Farewell, Old Friend - A Love-letter To Yellowbelly
Farewell, Old Friend - A Love-letter To Yellowbelly
For those in the know, Yellowbelly requires no introduction as one of the most highly celebrated stouts in recent history, but for the uninitiated, there’s a lot more to Yellowbelly than meets the eye. But due to some unfortunate recent events, of a legal nature in particular, this year we wave goodbye to a beer whose annual releases we at CASC have treated as something of a second Christmas, but more on that later.
The History of Yellowbelly
To explore the history of Yellowbelly fully, we have to take a slight storytelling detour, as the beer itself was born from an initiative of Siren Craft Brew named The Rainbow Project. The Rainbow Project first appeared in 2013, and assembled seven of the UK’s finest breweries, namely: Siren, Magic Rock, Partizan, Hawkshead, Kernel, Brodies and Buxton. Each brewery was asked to brew an IPA loosely based around a colour which was randomly assigned to them, giving each brewery the opportunity to experiment with ideas, recipes and brewing techniques. Which brings us to 2014, where Siren decided to expand the scope of the Rainbow Project to an international level and bring an entire new dimension to the project. This year, Buxton returned to the fray, but were paired up with the much-revered Omnipollo of Stockholm, Sweden. Omnipollo are more or less regarded as the ‘mad scientists’ of craft beer, with many of their offerings resembling desserts more than alcoholic beverages (some even actually being served in a soft-serve form, much like ice cream). The pair were assigned the colour yellow, and in that moment a legacy was born.
The Message behind Yellowbelly
After being assigned the colour Yellow, Buxton and Omnipollo set their minds to what the could brew based off the back of that. Conceptually, they came to the conclusion that the colour yellow most represented cowardice in essence and then set about trying to transpose that idea, and their sentiments regarding it, into a beer and a message.
As I’m sure you’re quite possibly well aware, the political landscape in Europe in 2014 was quickly descending into a state of disarray, with an alarming number of far-right wing political parties swelling into the majority share of votes, parties like the British National Party, Sverigedemokraterna, Dank Folkeparti, Lega Nord, Saanfinländarna, Golden Dawn to name but a few, but realistically that list is frighteningly long. The words of Omnipollo co-founder, Henok Fentie, put it best though: “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls were being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale.” Which seems to indicate that people who vote for these far right parties are far less willing to openly admit to their political leanings, due to the extremity of them and how unsavory far-right political ideals often are. Hence, cowardice.
So with the message and theme in place, the stage was set, and next came the beer, a decadent 11%ABV Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout, and dear god, the beer was as bold as the statement behind it, the legacy of Yellowbelly is a two-pronged affair, the quality of the beer and the message behind it are equally important. Then as a finishing touch, they decided to dress the beer in the style of the most cowardly outfit they could think of, a Ku Klux Klan uniform. A statement as bold as the beer and message, how fitting!
The Demise of Yellowbelly
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and the death knell of Yellowbelly was sounded on January 26th 2018, when a brewery named Bateman’s Brewery, based in Lincolnshire, wrote to Buxton and asserted that they owned the intellectual property rights to the name ‘Yellow Belly’, due to an offering of their range named ‘Yella Belly Gold’, that they would not consent to the continued use of the name Yellowbelly and that their trademark attorney would be opposing Omnipollo’s EU community Trade Mark application for use of the name “Yellow Belly Imperial Stout”. Despite four years of both beers being brewed with no confusion regarding the products, as they are wildly different offerings (Yella Belly Gold being a 3.9%ABV Golden Ale, a conceptually polar-opposite style, all things considered), the sudden decision to contest the legitimacy of Yellowbelly sent shockwaves of ire and derision through the craft beer community, with many fans of the beer taking to the internet and attempting to tank the ratings of Bateman’s Brewery’s beers in a knee-jerk move that was as hateful as the political parties that Yellowbelly was created to pose opposition to, a highly deplorable move that was officially denounced by Buxton and Omnipollo in the press statement released regarding the discontinuation of our much beloved beer.
In Conclusion, Once More Round The Sun
Whilst this year marks the last that we will see Yellowbelly as we know it, Buxton and Omnipollo saw fit to celebrate the fifth birthday of Yellowbelly with a ramped up 13%ABV version named Anniversary Coward, with as bold an image emblazoned on the can as the outfit wrapped around Yellowbelly, a fist smashing a swastika. Yellowbelly may have passed, but we can hope that Coward will possibly live on in its place. So come one, come all, CASCers and join us on March 8th for the release of the Cease & Desist batch and we’ll all raise a glass to the memory of a magnificent beer which has brought us untold joy since 2014!