of the liquid to nice effect. I like that they don’t look like typical beer bottle designs and I think as the market gets more crowded, any brand’s ability to stand out on the shelf will become increasingly important.

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Yule Shoot Your Eye Out

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This is just priceless. Eric Warner’s new brewery in Texas, Karbach Brewing, has named their new seasonal beer for one of the greatest holiday movies ever made, A Christmas Story. The 8% a.b.v. seasonal was made with ginger, cocoa nibs, orange peel, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon, and has one of the best beer names I’ve heard in quite some time: Yule Shoot Your Eye Out.

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There’s also a promotional video for the beer.

But wait, there’s more. There’s also a second Christmas beer that was inspired by A Christmas Story, this one slightly more subtle. It’s calle Fra Gee Lay — must be Italian! — an ale brewed with spices and aged in Bourbon barrels. It’s essentially the Yule Shoot Your Eye Out barrel-aged, and there’s another video.

Hilarious. Now if I can only figure out how to get the beer. Maybe if I hold up the brewery with my Red Ryder BB Gun.

Anchor Christmas Label Art Video

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Anchor Brewing has a fun new video up about the artist who’s drawn nearly all of their Christmas Ale labels, Jim Stitt.

Anchor Brewing Company tells the story of our label artist Jim Stitt. Jim has had a hand in nearly every Anchor label since the 1970’s and hand draws a new tree each year for the Anchor Christmas Ale Label. Jim Stitt, Fritz Maytag, and Dave Burkhart collectively tell the story of a huge part of Anchor’s history.

A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle had an article about Stitt, as well.

I love seeing which tree is chosen for the label each year and seeing the new poster showing all of the ones done since the beer debuted in 1975.

This year’s tree is a Norfolk Island pine. According to Anchor, “Captain Cook discovered this South Seas isle and its native tree in 1774. These tropical-looking conifers, which thrive in sandy soil and coastal climes, were first planted in California in the 1850s.”

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Cheap Beer Label Quiz

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I got an e-mail today from someone at Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper, letting me know about a quiz created by their beer columnist Marc Bona. It’s a fun one, asking you to identify 31 labels from budget, or cheap, beer brands. It shows each label or can, with the name removed, and then you have to choose from a long list of possible answers. I got 94% right (which I believe translates to 2 wrong) and, be warned, there are some regional brands that may not be as recognizable to a national audience. You can take the Budget (OK, Cheap) Beer Label Quiz and it will tell you the percentage you got right, but you’ll have to wait until August 1 to find out all the answers. How many did you get right?

Loving the White Rabbit

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We all know good labels, packaging and artwork can help a beer sell. I may not like that a mediocre beer might sell better than a great one if it has more eye-catching artwork, but it happens all the time. It was especially true in the early days of craft beer when many people who were passionate about the beer they were making believed that was enough. They thought all they had to do was make great beer, and people would buy it. And so a lot of good breweries failed for no better reason than they weren’t good businesspeople, as well as good brewers. These days, as we close in on the 2,000th American brewery, most brewers now understand they have to do something to get noticed on the shelf. Good beer in the bottle or can will undoubtedly keep people buying your beer, but you have to get them to try it first. And so most at least try to be clever, artistic or interesting with their packaging. If they have the means, they hire inventive, capable people and agencies to help them.

As an unabashed art lover, a great label or package will impress me. As I’ve said, the beer inside ultimately has to deliver, but great art is an all but necessary first step. That said, I recently came across some of the most impressive new art for a beer I’ve seen in a long time. It’s for an Australian beer I’d never heard of, which makes sense since it’s brand new. It’s a new, separate brewery launched by the Melbourne brewery Little Creatures. It’s located in Healesville in the Yarra Valley, in Victoria, which is in the southeast corner of the continent of Australia. Victoria is the smallest Australian state and Melbourne is its capital.

The name of the brewery is the White Rabbit Brewery. (Note: their website was up and running yeasterday, but today is not.) The Facebook page, however, is working. The design for the beer that a design agency, BrainCells, came up with is just brilliant. This was their mission:

Little Creatures Brewing in 2009 commissioned the White Rabbit Brewery in the Yarra Valley Victoria. The new initiative is focused on delivering a unique dark ale using traditional European open fermenters that bring mysterious wild yeast character into play. brainCELLS was asked to develop the brand look and feel representative of the product, the region, and the eccentricity of the process.

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I may be biased, I love rabbits. Always have. I’ve owned a few as pets over my lifetime. And it also doesn’t hurt that I love the works of Lewis Carroll, have a daughter named “Alice,” and my son’s first stuffed animal was a white bunny named “bunny” I bought him his first week (and which is still his favorite). Truth be told, my first stuffed animal when I was a kid was also a rabbit, but it had a much more embarrassing name, one that no amount of beer will ever ply from my lips.

Still, it’s such a beautiful scene, with the white rabbit jumping through the hop forest. It looks great on the six-pack carrier and the bottle, as well. If you look closely, you can see the rabbit is in a different spot on the bottle than the side of the sixer.

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And below is the packaging for the white ale, which is ironically a night setting, while the dark ale is a daytime scene.

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Even the glassware is cool, using a clever, and simple, two-fingered rabbit hand as a logo. It’s one that’s immediately recognizable.

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I sure hope they paid as much attention to the beer as the design for the packaging. If the beer is even half as good as the artwork, it should be terrific beer. If anyone in Australia wants to send me some of the beer, or can tell me how to get some, I would be a very happy camper. I am loving the White Rabbit.