The Problem With Beer Photography

Not very long ago, a couple of my friends pitched an idea to me: an NZ-Beer-themed charity calendar. At the time I said it was a great idea. I even said I’d be in it. At the back of my head though, that mean little voice, that little worm of doubtful realism was wriggling around. And with good reason: Beer photography is a pretty dire field really.

When I say this, I’m not talking about the works of skilled photography enthusiasts like Jed Soane. No, I’m talking about  general everyday beer photos (particularly with people involved) found all over sites like Stuff.

You see there really isn’t you can do with beer as a photographic theme. It kind of always boils down to a few repeated poses, such as:

Pour me a beer.

Maybe it’s on tap.

Pour 1

Maybe it’s from a bottle.

Pour 2

Maybe it’s at the brewery.

Pour 3

The wonderful Misty from Three Boys.

The awesome Pete from Garage Project.

The awesome Pete from Garage Project.

The trouble with this shot is that after you’ve poured six pints, you’re getting fairly annoyed with the photographer and wasting a fair amount of beer. That’s when you move on to…

Hold a Beer Up to the Camera. 

It’ll seem like you’re cheersing the viewer. Sort of.

Hold 2

Erm...

Erm…

Ok, try and look less annoyed at the photographer.

Ok, try and look less stiff, if you can.

Or, try both, like this double header!

Ah, Sam, do you remember the acting advice Downey Jr. gave Stiller in Tropic Thunder? Yeah, that.

Ah, Sam, do you remember the acting advice Downey Jr. gave Stiller in Tropic Thunder? Yeah, that.

Alright, this isn’t working. Um, lets try…

Holding a beer up to the light.

Like you’re checking the clarity!

On point again there, Mike. Looking good.

On point there, Mike. Looking good.

Ok, not sure why you're in a shipping container, but that's great, Josh.

Ok, not sure why you’re in a shipping container, but that’s good, Josh.

Ok, great, we've got the shot. You can holding things up now Josh.

Ok great, we’ve got the shot. You can holding things up now.

Ok Stu, I like what you're doing, but can you maybe dial it down a smidge?

Ok Stu, I like what you’re doing, but can you maybe dial it down a smidge? You’re scaring me a bit.

Ok, this just isn’t working. Can you just…

Hold the packaging and try and look vaguely sensible?

Good work there, John.

Good work there, John. You got the beer and the bottle in shot. Double points.

Kelly nails it.

Kelly nails it.

I swear this is the last photo I'll take. Please don't kill me.

I swear this is the last photo I’ll take. Please don’t kill me.

Oh, you again, Josh.

Oh, you again, Josh.

Yeah, that's lovely, thanks...

Yeah, that’s lovely, thanks…

Really Josh, that's enough.

Ok Josh, that’s enough now.

Damnit Gareth, don't Encourage him!

Damnit Gareth, don’t Encourage him!

Just stop already!

Just stop already!

Of course sometimes, a  photographer aims a little higher. That’s when you get things like…

People sitting on brewery equipment. 

Martin Getting comfy on some grain.

Martin Getting comfy on some grain.

Trifecta from the Garage boys: A Package, a cheers and some barrells.

Trifecta from the Garage boys: A Package, a cheers and some barrels.

If you’re very lucky, you might get a.

Handsome brewery worker, hefting an (empty) keg.

Soren, showing us how it's done.

Soren, showing us how it’s done.

Work it Matts! Oh, and some Brewery Equipment! Bonus!

Work it Matts! Oh, and some Brewery Equipment! Bonus!

Finally, the most creative sub-genre: shots of…

People fingering the ingredients of beer. 

Yum-yum Crystal Malt.

Yum-yum Crystal Malt.

Cryer, not bothered.

Cryer, not bothered.

"Ah, guys, I've lost my watch in here. Can you help me find it?"

“Ah, guys, I’ve lost my watch in here. Can you help me find it?”

I'm just going to leave this here...

I’m just going to leave this here…

So to go back to where I started; when I heard that someone was going to do a calendar of beer people, what flashed through my brain was an endless procession of gormless derps my colleagues and contemporaries gathered around their bars and breweries awkwardly holding pint glasses and not quite knowing in which direction to look.

I’ve never been happier to be proved so wrong in my life.

From the photos that have been leaked from the calendar, it seems as if more creativity, enginuity and passion has been injected into this project than I’d ever thought possible. It seems that each contributor has picked up the spirit of the calendar is making it into their own. Here’s a selection of leaked photographs.

Malthouse

Oh yes.

The Lumbersexuals. Oh yes.

Yeastie Boys

Not sure what to call this one, but I like it.

Not sure what to call this one, but I like it.

Viva la Revolucion!

Viva la Revolucion!

Panhead

Makes sense.

Makes sense.

Beer Media

Note The Bottleneck in the robe...

Note The Bottleneck in the robe…

And of course…

Golding’s Free Dive

GFD Canteena

Yes, there does exist a photo of Han and Young Obi Wan making out. No, you can’t see it.

Wonderful stuff. I can honestly say, I’m massively looking forward to the calendar’s imminent release.

The Craft Beer Calendar is the project of Jess Ducey and Megan Whelan. Proceeds go to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. It’s a very good cause, and I encourage you to get onboard. Pledges can be made here.


 N.B. – All images used here are publicly available, through Google, Stuff, Facebook and Twitter. This post is not intended to be a dig at Moa or Josh Scott. Numerous Moa publicity shots (along with samples of their sexist, racist and homophobic marketing material) featured in almost every Google search I made. Hi Josh.

Recycling Bin Bingo

My last photo-based bloooooog post was a roaring success. So much so that I’ve begun collecting more bottle shots for a follow up. I might even one day put together an exhibition…

It seems a lot of people get a weird sort of enjoyment seeing craft beer littering the street. It’s funny the shared experiences we have, but don’t necessarily talk about. It also seems something else we all do (and I suspect get a weird enjoyment out of) is check out other people’s recycling bins. I think the enjoyment comes from judging other people’s tastes. No doubt there is a Latin/Greek/German technical term for this.

Anyway, a lot of people suggested I write a post about recycling bins, and I thought: yeah, why not? It combines two of my guilty pleasures: rooting through people’s refuse and feeling smug and superior about it…

So basically, I wandered around my neighbourhood (Mount Victoria), snapping some photos of other people’s recycling and awarding scores as I saw fit. Now as it happened, it was the first recycling day after Sevens, which resulted in some interesting combinations. 

OK here we go. Time to play the inaugural round of Craft Beer Recycling Bin Bingo!

THE RULES:

– There must be at least one ‘craft’ bottle or can in the bin to qualify.
– Points are awarded as I see fit. It’s completely arbitrary and unfair. Because that how I roll.
– Points are gained for having beers I perceive to be good in your bin.
– Points are deducted for having beers I perceive as bad in your bin.
– Bonuses and penalties are awarded for variety, rarity, quantity or as I see fit.
– Wine or spirits have no score, because I’m not qualified to make judgements on a lot of them.
– RTD’s are a big penalty.

Basically, a bin full of Mac’s or Monteith’s will score you zero, where as a bin full of Garage Project will score very highly. Conversely, a bin full of Budweiser will earn you a negative score. There is no upper or lower limit, but there is a theoretical perfect score: a bin full of Cantillon Gueuze and Lindemans Cuvée René, one of which is still full and appropriately chilled, with a beautiful crystal goblet glass, attached to a love letter from your estranged high school sweet-heart, being guarded by the cutest puppy in the world, who gives you cuddles whilst you drink it.

Yeah, that’s the perfect score.

Entry One: My Bin

For the sake of fairness, and as a calibration point, I thought I’d better include my own bin. I live with other people, so it has an interesting variety.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

1. My flatmate’s beer of choice, Emerson’s Pilsner +5 pts.
2. My favourite cooking beer, Wigram The Czar Imperial Stout +7 pts (obscurity value).
3. Hophugger Coasters Pale Ale +7 pts (obscurity).
4. Zeffer Dry Apple Cider +5 pts.
5. Monteith’s Gold 0 pts.
6. Dropped in our bin along with some wine bottles by a passer by, Cooper’s Sparkling +3 pts.
Bonus: Variety (5 breweries 1 cider) +20 pts.

TOTAL: 47 points.

A good starting score. Let’s see what my neighbours can do.

Entry Two: A Panhead Invasion

IMG_20140213_093730

Click to Enlarge.

1. Moa Original +5 pts. I considered introducing a Moa penalty for being dicks, but you know, barrel-fish.
2. Panhead Port Road Pilsner +5 pts.
3. Mata Artesian +7 pts (obscurity).
4. Difficult to see, but that’s a Panhead Quickchange XPA +5pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (6 of one beer, 7 from one brewery) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 42 points.

Entry two is a firm contender, but my bin edges them out narrowly. Can the next bin knock me off top spot?

Entry Three: The Duality of Man

Click to Embiggen

Click to Embiggen

Hmm. I don’t think so somehow.

1. Tui Lager -3pts.
2. Moa Original +5 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (6 of one beer) +8 pts.
Penalty: Quantity of shit beer (a metric shit-ton of Tui) -5 pts.

TOTAL: 10 points.

Clearly there’s only one person of taste in this household, and they favour a six-pack of Moa Original.

Entry Four: Eclectia

Click to make big.

Click to make big.

Now here’s an interesting one!

1. Green Flash West Coast IPA +8 pts. A little hard to see, but it’s there. Rare imports score highly.
2. Panhead Supercharger APA +8 pts. The brave young Panhead is showing well!
3. Mac’s Hop Rocker 0 pts.
4. Blow me down! If that’s not a Mike’s Imperial Porter hiding under there! +10 pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 36 points.

Another strong contender, and very much a drinker after my own heart.

Entry Five: Hidden Gem

I almost missed this entry, then I saw a neck label with the words “RISK, DREAM” poking out.

Click make thing size upwards.

Click make thing size upwards.

1. I see you hiding there. Don’t play coy with me, you delicious, chocolaty-strumpet! Rogue Chocolate Stout! +10 pts. N.B. I’m not calling Debbie Buhler a chocolaty-strumpet; just the beer she’s featured on…
2. A shit-ton of Hagen Lager -3 pts.
Penalty: Quantity of shit -5 pts.

TOTAL: +3 points

I like this entry. It shows how just one bottle can make up for a mountain of crap beer. Clearly someone with decent taste came to visit.

Entries Five and Six: A Double Feature

Click to Shrink to Nothingness.

Click to Shrink to Nothingness.

Wahey! Jackpot!

Left:
1. 8 Wired Semi Conductor +5 pts.
2. Epic Armageddon IPA +7 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (4 of the same beer) +5 pts.

TOTAL: 15 points

Right:
3. A little hard to see, tucked in there, but that’s an Epic Pale Ale +5 pts.
4. Moa Original (very popular choice) +5 pts.
5. Bugger me! Do my eyes deceive me, or is that an Emerson’s Southern Clam Stout? +15 pts (obscure, out of season vintage). Someone’s been dipping into their cellar!
6. Heineken -3 pts.
7. My finger got in the way of the lens. 0 pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 32 points

Unfortunately these bins had different address on them. If they’d come from the same house, they would have the combined bonuses would have knocked me off the top spot.

Entry Seven: A Contender

IMG_20140227_085846

Big Size.

Oooh, lots going on here!

1. ParrotDog Flaxen Feather +5 pts.
2. Three Boys Golden +5pts.
3. Three Boys Pilsner +5pts
4. Samuel Adams Boston Lager +2 pts. I’m pretty indifferent about Sam Adam’s beers really.
5. Haha, almost missed you there! Cheeky Emerson’s Bookbinder hiding behind the grape juice. +5 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (5 of one beer) +6 pts.
Bonus: Variety (4 breweries) +12 pts.

TOTAL: 40 points

A bold showing, but just a little too safe to come out on top.

Entry Eight: Simplicity

Size increase for clicking.

Size increase for clicking.

I sense a determined lack of compromise in this drinker’s taste.

1. Three Boys Pilsner. +5 pts.
2. Emerson’s 1812 Pale Ale. +5 pts.
3. ParrotDog BitterBitch +5 pts.
4. ParrotDog PitBull +7 pts.
5. Garage Project Beyond The Pale +10 pts.
Bonus: Variety (5 Beers, 4 Breweries) + 15 pts.

TOTAL: 47 points

Oh so close, buts it’s a tie!

Entry Nine: WTF?

What is this shit? I don’t even know.

IMG_20140213_094919

You don’t want to go any closer.

1. Tuatara Pilsner +5 pts.
2. Wildside ‘Cider’ -10 pts (RTD penalty).
3. Some shit from Foundary Road -5 pts.
4. Broken plate glass -20 pts.
5. Mac’s Great White 0 pts.
6. Rekorderlig -1,080,945 pts.

TOTAL: -1080975 Points.

Oh dear. I just don’t know what to say.

I like to think that you can get an insight into people from their drinking habits. Well, if by their recycling shall ye know them, then the owner of this bin should probably be arrested for being a public menace.

Whomever you are, I hope I never meet you, for my own safety, and yours.

Reflections:

So there you have it. It’s a tie between entry eight and myself. Now the only reason it’s a tie is because I had a greater spread of breweries in my bin; and this only happened because some random dropped a Cooper’s Sparkling Ale in there (along with some wine bottles) after it had been put out on the street. The fact is I do most of my drinking in bars after midnight, So it’s surprising my bin was so populated at the time.

In other regards, this was a really interesting exercise. I went into it with quite a few expectations that soon proved to be misplaced. For example, being so close to Regional, I expected to find a much greater mix of breweries, and a more eclectic mix of beers. For example, a few obscure Belgians. The only one I found however, was a single bottle of La Trappe Tripel, in a bin that didn’t make it into my final series.

In fact the interesting beers that I saw that didn’t make the final entries included:

– Yeastie Boys Gunnamata
– Hallertau Statesman and Luxe
– Renaissance Stonecutter
– Appletree Elderflower Cider
– Left Coast The Wedge
– Beer Here Ryefix
– Lakefront 25 Anniversary Brandy Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Lager (that would have been a solid +25 Points).

Many notable breweries that you might expect to find in the recycling of a well-to-do suburb, such as Liberty or Croucher, were nowhere to be found.

I think there are a few factors to be taken into account here. First of all I suspect the Sevens significantly drove up the amount of crappy lager that was drunk in the neighbourhood. Second of all, the presence of Regional (and perhaps ParrotDog Brewery as well) would mean that a considerable proportion of beer being drunk at home would be in the form of riggers and flagons (certainly that’s my prefered way to drink at home). This probably meant that a good slice of the craft beer consumed in Mount Victoria wouldn’t leave traces in recycling bins, as people reuse their riggers. From an environmental standpoint, I approve of this.

Another interesting observation I made is the significant quantity of Moa Original being drunk. Moa seem to be making a push to move volumes locally (I’ve seen a lot of it for very cheap in supermarkets), perhaps due to the big short-fall of sales last year. I have no Idea if the approach will payoff, but adopting the strategy of selling quantity at a low margin makes me uneasy. After all, that is what the soulless corporate breweries do. As Lear said: Oh that way madness lies.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly is the volume of Panhead being drunk. By in large, the most common small brewery I found was Tuatara by a considerable margin (followed by Moa), but following that very closely was Panhead. For a brewery less than a year old, that’s pretty damn remarkable. Well done, Mike, Anna and the rest of the Panhead crew.

Craft Beer on the Street

If there is one thing we can agree on, it is that good beer is in. Not just right now though, but for the future too. Yes, it’s here to stay. We are heading to the mainstream. I’ve seen the signs.

What signs are these you ask? Is it often quoted statistics of dubious origin that point to growth in the ‘craft’ sector, even as the beer market is dropping? Nope. Is it the rise of dedicated beer venues in all the major population centres of New Zealand? Nope. Is it the fact that even mediocre bars, restaurants and cafes frequently stock at least one line of good beer in their fridge (in Wellington anyway)? Nope.

No, for me the sign that we were truly going to made it was when I saw a bottle of good beer smashed in a gutter. It was about four years ago. I can’t remember if it was a bottle of Epic Pale Ale or Emerson’s Pilsner, but when I saw it I though “Yeah, we’ve made it. We’re grownups now.” And I’m not the only one to think this.

So I present to you now; proof that we have made it. Craft Beer on the Street: A Photo-Essay.

These photos were all taken on my Nexus 4, unarranged and presented in chronological order. Enjoy.

IMG_20131021_111615

Looks like this Kereru Moonless Stout fell in with the wrong crowd…
Taken on Hania Street.

"I woke up in a Soho doorway, a Policeman knew my name!" Outside Gryphon Theatre, Vivian Street

“I woke up in a Soho doorway, a Policeman knew my name!”
Outside Gryphon Theatre, Ghuznee Street.

Evidence of a crime. Found outside Golding's. We don't stock Garage bottles, so it didn't come from us.

Evidence of the Crime.
Found outside Golding’s. We don’t stock Garage bottles, so it didn’t come from us.

IMG_20140123_124705

This Stoke Amber has seen better days.
Near the Basin Reserve.

A rough night with some sailors?  The Wellington Waterfront.

A rough night with some sailors?
The Wellington Waterfront.

Honestly I don't have a joke for this one. Garage cans are like hen's teeth, and to see one crumpled on the street is surreal.  Khandalla.

Honestly I don’t have a joke for this one. Garage cans are like hen’s teeth, and to see one crumpled on the street is surreal.
Khandalla.

IMG_20140205_172848

Well Camouflaged
Spotted hiding in the bushes of a church carpark, Ellice Street.

IMG_20140209_135416

‘The Aftermath’
Spotted in the wreckage of the Sevens on Vivian Street. I’m sure Ross would be proud.

On a more serious note, I find myself very conflicted by empty bottles from breweries I love, just thrown around the streets. On the one hand it means small breweries are reaching a wider audience as time goes by. On the other hand it shows a lack of respect for the product, that you would dispose of it so carelessly. More importantly, it shows a lack of respect for the environment, which bugs the living shit out of me. Still, this I guess is the price of success.

On a less serious note, the thing that most interested me was the mix of beers that I found. The only entrant from the larger, more well known breweries is Tuatara. I expected to find some Epic or at the very least some Emerson’s. I think this selection is very indicative of Wellington right now. Certainly I’d be interested in seeing what sort of a selection other cities might come up with.

Maybe this should be a regular feature? I’ll keep taking bottle shots on the street. Feel free to send me your own photos of discarded bottles too.

Cheers,
The Bottleneck