Medieval qualities

Posted by Steve on Apr 08th 2014 in: Beer & Cider, Semiotics 101: how packaging attracts by association

Several Beer Brands on a Dutch Supermarket Shelf

According to Wikipedia (a dangerous way to assert anything factual), there are only 10 beers in the world allowed to call themselves Trappist. Such a designation is subject to strict rules, like being brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, and not being created for profit. Two brands on this supermarket shelf qualify, but I wonder if you, or any of the Dutch beer consumers who shop here can spot them?

Some less devout and more profit-orientated competitors adopt a similar design language, to the extent that the term ‘Abbey beers’ is a recognised category. But what is the meaning for the consumer of all this monastic heraldry on display?

The most obvious association is that of a different time and culture, where beer was part of a life of gratitude to God for the gifts of nature. This in turn signals something made with love and craftsmanship, and intended for those who will appreciate the effort and expertise involved. But there’s also a less humble side here, with words like Prestige, Royale and Imperator signalling dominance and power.

Leffe’s arched window takes the prize for best depiction of Abbey life, and La Trappe’s clever use of traditional Illuminated letters has great shelf impact. But none of these packs quite convinces me to get down on my knees and give thanks, or swear allegiance to a crown.