The Beer Formerly Known as Detective Saison Launch Event – Central City Brewers & Distillers

Recently I was sent an invite to a new secretive launch event to a new exciting line of beers coming from Central City Brewers & Distillers.


Then came the press release we unleashed on the masses (excerpt to follow):

“Surrey, B.C. – Central City Brewers + Distillers has unveiled a bold new mythical world filled with full-bodied drama and malty mystery for the launch of a series of character-based beers. A complete departure from the Central City brand that many have come to know, the new Central City world tells a tale of a post-industrial, mythical metropolis port town.

Central City is a once-rich township of honest, blue-collar citizens who are now governed by institutions run by old power and old money.

In a city where corruption and crime rule all, justice is brewing…

Detective Saison is the first character-based beer to be introduced, amidst the dirt and weeds sullying the streets of Central City. A breath of fresh air to the city’s moral compass, Detective Saison is a smooth, dry, classic French Saison-style wheat ale, balanced with a fine malt character and a spicy attitude with the added complexity of pink peppercorns. A witty intellect, Detective Saison has an iron constitution about right and wrong and her pursuit of truth and justice is unrelenting.”


Something very unfortunate came up 5 hours before the launch event though for Central City Brewers & Distillers.  It came to light through twitter that the new company they have hired to produce the new labels for this series had plagiarized (and not lightly either). Its safe to say they are no longer in the employ of Central City.


Click here for a story from the Surrey Now Newspaper.

Now everyone in the Vancouver and BC beer scene know that Central City Brewers & Distillers are a company of high moral standards and would never knowingly release anything plagiarized.  This put them in a tough position for their launch party in 5 hours though.  They had costumes and skits already planned to help launch this brand new character line of beer.  To their credit not only did the show go on but they dropped all the bells and whistles and held the launch party for a now temporarily unnamed Saison and their new Dry Hopped Cider.  This had to be extremely hard for them as its hard to sell a new product line while not being able to name it.  So because of this I present you with the “The Beer Formerly Known as Detective Saison” (yes I am borrowing from Prince and I don’t care and I don’t even like him).
detective saison

The “The Beer Formerly Known as Detective Saison” pours a light golden colour with a fluffy white head.  The aroma consists of wheat, yeast, grainy malts, fruit and sweetness.  The flavour was of citrus, wheat, grain, yeast, spices with a nice crisp finish.  The beer comes in at an alcohol content of 6%.

The ingredients included water, malted barley, malted wheat, hops, pink peppercorns, yeast.

Sadly for everyone involved on the brewery side the first batch of bottles was released to stores for the launch and could not easily be recalled.  To the consumer it was great to get a bottle of this beer right off the bat so not only could I review it but I could document the happenings.  Below is the actual photo of the bottle.


Also launched at this event was their brand new and first Cider the “Hopping Mad Dry Hopped Apple Cider”.


With all that has transpired I can not think of a better name for their inaugural cider.  One thing that caught me off guard with this cider was that I actually liked it!  I am not a fan of cider and had not had a cider to this point that I would willingly drink.  Being a launch though I had to do my due diligence.  This is one tasty cider and I will be recommending it to all my cider drinking friends to be sure!

Lets get onto the party.  Here are a few of the photos from the party portion of the event.  I tried to take most of my photos with very few people in them.  The room was very full!

After a few speeches one from Gary and one from Tim Barnes led into tours of the brewery.  The group was broken up into two separate entities as there were way to many people to take on just one tour of the brewery.  The tours were led by Gary Lohin the Brewmaster extraordinaire (yes I went there).  I have had a tour before but I was not given a tour that included their sour barrel room and their whiskey aging room (Click here to see my first visit to this location).  The brewery has also really grown since their grand opening party.  It is amazing an a testament to the growth of BC craft beer!

It may not have been the smoothest launch of all time but it is bound to happen to a company now and then.  The bigger you get the harder it is to keep above board with all the legalities of business.  This may have been a rough growing pain for Central City Brewers & Distillers but they have created a new interesting beer universe with what seems to be intriguing new characters (snags and all).  I hope you are all as excited as I am to see what is in store for this new beer line.  Run out to your local beer store now to ensure you get a bottle from this initial release.

Full sized photos can be found here.

5 comments on “The Beer Formerly Known as Detective Saison Launch Event – Central City Brewers & Distillers

  1. Great in-depth post, Mike. Like you said, it is really unfortunate the whole thing. When I posted that tweet, I had no idea it was on the day of their launch.

    There have since been a couple articles about this and I wonder why the design agency is being so protected? Honestly, even without the alleged plagiarism, it’s a label that is everything wrong about beer labels AND comics… companies throw boobs at everything to sell their books or their beer.

    Also they want a comic inspired world, yet they consult no comic producer/creators. Instead they hire a company that assigns the project to a designer that was obviously uncomfortable emulating comics who turned to google for a solution.

    Yes it is the designer’s fault for not telling anyone what he/she did but it’s the Central City Marketing department that is at fault as well. Also it’s the agency’s Creative Director and Art Director’s responsibility to source the right talent and make smart creative decisions. Why was the Vancouver comics community never consulted/commissioned for this work?? This is a very serious missed opportunity to gift a working (sometimes struggling) local comic artist with the task of creating a character for this world. Much like the Gigantic Endless series. You want to make a comic book universe, you have to include people who make comics, period.

    I’m like you, Mike. I am a massive fan of Central City. But this is a mis-step that extends beyond stealing artwork. It raises questions of of over-sexualized women on labels to sell beer. When are companies going to grow up and show some respect? The craft-community aren’t a bunch of 13yr old boys in our mother’s basements and we don’t need to be treated like that in order to buy beer. Craft beer isn’t Budweiser, so stop acting like it. I think this community is better than that. We don’t need to resort to the same bikini clad women to sell the craft community. We need GOOD BEER TO SELL BEER, as well as labels that represent the integrity of the breweries that make it.

    Look at what Moon Under Water are doing:

    And the amazing work that Hired Guns are doing with the driftwood labels:

    Many don’t know, but women were on the forefront of making beer:

    Therefore they should be more strongly represented when considering their use on beer labels. They deserve that.

    Make it about the beer, not the boobs.

    My biggest worry is that these 4 new labels in this universe will be just like the first one. Embarrassing, sexist and poorly executed. I wish CC the best as this is a great idea but with currently, the worst execution possible.

    • ohhhh…this is a good discussion. I’ll weigh in on a few things here.

      First point – the drawings and “big boob” issue, I think Myron you are referring to the on-going cultural change in comic books leading away from ridiculously out of proportion women in comic books that is going on behind the scenes here and there. Interestingly enough no one seems to give a crap about out of proportion men in comic books at least that I have heard anyway. It is a big issue that is off putting to female fans and quite frankly I don’t find that or the picture in this label the least bit attractive (skanky is more like it).

      Mike, I agree on Red Betty, at least it’s an attempt at a throwback to pin ups and some attempt to be a bit classy about it while still somewhat sexy looking. I do however love the Moon Under Water one personally, way more attractive to me because it leaves a little mystery, but that’s just me I guess and I see a respectful market for both points of view.

      Second point – I’ll come right out and agree with you on the Fat Tug label, honestly not a fan at all. Sure it looks nice, but is a very distracting beer label in a busy way that I think really takes away from their image. Nothing against the artists, the label itself is a work of art, but the branding is where I think they are missing out completely whereas the simpler label was much more about the beer and had a nice image. Again, I’ve always preferred simpler classy labels anyway.

      Third point – the thing I hate the most about this new “brand” of central city is that it seems totally fabricated. It’s a cool idea with nothing of substance behind it, which I can’t really relate to. Local comic book artists would have been a cool story to tell, like you mentioned probably not practical, however a much better marketing strategy in my opinion. I puked a little in my mouth when I read the caption “Detective Sarah Saison” on the label because it came out of left field. I’d rather have seen them bring Red Betty to the forefront and reworked that graphic a little bit. I may be wrong on this, but I certainly have felt that this “new” approach for them has lacked any real substance and it certainly doesn’t help with what happened. That being said, I love their beer and I’m curious to try a style I’ve never seen them brew before. Until more recently, their online strategy was to promote their #icecoldbeer or to put the words India Style on everything, so they need to continue to invest more and more on improving in this area.

      Myron – good call on the Gigantic series, great example of engaging your audience and culture. I think they should have worked through the agencies to get some local artists on board (who knows maybe they tried). These guys are great at working with local charities all the time, so they proven that they know how to do this. But for the most part, I have never been overly impressed by their attempts to market something beyond their Jeff O’Neil line of beers which was bloody brilliant marketing! This will be wait and see for the next one I guess, although if it’s Patricia or Paul Porter next, I’m probably done with it…in my opinion, of you are going to market something like that give it a real go, not a rinse and repeat. Also, I bet they redesigning 4 labels right now!

      Interesting discussion guys.

      • Ok I have to disagree with you Terry about the new label. It may not be an appealing drawing but how in the world is it skanky? She is very well dressed. Skanky would be to have no cloths on in a trashy way. Other than the label I really like the back story they are creating. I like that they want to create a world for these beers with the possibility of making a website for it to flesh it out.

        I just personally think the Moon label is poorly drawn. That’s just my opinion.

  2. It is good that you did tweet them that day regardless because a botched launch is far less troublesome than lawsuits down the road. I think the design firm is being protected for two reasons and both are related (also why I didn’t dig). There will likely be a law suit over this to recover costs and when it comes to legal issues you have to keep your mouth shut or you could loose your case with one set of loose lips. Second and more probable is that they could be hit with a defamation lawsuit. The designer will likely loose his/her job but they will want to minimize damage to the firm and this is one way to do it. This could turn into a huge money issue in the back rooms.

    To cover the bases of picking up small comic artists to help with the design there is inherent risk there that should have been covered by hiring a big firm. If you hire a small artist they are harder to ensure that plagiarism isn’t happening as it would be on Central City or another entity to ensure that they were creating only original artwork. Next with that in mind a small artist is usually not well off so if a lawsuit from a case of plagiarism came up it would bounce back to Central City as they are the entity that has the money and hired a very small artist. It is much like the construction industry for instance. If you hire a very small company and they screw you it is hard to get any recourse as they have no money. You may bankrupt them but there will be no damages paid as they have nothing. That is unless they worked on behalf of someone else then that someone else is liable. I would have to say it is obvious that they picked the wrong artist/firm at this point and they will probably openly admit that if not now later when the shit storm passes. If this was a small micro or nano I would totally say they should hire one of these small guys but the corporate sized craft brewers like Central City, Parallel 49, Russel Brewing to name a few have to be very careful.

    When it comes to the over sexualization of women I will have to disagree. Craft beer does not do this. Now if you are talking Molson, Bud yada yada then yes they do sex it up with trashy outfits and bikinis all the time.

    One of my Girlfriends favouite Models and many women is Betty Page. She was a strong, bold women who pushed the boundarys in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This wasn’t for men but for her (not to say men did not enjoy it as she was beautiful). Take this photo of her from from that era.

    now look at what Lighthouse Brewing in Victoria did with their Siren Red Ale.

    This is Betty Page if I ever say her. It is almost like they took the first photo and made the label in her honor. This is not trashy in my books but a wonderfully done throw back to the pinup era.

    Think of women like Marilyn Monroe who often did racy shoots with her dress being blown up as she held it down. Do people complain (in this day and age) that this was over sexualizing her? She is an icon that women love and admire.

    When it comes right down to it Red Betty is a throwback to the old pinup paintings on warplanes of the wold war era. They are pieces of art and a great part of history. Does this:

    not remind you of these iconic paintings from back in the day?

    Red Betty is a throwback brand that pays homage to the wartime pinup paintings and really the old pinup style of the era. I mean we could even go back to the great old pinup art also like

    I mean if this is what craft breweries were trying to sell us I would be appalled for sure and would raise a stink.

    But it is not. They may be beautiful women represented on the bottles and maybe even scantily clad but in a much more classy way that is not at all trashy. Would it be ok if the women depicted on the bottles were frumpy? Does sex sell? Yes. Would I buy a beer with a pinup style label? Yes! They are art pieces and if they are etched on the glass I will save the bottle and display it much like I would a framed photo of Betty Page or Marilyn Monroe (well not Monroe as I am not personally a fan of her).

    Moon Under Water’s Label is fine but highly uninteresting to me.


    I think our world is going to hell with all of the politically correctness we have today. It almost feels to me like we live in a world where it is bad to be good looking. Be it men or women. Why is it awful for men to have bikini calendars of women but women can proudly display their Fireman calendars yearly? The double standards are out of control.

    When you mention Driftwood Brewery in Victoria’s new label art I really only have one thing to say…. Ick!!! I hate them all so far. No disrespect to the artists or the brewery but I think they have lost something with their branding with this new art style. What does this say at all?

    It says nothing to me and is way too busy. I would walk right by it in a store and I have on many occasions.

    This is iconic! It has a tug boat on it for one. The tug is huge on the label almost filling the entire frame making it almost fat. It also has a very West Coast feel with the ocean, mountains and clouds.

    So as I finish this novel of a comment my point is that I do not agree with you on your look at craft beer and women on the labels. My girlfriend would just as fast buy me a bottle of beer styled like Siren Red Ale because of the art than many other beer. I will probably pick up a bottle of the beer from Moon Under Water but only if the beer is well received or it strikes my fancy as the label has nothing to it that jumps out at me and says spend my money. You need a hook and that label is bland. I may be wrong but I don’t care really. I find this Generation so frustrating so often.

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