A word on rubbish branding

So the Brewers Guild of New Zealand awards have come and gone, and, in what is typical fashion for me, I got almost all my predictions wrong.

It was the Melbourne Cup all over again; I may as well flush $20 down the drain the first Tuesday of every November since I turned 18*. 

The day after Townshend Brewing was announced as the champion brewery at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand awards, bottle stores and bars were quick to show off their stocks of Martin Townshend's ales and lagers.

Naturally, people are going to want to get their hands on some of the best beers in the country. He is likely to see good business for the next few weeks, so it was great to see him back on the bottling line the day after his victory.

The result has me thinking of some of the first Townshend beers I enjoyed, all in 2011: JCIPA on a can't-beat-Wellington-on-a-good-day summer's afternoon; pint upon pint of the David Tua-like No.9 stout (a picayune 4 per cent in stature, but packing a flavour punch as big as the boxer's left hook) during the kind of storm the capital is unfairly stigmatised for; my inaugural introduction to and interview of Stu McKinlay at The Malthouse while quaffing the sessionable Cathcarts NTA.

Those beers had two common factors: tasting bloody amazing, and having terrible labels.

Without a doubt, Townshend's previous branding was rubbish. I had - no, have - an atheist-like hate for those god-awful pieces of paper.

I could not understand why he made such good beer and carefully bottle conditioned it, only to wrap it in the dullest branding around.

Does Heidi Klum go out the house dressed like an 11-year-old doing Halloween as a ghost? How would people look at you if you left the house in your pyjamas to go do the shopping? How would award-winning beer writer and wrestling connoisseur Neil Miller react if Triple H started wrestling wearing more than an oversized g-string?**

Townshend's has gone through no less than four rebrands in its short lifetime. 

First known as Slugtrap, it morphed into Townshend's with bottles adorned with not much more than blocky font and random mountains.

There was a brief phase where each label had random images accompanying the beer, before a complete brand overhaul late last year birthed the heterogeneous labels that now adorn his award-winning beers.

And it was about time he sorted something out.

Go into any decent supermarket or bottle store these days and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the plethora of beers on offer.

To the novice craft beer drinker, that plethora no doubt quickly becomes a deluge too difficult to swim through.

I would not be surprised if it is a reason people stay away from trying new beer in the first place; with so many different labels starting at you, how do you know what to pick?

I know I have been guilty for going with what I know, as opposed to taking the time to dig for something new, purely because I have been unnerved by the sheer range on offer and my partner's thinning patience.

Now I'm not suggesting a computer whizz creates some kind of beer label Tinder***, but there is a solution - having good-looking labels.

Breweries like Garage Project and Liberty have forced people to step up, with the stunning artwork adorning their bottles and cans no doubt sucking in googly-eyed consumers.

It is also a sign of respect for your product; you do not go to a fine dining restaurant to get expensive meals served in wicker baskets****.

Martin's beers are stunning - the awards back it up, and should see more sold - and I have not asked Townshend about how his rebrand has affected sales.

But I would not be surprised if having better labels gets drinkers swiping right more than left when they see his products on shelves since his rebrand.

And it is nothing less than what he deserves.

Congratulations Martin. I'll have a JCIPA for you sometime soon.

*That's $160 so far, just in case you were wondering.

**I can answer those questions: no, she doesn't; like you are a stain on society, unless you live in places like Foxton or Levin where it is normal; he may think the world has imploded.

***I tried "Normal" Tinder for a laugh and found it to be the vainest, most narcissistic and vainglorious waste of time. That may have something to do with me being happily partnered up, but I am confident with my analysis.

****Unless the restaurant is run by hipsters.

Manawatu Standard