Wednesday, July 24 2019

beer, toothpaste, and labels

Dear Journal,

It's a beautiful day today! Lately, Wednesdays are my very busy days, but the nice weather and the smell of good coffee is talking me into it. Today I'm drinking this new blend of coffee I grabbed from the Jenny Street market called "smart ass". The label had a little picture of a donkey wearing thick glasses, and that was the only sales pitch I needed. And it's delicious! So really not a bad choice in the end. You'd be surprised at how many of my buying choices are totally based on something silly, like whether or not the label makes me laugh. And you'd be even more surprised at how often that strategy works out. Like when it comes to craft beer, you gotta go with a label & name that's confident, but not pretentious.

I'm being kind of facetious, but there's probably some truth to that. How things are labeled and named are a reflection of a creator's personality, aren't they? If you pick out a beer with a muted, thin cursive letters, bearing an aloof name like Wensleton Pale Ale (that's not a real beer, I just made it up), chances are the brewers think very highly of themselves and the beer is not as good as they think it is.

3 Floyd's beer makes me think of rock and roll. The brews have quasi violent names, and the bottles are decked out with intense death metal imagery, and the regalia is fitting. In the past few years, they've kind of become true brewing rock stars of the Midwest. There's a lot of beer competition in Wisconsin, let alone Madison, and very few out of state beers seem to make it into my liquor store. The fact that 3 Floyd's has two shelves all on their own in a Madison liquor store speaks for itself.

Me and Marissa's daily driver is Fantasy Factory, which is known for its utterly ridiculous label. It's a cat, holding a golden pistol wearing some ninja garb riding on a unicorn. And truth be told, I never studied the picture in detail, but I think there's a light saber and some ninja stars represented as well. But the label is as ridiculous as it is magnificent. I think the ridiculous ninja-cat-on-a-unicorn strikes a chord with people who would rather live without shame. The brewery that makes Fantasy Factory can be a little over the top at times, but they can afford to experiment and be a little outlandish because their hometown loves them so much and they're not going anywhere.

Sometimes labels can be misleading. I keep buying the wrong toothpaste at Hy-Vee. Toothpaste brands look way too similar, so I end up just grabbing the first blue box that makes me think "yeah, I think I've seen you hanging around in our bathroom cabinet before". And the imagery of wintergreen rapids and frosty winds lull you into an assurance that even if you didn't pick the brand you normally get, your mouth is still going to feel clean and refreshed. But you made a mistake, and the toothpaste that's supposed to be blue comes out white with a gross little red stripe and the taste vaguely resembles playdough sweetened with splenda, and now you have a whole month to look forward to of putting up with this utter stranger in your morning routine.

Sometimes I wish certain things didn't have labels. Have you ever peeled the label off of the containers in your fridge? Sometimes I transfer things like cheese, lemon juice, or salsa to clear bags or Tupperware. I like being able to glance at something and quickly see how much is left. I like reaching for a bottle that's bright green, and undeniably filled with lime juice because what else would be in it? I don't need a weird picture of a farmer's head or solemn organic lime farming regalia to show me where the lime juice is.

Labels get a little noisy sometimes. It feels like you can flip over every bag or bottle and read things like "YOU CHOSE NEWMAN'S RANCH - do you know what that says about you?" or "You're cool, calm and collected, aren't you? We can tell, because you chose to enjoy David's Sunflower Seeds". Label your product. Put some humor and pride in it. But don't try to reach into my private life and project your weird corporate delusions onto me. I'm just a guy, I'm not a Newman's ranch dressing guy.

Well, time to start the day. We Newman's ranch dressing guys are relentlessly punctual. Go rip the label off of something.