The Session - #101
Detritus, according to one definition in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends". While the number and quality of our beer choices has certainly improved over the recent decade, have you been paying any attention to the rest of the package? Those things we normally glance over and throw away when we have poured and fininshed our beer. These are sometimes works of art in themselves. Bottle caps, labels, six-pack holders, even the curvecure of the bottle. For this months The Session beer blog, I'm asking contributors to share their thoughts on these things, the tangential items to our obsession. Do you have a special fetish with bottle caps, know of someone doing interesting things with packaging?
A Few of My Favorite (beer) Things
I've lived in Maryland most of my life and there is nothing more iconic about beer and Baltimore than National Bohemian Beer and the one-eyed, handlebar-mustachioed Boh man. He first made his debute in 1936. Natty Boh isn't brewed in Baltimore anymore, being bought out at least a couple times and moved away out of town. But the one-eyed Mr. Boh still serves as the mascot for Baltimore beer and the bottle caps show it off well.
Another icon of Baltimore is Edgar Allen Poe. He lived in Baltimore for some time and died there in 1849. His grave was visited every year on his birthday by the "Poe Toaster". The tradition has been that a man in a wide-brim hat would leave a half-drunk bottle of cognac and three roses at Poe's grave during the early morning hours of his birthday. This tribute began in 1949 and was carried out without fail until 2009, more than 60 years.
RavenBeer, named after the famous Poe tale, as you would expect, is brewed in Baltimore. The packaging and the bottle caps display a clever rendition of Poe's head. I had a chance to meet the brewery's President, Stephen Demczuk, recently and he told me that the brewery branding and graphics is the work of Kevin Kallaugher, an artist well known for his work in The Economist.
Looking down on a bottle of a RavenBeer is a joy. The bright red or blue circle with the swollen cartoonish head of Poe simply makes me grin. The company sells the bottle caps with a magnet on the back so you can display these small circles of art on your beer fridge or keep papers hanging in plain view.
Boys and Their Toys
Back in February 2013, I wrote about "Bottles Worth Saving". I remember thinking the first time I saw the Ayinger Celebrator with the little white goat hanging from the bottle. They didn't have to do that, but it got my attention and added a little more fun to the beer. I do keep them hanging from my wine/beer rack just because I can't bring myself to throw them away.
A Tribute to Dead Soldiers
I like the tradition on the Survivor television show, where the last three cast members walk together along a path and pay tribute to those who have fallen before them in the game. I caught myself performing a similar tribute with my cast-away beer bottles. At the end of each week I do my part to save the planet by recycling my bottles. As I cast each one into the recycle bin I pause for a moment to remember that beer, the bottle, the taste, the elegance of the label, the thickness of the bottles mouth. Then it is gone, only a memory... and a good one.
"This journal is made from an old beer box destined for a trip to the dump and transformed into a chic urban notebook." This is a clever re-use of beer packaging materials. It can make a personal statement and allows the art to linger for awhile longer. Some six-pack packaging is bright and whimsical, like the artistic crab done for Flying Dog Brewing in Frederick, Maryland, by artist Ralph Steadman.
Art is Where You Find It
No, I'm not saying its okay to be a horder. It has been said through, that we should take time to enjoy the little things along the way — stop and smell the roses. Or in this case, enjoy the nectar, but also pause a moment to appreciate the attention given to the little things about beer. There is art in the ancillary — bottles, caps and other beer detritus.