There’s always the slightest bit of apprehension when I discover something’s become defictionalised – you know, when a company buys the rights from a film studio to make their fictional product into something real. It’s problematic: Wonka Bars can’t actually be as good as they are in Charlie’s universe, and a real-life Sex Panther cologne can’t actually have bits of real panther in it, as wonderfully perverse as that sounds.
Fictional products often reach some kind of unattainable perfection. That’s the sticking point. Well, for most of them anyway. Duff Beer is a glorious exception: Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, created Homer Simpson’s drink of choice as a parody of commercial American lagers. It’s cheap, poorly made and, with the help of its muscle-bound mascot Duffman, its advertising is everywhere in Springfield.
But now it’s real (sans Duffman, unfortunately.) German brewery Eschweger Klosterbrauerei began brewing a licenced Duff premium lager 18 or so months ago. Sure, beers by the name of Duff have been brewed in a handful of countries – Mexico, England, Australia and the US to name a few – but many of those are mere Duff namesakes, and not Springfield Duff. Duff Brewery in Dunedin, New Zealand, for example, started brewing a beer called Duff long before the Simpsons even began. Unsurprisingly, it was threatened with legal action by the Simpsons’ American network Fox – despite Groening stating he would never license the trademark himself – and so it was forced to change the beer’s name to McDuff.
While there is a Belgian version of Springfield Duff, it doesn’t look very authentic. Only one brewery brews an authentic real-life version of the beer Homer once described as “the beer that makes the days fly by”, and lucky me, I was given a couple six-packs of it by my brother for Christmas. Due to its worldwide appeal, it can be quite difficult to get hold of. It’s no surprise it’s popular: it looks very much the real deal.
But what about the beer itself? Although Springfield Duff is supposed to be bland and a wholly corporate product – the several varieties of Duff, such as Duff Light and Duff Dry are actually the same beer in the Simpsons universe – real-life Duff is a much better pale lager than most commercial lagers. For one, it has wonderful mouth feel, and a satisfyingly medium carbonation, even out of a can (which is the way I admittedly drank all of my share, just like Homer Simpson.) Flavourwise it’s nothing special – thin corn maltiness carried by the slightest bitter tinge; it’s definitely common denominator stuff.
But it’s really not that bad. It’s inarticulate, sure, but its fictional self, not to mention its fictional drinkers, aren’t very articulate either. It’s profoundly inoffensive on nose and palate, and that can’t be said for many American macrobrews. Duff Beer might be corporate clear and slightly weak, but it’s great fun and a far cry from the Miller High Lifes and Coors Lights it was made to make fun of. Even a fictional beer brand known for being swill can’t emulate the dross that comes out of the world’s biggest macrobreweries. It’s funny. (Or sad, I can’t tell which.)
That’s the problem with bringing fictional products into real life: even if it’s supposed to be bad, it simply can’t live up to its reputation. Maybe that’s a good thing in this case.
Eschweger Klosterbrauerei Duff Beer; 330ml can; 4.7% a.b.v.
Pros: A great novelty, as well as a drinkable, sessionable pale lager.
Cons: Slightly disappointed that it wasn’t genuinely shit.