Dish of the Day: Dodgy beer labels
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But if that book was called ‘Ginger Tosser’ would it really make it off the shelves? How about ‘Burton Snatch’? Or ‘Voluptuous Vicky’? Granted, if you are a fan of low-grade pulp erotica then you might snap up a copy of the latter but we’re not talking about books here. We’re talking about beer.
Let’s be honest, real ale isn’t known for its ability to package a product. And names such as ‘Hitchcock’s Marathon Hound’, ‘Santa’s Sac’ and the ‘Texas Frogspawn Massacre’ are not helping. While the classy graphic design being used by craft breweries and the more forward-looking ale companies are contributing to the creation of new audiences for beer, the bars of too many pubs are still adorned with pumps bearing appalling names and unsavoury images. As craft beer continues to grow from strength to strength, real ale is starting to lag behind.
One man who isn’t going to take these “aesthetic atrocities” lying down is Jeff Pickthall. He has spent the past four years collecting images of the most humourless, smutty and downright sloppy real ale labels, presenting them on his blog, a veritable hall of shame named Pumpclip Parade.
“Real ale has been complaining for 40 year about being marginalised,” Jeff explains. “It needs to take a long hard look at itself.”
As someone who appreciates graphic design, not to mention a good use of fonts, I have always wondered how anyone could consciously produce images so lacking in style. I asked Jeff how it all started.
“The world of Real Ale and CAMRA is suffused with Marxism,” he says. “That’s where the dislike of advertising and marketing comes from. It’s an anti-marketing and anti-advertising stance, such that if they do it badly they demonstrate they’re not part of big business and the mainstream.”
While this is a respectable endeavour and not in itself a bad thing, it doesn’t excuse the terrible amount of misogynistic designs. The rejection of advertising norms is rather undermined by the frequent use of breasts and scantily clad women to shift a product. You may remember the ale Top Totty, which features a girl in a lingerie bunny outfit, was removed from a Parliamentary bar in 2012 for being sexist.
For the record, the beer that pushed Jeff over the edge was called “Dog Nobbler”.
“Subsequent research shows that a dog nobbler is some kind of fly you use in fly fishing,” he tells me. “But of course they didn’t choose it as a name for a beer because it was the name of a fly… That was the final straw, when I thought I have to start exposing these things.”
But really you have to see for yourselves. We have put together a selection of pumpclips below that never should have made it into the public domain. And because it’s only fair to credit those who have made an effort, next week’s blog will be dedicated to some of the best beer labels around. Get in touch if you have any suggestions!
For more dubious beer labels visit pumpclipparade.blogspot.co.uk
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