1) There’s one thing that has long bothered me about New Zealand’s Garage Project, but which I’ve always kept quiet about because, you know, they’re a really good brewery and all the cool kids like them and I’d lose beer cool points if I said anything. But I think it’s about time I stopped being such a wuss.
2) I have a real issue with some of the brewery’s beer names. Death From Above, for instance, always struck me as being somewhat culturally insensitive but I could live with it. But what really irks me is that they have not one, but two beers, that appear to take their name from slang terms for heroin – Golden Brown and China White. Referencing heroin in your beer name seems like a really questionable move from where I’m standing.
3) There will undoubtedly be beer geeks who will say I’m taking things too seriously and that I just need to lighten up – hey it’s just a joke, dude. The very same things people say when defending sexist beer names or labels, incidentally. I’m almost certain that, were another NZ brewer – say Moa – to name a beer Meth or Crack – then the geeks would be tut-tutting their poor taste.
4) Yet nothing is said about Garage Project. Weird. I’ve always felt we should hold craft brewers to the same standard as the mainstreamers. If you criticise the latter for something, you can’t let the former skate if they do something similar. Otherwise, you’re showing that your issue is with the mainstream brewer more than what they’ve done.
5) Now, to this week’s beer – Pernicious Weed (it’s not a reference to marijuana but hops). Like damn near every beer I’ve tried from Garage Project, it’s exceptionally well-constructed. It’s clear the guys chucking the malt and hops into those big steel fermentery things really know what they’re doing. This is a deliciously juicy beer bristling with grapefruit and pine characters . And it comes in a can. Who doesn’t like beer in a can?
Free or paid for?: I bought the can – and I am surprised at how much more expensive Garage Project is compared to similar beers. I’m not at all sure why that is. But, that a renowned cheapskate like me will fork over the extra cash for one of their beers should tell you how good they are.
Categories: Beer of the Week
With the obvious caveats needed when you’re talking about former colleagues (since I worked at Garage Project for a long time, including when three out of four of your examples were named), my take has always been that Garage’s drug references ‘pass’ because they’re all (at least) double references.
Golden Brown is a song (about herion, sure), China White had Chinese white tea, Pernicious Weed only sounds like it’s about drugs to modern ears (and comes from that probably-apocryphal freakout about hops) ― and so on with Spezial K, Texas Tea, Sea Of Green, #IPA, and others I’m forgetting / which are going over my head.
Also, alcohol is a drug. That gives these references (potential) okay-ness that sexist tropes will never have. I’d feel different about a shallow references (like a beer just called “Meth” or an energy drink called “Cocaine” ― which actually exists!), and I think that’s a defensible difference.
Death From Above is a different matter, and I can see why people would think that was over a (different) line. Personally, I don’t, but we had a nice little ramble about it here: http://philcook.net/beerdiary/2013/07/12/beer-diary-podcast-s03e03/