of Aloysius: the Tiny Rebel bear affair
I first saw it I thought, thatís the whole brand up the spout. But The
Portman Groupís decision to uphold a complaint against Tiny Rebel
Brewing, that its cans of Cwtch Welsh Red Ale appeal to children and
encourage immoderate consumption, hasnít resulted in anything that
turns out all the Newport brewer has to do is switch its logo from the
front to the back of the can. I say Ďallí. The
whole palaver has, according to its own calculations, cost the
company £31,000, including making the same change to two other canned
brands that are likely to fall foul of a similar ruling, Clwb Tropicana
and Cali APA, solicitorís fees and trips to London to sort it out.
a hefty bill for a small brewer, even one of the larger small brewers,
but the damage is localised, despite the fears expressed by sections of
the beer literati that it will set a precedent for an assault on the
precious creative imaginations of the craft beer movement.
a shame this has happened to Tiny Rebel, though, which not only brews
great beer, in my opinion, but takes its social responsibilities
seriously, something The Portman Group takes the trouble to note.
visited its new brewery earlier this year and was astonished at how
quickly the vast bar and restaurant on site has become a hub of warmth
and light for the community, beaming out across a bleak post-industrial
also like the attitude towards cask beer of Tiny Rebelís founders,
Brad Cummings and Gazz Williams, protecting the quality by working
closely with pubs rather than abandoning the style as several of its
fellow craft brewers have done.
the bear has always bothered me. The company logo, I mean. Not because
it might entice children to drink beer, but because itís asking for
trouble from those who foolishly think it does. And it was the bear on
which Tiny Rebelís fate hinged.
full report from The Portman Groupís
independent complaints panel is worth reading. Itís very funny. Almost
absurdist in its attention to the semiotics of a cartoon bear. Though
not quite in the same league as The
rightly dismissed the complainantís contention that the bright,
primary colours on the can may seduce under-18s Ė that way plain
packaging lies Ė the argument fell on the brewerís prominent logo.
was where Tiny Rebelís defence unravelled. You can see why it didnít
want to concede that itís a teddy bear, but it obviously is a teddy
The Portman Group reports, apologetically: ďThe
Panel then discussed whether toy bears had a particular appeal to very
young children. The Panel concluded that this point could not be
more, despite Tiny Rebelís protests, the teddy bear is definitely
ďslumpedĒ in what the panel describes as ďa drunken demeanourĒ.
Teddy bears do little other than slump, after all.
at like this, itís a wonder the logo has survived so long.
there was, I believe, a winning defence available to Tiny Rebel, one
that it nearly grasped in finessing the bear as ďan abstract
reflection of Newportís urban environmentĒ Ė but it didnít go
closer reading finds the bear apparently stitched up the middle its
whole length. This bear has been through it, ripped apart and repaired.
By who? And why?
there are those eyes. Both lost. One stitched, cross-wise, in the manner
of a cartoon drunk. The other replaced by a button. And in that dull,
unseeing light, a human face, its own eyes holes, its mouth a thread
stretched in confusion and despair.
is a scary bear, and its meaning is deeper, more personal, than a casual
reflection of urban decay.
Evelyn Waughís Brideshead Revisited, the grown-up Sebastian Flyte
clings onto his childhood teddy bear in a taut,
chilling symbol of a man unable to face the ugliness of the real world.
The bear is called Aloysius, the patron saint of youth.
Rebelís bear is also a childish memory worth holding onto, worth
repairing. But it is Aloysius turned inside out Ė we see not the
comforting unchanging bear, but the horror that the bear is no longer
protecting us from, but revealing.
the risk of mixing literary references, it is Oscar Wildeís Picture of
Dorian Gray, escaped from the attic, spoiling the party by revealing the
decadence beneath the surface film of beauty.
is not a toy. It is an extraordinary adult image. Iím sure Brad and
Gazz know that, and they should have pushed that further.
course, itís ridiculous that alcohol regulation has to be determinedby
semantic frippery. But that seems to be the game weíre in.
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