Free beer – universally regarded as the two greatest words in the English language – is no longer just an impossible dream.
At one local microbrewery, it’s an advertising gimmick.
Dock Street Brasserie brewer Eric Savage came up with the idea as a way to market his modestly named Savage Beer and bring more customers into his Logan Square brewpub. The hoppy brown ale, which has been available on local tap handles for nearly a year, is now being bottled at Yards Brewery in Manayunk.
Sharp-eyed sippers will note the fine print, which reads:
“Remove the label and bring it to the Dock Street Brasserie, 18th & Cherry streets, Philadelphia. You are welcome to a complimentary beverage. . .”
Surprisingly, the notoriously ill-humored state Liquor Control Board – which has previously banned finger-flipping frogs and urinating statues – did not balk at the freebie. Savage thinks that’s because the label carefully offers a free “beverage,” not a brewski.
And the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which oversees beer labels as well as gun-carrying religious cultists, only paused over the beer’s name. “Savage,” it initially felt, might improperly indicate the alcoholic strength of the ale.
The beer does chime in at a relatively potent 6.5 percent alcohol, but Eric convinced the agency to back down and let him name his beer after himself.
“After that, they didn’t seem to have any problems at all,” Savage said.
Note to the freeloaders who are already busily peeling the labels: The fine print sez, “Limit one per customer per day.”
Speaking of advertising, Joe Sixpack can’t let another week pass without mentioning Yards’ rude-boy soccer-fan posters, which have cropped up in local beer joints. That’s brewer Tom Kehoe, painted up and screaming his lungs out, just daring someone to take away his pint.
The ad is the brainchild of the creative folks at Elkman/Alexander & Partners, a Philadelphia marketing and communications agency.
“They mostly do health insurance and stuff like that, but they get bored doing that all the time,” Kehoe said. “So they came to us and told us they wanted to do something fun.”
A makeup crew painted the beefy brewer’s face yellow, then local photographer Paul Pugliese snapped the photos in Conshohocken while Kehoe, a former college wrestler, let the testosterone rip.
“It’s the flip side of Sam Caligione’s ad,” Kehoe said, referring to the slick Richard Avedon-photographed Levi-Strauss ad that features the boss at Delaware’s Dogfish Head brewery.
That advertisement is now showing up in glossy mags nationwide. The Yards ad, in contrast, remains mostly on the back burner, awaiting the needed bucks for a print campaign.
“We didn’t have enough resources for a full ad campaign,” Kehoe said. “So we fed the ad guys some beers, and came up with a poster campaign. Maybe we’ll do print ads later.”
Meanwhile, the brewery will stray a bit from its British roots this fall, as it produces a bottle version of Yards Saison, a Belgian-style ale that has been available in kegs for a couple of years.
Kurt Wunder, co-owner of 700 (2nd and Fairmount, Northern Liberties), is in mourning over the sudden disappearance of Royal Oak, the fruity ale from the U.K.’s Eldridge Pope brewery. Wunder’s favorite brew, on tap since he opened the bar in ’97, is no longer imported to America. In a fitting tribute, one of the bar’s reg’lars downed the last pint, then they hoisted the keg on top of a cooler and held a reverent moment of silence. Decorated with a black ribbon and an “R.I.P.” banner, the barrel sat there for weeks, till Wunder gave in to reason and returned it to the distributor for his deposit. . .
Slate, Bill Gates’ on-line magazine (www.slate.com), is publishing the results of its unscientific survey of American and imported lagers. Bottom line: Sam Adams rules, Grolsch is crud and Busch gives you the best bang for the buck. . .Unsurprising fact of the week: The most popular beer at the Yard House, a Los Angeles bar where drinkers can sample a vast variety of micros and imports from a mind-numbing 250 different taps, is lame-o Coors Light.