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Flat out like a lizard drinking... beer!

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

The Lounge Lizard







Enjoying a foaming schooner of Bluetongue beer at a local club, I wondered what could be the connection between beer and lizards. We have a friendly bluetongue lizard about 30cm. (12 inches) long living happily in our backyard, but he prefers Adam's ale (water).

I've often heard people say they're flat out like a lizard drinking, which seems to provide part of the answer.

BBlue Tongue Beerluetongue Beer is brewed at Cameron Park, in the Hunter Valley, a picturesque district better known for its fine wines than for beer.

I asked Bruce Peachey, Bluetongue's head brewer, how his company acquired its name. He replied:

The original brief to the advertising agent when we were setting up the business was to create a brand that was both iconic and laconic. We wanted a brand that was clearly Australian, but was cheeky as well.

When they came back with the name and logo, we accepted the concept immediately. Of course, out of this came ideas such as “flat out like a Bluetongue lizard drinking…”

Sally Robertson wrote an interesting story about boutique beers in the media magazine B&T, in which she reported:

Blue Tongue [another B&T!] trade marketing director Ty Burfort, says the main difference between craft and mass-produced beer is that a lot of love goes into the smaller-scale production. Other secrets include sourcing the best ingredients from around the world such as the fresh hops flowers used in Little Creatures beer, and staying away from the light, not-too-bitter flavours found in most brews.

While there are hundreds of breweries popping up in Australia, 85% of the boutique beer market is shared between four breweries – Matilda Bay, James Squire, Blue Tongue and Little Creatures. Their popularity relies on word of mouth, or, as Matilda Bay’s chief brewer Brad Rogers puts it, “word of glass”.

Still puzzled about the connection between beer and lizards, I googled "beer lizards". To my surprise, I found a great collection of such names from around the world. Here are just a few of them:

Winking Lizard TavernsWinking Lizard A chain of 12 taverns in and around Cleveland, Ohio. Four year ago Nancy Backas outlined the origin of the name, when she wrote:

Nineteen years ago, a couple of wild young guys decided they wanted to open a tavern. They wanted to create an old fashioned neighborhood tavern experience, but with great food that would keep 'em coming in. The first bar they purchased already had a name, but the young men wanted to create a whole new identity. So, they ran a contest, but the brilliant idea of the contest's winner was also X-rated and subsequently rejected by local officials. So instead, the Callam brothers settled on Winking Lizard Tavern, a name that inspired the creation of the lizard logo still used today.

Pursuing that lead, I found the Winking Lizard Tavern's website, which announced:

The Winking Lizard Tavern World Tour of Beers for 2006 is our 20th Anniversary Tour. Each year we are challenged to offer and get the best and most varied beer selection in the nation. By limiting this list to 100 beers it is even tougher.

At first glance I thought that the Winking Lizard's dedicated beer drinkers were enjoying an epic pub crawl around the globe, sampling the local brew at every stop, but that sounded too good to be true. Reading on, I found that the tour is restricted to Ohio. Mind you, walking from one tavern to the next would be a long day's march for a small lizard, winking or not.

Tour contestants are challenged to taste 100 bottled beers brewed in various countries, and that's where the "world tour" comes into the picture.

After firing off an email to the Tavern asking for more details, I received this reply from John Lane, the company's managing partner and beverage director:

Guests have a full year to drink 100 picked beers. After 50 they receive a long sleeve T-shirt and after 100 they receive a coveted World Tour jacket.... We have 4,500 members of which 2700-3000 will finish. Sorry, we don't make beer; we just sell the world's best.

The Twisted LizardOver in Illinois, The Twisted Lizard restaurant claims to specialise in great Southwestern cuisine and the best margaritas in Chicago. Its website says "The menu features a traditional array of authentic Mexican cuisine, including fajitas, enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, quesadillas, and sincronizadas. The Twisted Lizard also offers an extensive array of tequilas (over 20 brands) and fine margaritas, as well as a complete selection of Mexican beers and microbrews."

Budweiser LizardThen there were Budweiser Beers' famous green lizards, Louis and Frank. In 1998 and 1999 they were featured in a series of three Super Bowl TV spot advertisements. Budweiser once showed a nude Ganymede holding a beer bottle and borne aloft by a bald eagle, and lizards pretending to be three frogs named Bud, Weis and Er.

Crazy Lizard Beer is displayed in The Rattlesnake Saloon of the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The saloon also displays these marvellous drinks, although sadly it doesn't offer tastings:

  • King Cobra Malt Liquor
  • Red Rattler Soda
  • Naya (Cobra?) Water
  • YukonJack Snakebite
  • Frog Light Beer
  • Crocodile Cafe Beer
  • Rattlesnake E.S.B. Ale
  • Black Toad Dark Ale
  • Snake Venom Cola
  • Diamondback Beer
  • Bad Frog Beer
  • Snake Eyes Liquors
  • Mamba Beer
  • Gila Monster Beer

Lizard Head RedAnother interesting beer from America's Far West is Lizard Head Red. We found this invitation to attend a "promo tasting":

Join David Boone, Steamworks Brewing Co. AZ [Arizona] Brew Rep., as we kick off the placement of our Lizard Head Red on Tap in the Beer Garden. Come enjoy live music, good beer and drawings for corporate logo pint glasses.

Well, there they are. Which lizard beer would you prefer?

If you know why brewers everywhere, or their advertising agents, chose lizard names for their products, please let me know. In the meantime, I'll have another schooner of Bluetongue, please dear. Cheers!


Story first posted January 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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