Judging a Beer by Its Label

These days we can thank the various demons of fate that we have more beer choice available to us than in any other time in history. The world is practically awash with flavorsome, malty, golden deliciousness, so much so that I weep knowing that I may never be able to drink them all, and even if I did it would mean my glorious, bloated death.

But with choice comes anxiety. In the pubs and bars of earlier days there was one, maybe two, brands of lager available, and you could be content that the outcome would be either refreshingly predictable, or predictably refreshing. Now, with so many varieties of ale on offer, it is not uncommon for a drinker to simply pick the beer with the coolest label.

Not very sophisticated, I know, but the alternative is a level of reading and research normally associated with education, which is the polar opposite of beer, and every second wasted reading the hop value or malt rating on a beer is a second you could be dancing around your kitchen listening to Rush.

I submit to you, dear Man Caver, that we should subject our beer choosing regime to the same criteria in which we choose ’80s metal albums and erotic literature– purely on the merits of its cover art. I picked the following nine beers based on their awesome labels, but did the beer itself live up to the label?

DALVA (Brasserie Thiriez, France)

The Label

This double India pale ale is a French contender, and nothing says smooth French sophistication more than a nightmare bear eating a woman’s head. Or is the woman wearing a nightmare bear’s head as a hat? Either way, this label is rocking the twin threat of evil bears and French women, and that’s a label with a lot to live up to.

The Taste

A little thick, a little cloying, but undeniably tasty. A single glass of this cloudy gold nonsense is a treat, but if you’re in it for the long haul, it’ll start to feel like you’re coating your insides with beer syrup. It’s up to you whether or not that sounds like a good thing.

This could just as easily be some kind of PETA campaign...

This could just as easily be some kind of PETA campaign…
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Victory Ale (Batemans Brewery, UK)

The Label

Lord Nelson himself shows typical English restraint as he stands calmly in the middle of the ocean, the war ship behind him being bombarded with- probably French- cannon fire. Sharp eyed readers will note that his sleeve is tucked into his jacket. Is this because the picture is depicted after the arm was lost in battle, or is Nelson simply reaching for his glock? Cap cap! Eat lead, Frenchy!

The Taste

An image of Admiral Nelson, an English hero in their never-ending war with the French, carries a big reputation to live up to. So too does having the sterling gumption to call your brew “Victory Ale.” However, this mild ale tastes far too dry and bitter, which is a flavor more commonly associated with defeat. Such a paradox is unwelcome on the palate.

Look at how ecstatic that Englishman is in victory. Feel the emotion.

Look at how ecstatic that Englishman is in victory. Feel the emotion.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Dead Guy Ale (Rogue, US)

Label

You can’t go wrong with skeletons; they look great on pretty much anything. Though, traditionally, a skull depicted on a bottle means poison, which if I recall correctly from my rudimentary education, you are not supposed to drink. Calling the drink Dead Guy is also something of a red flag. Though, on a more encouraging note, the skeleton is wearing a pope hat and seems cheerful enough.

The Taste

The best part of this beer is that I’m nowhere near as dead as suspected I was going to be. Saying that, a painful death from poisoning might just have been worth it for a taste of this intriguing and refreshing ale!  Well, probably not. That’s probably hyperbole. But it is tasty. Heady, hoppy, all those good things. It’s kind of the Ryu of beers– not so great for beginners, but comfortably familiar for anybody who knows what they’re doing.

Whoever he was he died happy

Whoever he was he died happy.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

King Goblin (Wytchwood, UK)

The Label

This smug looking goblin is no low-level dungeon encounter. Look at that axe, and that confident grin as he struts through his forest home. This is a goblin king that could give even David Bowie a run for his money. Extra points go to this label’s awesome factor for bearing the legend “Only brewed under a full moon,” because, as everybody knows, beer tastes better when it’s imbued with dark magic.

The Taste

Velvety mooth, malty and with a hint of chocolate, this beer is not at all what I’d expect a goblin to taste like. Even a goblin king. It is delicious, though, and maybe this is just me getting a buzz on, but you can really taste the full moon. Definitely a winner.

Would this beer be more popular if it depicted David Bowie's infamous crotch-bulge? Probably.

Would this beer be more popular if it depicted David Bowie’s infamous crotch-bulge? Probably.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Doggie Style (Flying Dog, US)

The Label

Yep. That’s a dog attached to a wacky flying machine. And boy does it look annoyed about it. It looks like it’s puking as well, which is exactly what I’d expect a dog to do if I attached it to a flying machine. I like this label a lot. It’s like a Max Ernst rendition of Stop the Pigeon. Do you remember Stop the Pigeon? Man, that was good.

The Taste

A nice clean, crisp pale ale. Refreshing? Yes. Tasty? Yes. Color? Like the tears of angels. But really nothing that would distinguish it from any other good bottled pale ale out there. If you’re going to go to the trouble of having a cat’s PTSD nightmares on your label, you have to step up your flavor.

That dog does not look even a little bit happy about its lot.

That dog does not look even a little bit happy about its lot in life.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Reservoir Hogs (Hoggles, UK)

The Label

Everybody loves a good pun now and then, especially if it involves pigs. This pig is dressed as the psychotic cop torturer from the Tarantino classic Reservoir Dogs, which is, I’ll admit, slightly terrifying. That pig has a razor blade. Really, where do you go from here?

The Taste

A nice balanced coppery ale– not too sharp, not too delicate. Dry with a sweet aftertaste. Kind of a Goldilocks vibe here, which has nothing to do with pigs. In fact, I really can’t see what it has to do with violent anthropomorphic gangster pigs at all. I guess this is more of a pork fiction. Ha!… I think I’m a little drunk.

It's a little more disturbing when you realise the pig isn;t wearing any pants...

It’s a little more disturbing when you realise the pig isn’t wearing any pants.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Bellrose (Brasserie Des Sources, France)

The Label

Hey. Hey, how’re you doing? You’re really pretty. I like your hair, and the flower thing. In your hair. Maybe when I finish this article we can go and get a drink together? A coffee or something? Aw, who am I kidding, it’d never work out. You’re a two-dimensional graphic on a beer label and I’m married. Please don’t tell my wife about this. God, I love her so much…

The Taste

What? I wasn’t tasting her! We were just talking. I didn’t even take her cap off!

Tonight I will be having a beer with a beautiful woman... on the label.

Tonight I will be having a beer with a beautiful woman… on the label.
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Delirium Red (Brouwerij Huyghe, Belgium)

The Label

This beer has a picture of a tiny pink elephant. Or does it? Maybe I’m just really, really drunk.

The Taste

I can’t read the words on the label because it’s in another language. And because I can’t focus. The only bit they thought worth leaving in English was a big red message saying STRONG BEER. What they didn’t warn me of is THIS BEER IS WHERE FRUIT GOES TO DIE. I’m not a fan of super fruity beer at the best of times, but this weirdo tastes like I imagine one of those cherries on Pacman tasted. In short, it’s time for me to throw up and pass out.

A pink elephant is almost never a good sign...

A pink elephant is almost never a good sign…
Photo: Steve Stevenson for Man Cave Daily

Conclusion!

After waking up on the kitchen floor I assessed the situation. Limelight was still stuck on repeat. There was the familiar guff of murdered yeast. My cat was giving me the usual look of sincere disappointment. A success then, as this is what happens every other time I drink in my kitchen in the name of scientific research.  There may have been a few surprises in my beer selection, a few that I otherwise wouldn’t normally have drank, but if we don’t challenge our horizons from time to time, then how can we say we have truly lived?

On behalf of beer adventures everywhere, I am awarding the Man Cave Seal of Approval to the ‘Just Pick The One With The Awesome Label’ method of beer selection. May it do for you as it did for me.


Steve Stevenson is far too hungover to write this bio, but he’d love it if you followed him on twitter or check him out at DeadPixel Publications. But do so quietly, if you will. Shhhhh.

If you’d like to expand your drinking to areas outside of your kitchen then you’ll need friends– so learn how to Balance Your Party for an Epic Night Out. Then check out The Five Worse Things About Your Hangover, because misery loves comedy.

Steve previously taught you How to Rock Your Mid-Life Crisis:

If you're looking to revisit the past, you might want to upgrade that for a Delorean.

If you’re looking to revisit the past, you might want to upgrade that for a Delorean.

More from Steve Wetherell
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