Cracking The Beer Code

Denmark’s TO ØL Brewery has released six beers whose names and labels touched off Da Vinci Code-level sleuthing on both sides of the Atlantic. The beers have names such as “Mr. Blue”, and strange alphanumeric symbols on the label: a letter, a colon, and digits.

It turns out that the alphanumeric characters represent Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key symbols used for four-color process printing. For example, Mr. Blue’s C:98, M:8, Y:6, K:0 is the printing “recipe” for the color blue. Other colors in the series include Blonde, Brown, Orange, Pink, White, and a forthcoming Brown.

The mystery doesn’t end there. The beers’ colorful names are tied to the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs in which the gem thieves adopted the names of colors as their aliases.

Finally, the brewery’s name is part of the story. In Danish, “ØL” is similar to the English word ale. It’s also an abbreviated adaption of the brothers’ first names. In other words the name signifies, in English, “Two Founders, Two Beers”.

When in Rome

Ludwig ran across an interesting a map of Europe that shows the word for “beer” in the local language. There are, essentially, five basic words: “beer” (Germany, France, Italy, and the Low Countries); “cerveza” (the Iberian peninsula); “ale” (Scandinavia and the Baltics); “pivo” (Russia, central Europe, and the Balkans), and “cerveza” (Iberian peninsula).

However, a number of regions use an entirely different word. One of them is Hungary, where beer is called “sor.” Rome is another. If you want a beer in the Eternal City, ask for a “cervisia.”

Seen in Our Neighborhood


A brewpub under construction in our neighborhood? Nah, just a sign with letters missing.

What Did Shakespeare Drink?

Maryanne and Paul are big Shakespeare fans; and over the years, they’ve seen many of his plays at places like the Stratford Festival in Ontario. Afterward, they’d often talk about the performance over a pint or two.

They don’t recall speculating on what kind of beverage the Bard preferred, but Zythophile at Beer Connoisseur Online has:

I seem to be the first person in centuries of scholarly study of the works of the Bard of Avon to point out that his plays clearly show Shakespeare was a fan of ale, but didn’t much like beer.

A little explanation is in order. In Shakespeare’s time, “ale” referred to the unhopped fermented beverage that Englishmen brewed, while “beer” was a hopped beverage that came from continental Europe and gained a following in London. Shakespeare, who grew up in the country, had little use for beer.

The evidence? A character in The Winter’s Tale says that “a quart of ale is a dish for a king.” Prince Hal, in Henry IV, asks Poins, “Doth it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?” Iago, in Othello, declares that the perfect woman is fit to do nothing more than “suckle fools and chronicle small beer”. And if you assume that Hamlet was speaking for him, Shakespeare finds nothing so depressing as the thought of being used after death to seal the bunghole in a cask of beer.

On the other hand, in In Two Gentlemen of Verona, Launce lists, among a woman’s virtues, that “she brews good ale,” and tells Speed: “And thereof comes the proverb, ‘Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.’”

Zythophile’s article makes for fascinating reading. You might want to pour yourself a Rogue Shakespeare Stout while reading it.

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