When it comes to craft beer, the labels are more predictable than what sloshes within the bottles. Battered helmets, grinning skulls, and thorny monikers straight out of Arthurian legend are common, as are pastoral scenes featuring serene woodland beasts. Mind-bending IPAs meet their match in splotchy Ralph Steadman script. Nothing screams “refreshing pilsner” like a babbling brook or snow-dusted peak.
If the tendency, particularly among very small producers, is to be provocative, it's because wacky names and edgy labels attract attention, which comes in handy when a hop-head is thumbing through the case at Whole Foods for a new tipple. Sometimes a notably risqué label can get its creator in legal tangles, as happened with Steven Point Brewery's Point Nude Beach summer ale and Ridgeway's Santa's Butt winter porter. In selecting a handful of strange brews with equally strange packaging, we slogged through memory and the Internet.
5. Struise Tsjeeses: The label for this Belgian Christmas ale features not Santa (or his rear end) but Jesus. Glowing and googly-eyed, Jesus looks to have been on the receiving end of a few six-packs of this fruity, spicy stuff. By the way, “Tsjeeses,” is pronounced “cheeses,” which is is pretty close to “Jesus.” This was reportedly the proud brewmaster's breathless declaration after swilling a few too many bottles.
4. Hemp Ale: With an emphasis on hummingbirds and flowing water, Humboldt Brewing Company does its best to ignore the giant, red-eyed elephant in the room. There is a pot leaf in there, but it's barely noticeable. In jazz it's often about the notes you don't play. Maybe the same goes for hemp beer.
3. The Dog's Bollocks: We know a guy whose dad calls him “dog's balls,” which we thought was an insult until we did some research. The label for this “big, round, and fruity” ale crafted by Wychwood Brewery in Oxford, England takes a few different forms. One is fairly demure — a ridiculous cartoon dog's face and drooling pink tongue. The other features a full-body shot of the same dog drooling even more, his hound-hood piled up under his tummy. Charming.
2. Wailing Wench: This “full-bodied” ale is personified as a lusty, loud lady, “screaming with hops.” If the name and description weren't enough for one to make the connection, the label stars a redhead with keg-sized breasts captured in mid-moan, mouth open, teeth visible, eyes blazing right into those of the person lifting the bottle up to his lips. Subtle.
1. Polygamy Porter: Yeah, you see where this is going.