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The horror, the horror of Garage Project's decision to withdraw Death From Above

death from above garage project


"Death from Above" has been one of Garage Project's most well known beers for a couple of years now. We've extremely enjoyed the odd bottle when we've had the cash to spare for it was a pricey wee brew, often cited at 12 dollars a bottle in the Supermarkets of Wellington.

It was officially described by Garage Project in it's tasting notes:

"Big, juicy, death. The ultimate combination of fruity, herbal, spicy, and citrus. DFA is largely herbal on the nose with the Vietnamese Mint rearing to go, being pushed up and out of the glass by the also bold mango aroma."

And it was paired with a label which had flash backs to Vietnam War era imagery of a Helicopter reigning Death From Above with Napalm.

It quickly became a very popular beer around Wellington and beyond.

Well it used be popular until Garage Project brewer and co-founder Pete Gillespie completely lost his nerve and withdrew his companies most popular beer from sale as a result of a single contact by an Australian woman.

Brewer Pete Gillespie is reported by Stuff as saying that "ending the beer was his personal reaction to the letter from a Australian woman of Vietnamese descent."

He's also on the record as saying "She wrote a very long and detailed letter to us explaining how upset she was and how the imagery and name had triggered things in her."

I wonder if this woman has also written to every Hollywood film producer who ever released a movie about Vietnam. I wonder if she has written to every author of everybook about the Vietnam War? Has she asked for any books or films in her local library to be removed so that young children are not triggered too? Has she written to Netflix to ask the to stop streaming it's war films?

It's my view that while one can defend movies and books as really exploring the issues surrounding Vietnam as being more 'proper' in taste and treatment of the issue, the moment you publish for profit, everything is in the camp, whether it a beer or the Platoon movie.

I appreciate the letter writer may well have some residual issues with her possible experience with the Vietnam War (it's not made clear and the use of 'Vietnamese decent' suggest may may have born in Australia) but come on.

Unlike Death From Above, Gillespie appears to lack some balls.

What's quite amusing is that when the beer was first released to the market 4 years ago, it was met with some quite verbal resistance from the Returned Servicemen Association.

At the time of release the RSA president Don McIver, who served in the Vietnam War, said he found the advertisement "cheap" and "disrespectful", although he noted New Zealand never used napalm. "It seems to me this is almost celebrating it. It's terrible stuff - I don't agree with it."

Garage Project's other co-founder Jos Ruffell responded at the time that the promotion was "a playful pop culture reference" to to the classic war film "Apocalypse Now". That movie famously opens with an attack which uses napalm.

So let's get this straight.

On release of the beer, the RSA, a respected New Zealand society group that represents soldiers who fought in the Vietnam war makes their displeasure known and Garage Project responds by say it's just referencing a movie.

But now when an AUSTRALIAN of Vietnamese decent says she was 'TRIGGERED', they take their beer off the market?

It just makes Garage Project look like hypocrites and their decision is almost a double insult to the RSA!

We imagine Death from Above clones are about to become pretty popular recipes!

I note that Garage project have deleted all references to the beer from their website however by the power of google cache, I found a deleted blog which actually covered the inspiration of the name:

"The beer was originally going to be called Hopocalypse Now, a hoppy pun pop reference to the cult movie by Francis Ford Coppola. The only problem was that there are 12 other Hopocalypse beers in the world. Perhaps one more wouldn’t have mattered - but not everyone agreed with us. So we made the decision to change the name to Death from Above, the motto of the US Airborne Division, a lateral reference to the famous Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now… and the name of a jolly good band into the bargain"

The post also said "It was never meant to be a controversial brew. It is just meant to be a good beer."

So there's that.


Maybe Gillespie and Reffell can reconsidered their decision and come back with the originally intended name?

Either way, based on comments around the social media traps, I suspect that Garage Project has lost a small amount of goodwill.

There is another possible, less 'genuine' reason - simple marketing and brand promotion.

 It could be that Garage Project have decided withdraw the beer from the mark - maybe it was too expensive to make, not actually selling well. To make this call by way of 'The Letter' gives the brand some publicity - and a chance to increase short term sales before they sell out of the drop - and thus giving extra interest in what ever new beer the team has up their sleeve.

Time will tell. 

Article has been edited slightly in response to some thoughts raised on social media.

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