The Yeastie Boys have yet another feather to add to their cap after being awarded a gold medal for design at at the Sutton Group Brewers Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards last week.

Their Digital IPA – a rather hoppy India Pale Ale, and one of their most popular brews – features five QR (quick response) codes on its distinctive metallic blue label.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that they all lead to the same place. The codes link to various sites including a page that contains the full recipe for the brew – making it the world’s first ‘open source’ beer.

A Christchurch-based design company, Deflux, worked on the label and were inspired by the beer’s namesake – a 1978 song by post punk band Joy Division – as well as the Yeastie Boys’ idea for the recipe to be open source. “The use of QR codes stems from the strong social voice of the Yeastie Boys,” says Simon Courtney, Deflux Art Director. “And the feeling that the space on a label couldn’t fully say everything about this beer, or encapsulate who the Yeastie Boys are and what they stand for.”

According to the Yeastie Boys’ founder and Creative Director, Stu McKinlay, the name has actually confused more than a few punters.

“Digital really amused me as a beer name because of the fact that a beer – unlike the music that inspires much of our work – cannot be downloaded for free,” he says. “But giving people a link to the recipe almost makes it digital”

As for any concerns about losing their intellectual property, McKinlay is philosophical. “Our belief is that education is one of the keys to keeping people engaged in the process of making and drinking great beer,” he says. “Chefs do it all the time, so why shouldn’t we? Perhaps this label will be the first step to New Zealand’s first craft brewing recipe book.”
While not taking out the top gong, what is interesting about their winning a gold medal is the fact that rather than being physically innovative the label aims to be socially innovative. That is, it serves to open a dialogue between the creators and the consumers, involving the latter in an industry that can be very introspective. According to the team, the releasing of the recipe is the first step to engaging their fans and making them into “a digital sales force” for better beer in general.

“It wasn’t some weird thing where we were engaging with a potential future customer that excited me but the fact that our label had transcended its traditional form,” says McKinlay. “It was no longer a simple means of explaining what the beer tasted like and what its vital regulatory statistics were. It was a means of engaging people deeper into the world of craft beer – a very good place to be.”


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