Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Who Is This 'MacTavish' Of Which You Speak?"

Picking up some beers for Saturday night, I found myself going back to familiar territory; since Sherbrooke hadn't re-supplied on the Rauchbier I had come to purchase, I grabbed some Reverend James, a smoked Porter by Mikkeller called Texas Ranger, and thought I should try something new.

When a researched and informed choice is impractical, whimsy should ever be your guide; why shouldn't I pick a beer based solely on the label? In fact a Quebec beer with a Scottish surname had caught my eye for that reason, so I went back and grabbed a bottle of MacTavish In Memoriam.

The brewery, Trou du Diable, has a reputation for arresting label art, such as their infamous Shawinigan Handshake, which featured a caricature of Jean Chr├ętien choking a devilish looking fellow. The frenzied warrior on the MacTavish label brought a lot of mystery with him, which I appreciated.
The beer itself is hoppy and crisp, with hints of citrus and perhaps green apples, but not to the degree that fellow Quebec beer Ephemere does. Refreshing and quenching, it complemented the polish sausage we had grilled up rather nicely, though perhaps not quite as well as the smoky Rauchbier that Mike had managed to find.

Why did I find the label so compelling? Initially it was the dynamism of the pose, and the coloration of the menacing figures in the foreground; from a compositional perspective, it was like an amalgam of Frank Frazetta and Mike Mignola or Michael Wm. Kaluta. The drawing of MacTavish himself was more evocative of the classic Conan comic covers by John Buscema and the like.

Looking more closely though, how interesting is it that a warrior with such a decidedly Scots name would be wearing armour more suited to the Middle East, and wielding not a claymore or broadsword, but some manner of scimitar or tulwar?

One gets the impression from the 'In Memoriam' that the real MacTavish is a recently departed colleague, but label MacTavish might be some sort of Crusades-era adventure, or perhaps a transplanted Janissary, a mercenary fighting his way across the Holy Lands. The shadowy figures surrounding him with claws outstretched seem more a part of myth than history, however; perhaps monstrous savages from a lost city, or the restless dead awakened by the breaking of an ancient curse.

I'm not sure if such a mystery was the artist's intention, but both the beer and the label were a perfect counterpart to a Saturday night spent with friends, rolling oddly shaped dice.

Update:  Poking around the brewery's website and aided by Google Translate, I found this:

The old MacTavish left us in spring 2008. At Bicolline he was Count Echternach Reikswart and father of two celebrities Lord Machiavelli and industrial Baron Vandegaar. But above all, he was respected for his wisdom, courage and good humor. We invite all lovers of good redheads to cool this beer honoring him. Rest in peace ancestor!
Could he have been a reenactor of some sort, or perhaps a LARPer? Either way, MacTavish was obviously very highly regarded!

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