Through an Ale Glass, Palely: Mermen, Neptune/Poseidon and Tritons as motifs in beer brands and product labels


  • Alex Mesker Macquarie University



Mermen, Neptune, beer, hybridity, folklore, product labelling


While the merman has been a minor figure in modern popular culture — in marked contrast to his gender counterpart, the mermaid — the figure has begun to enjoy a resurgence in several cultural niches in recent decades. One of the most notable of these has occurred with regard to the branding and marketing of types of beer and, in particularly, with the burgeoning ‘craft beer’ movement that has taken off in North America, Europe and Australasia (in particular) since the early 2000s. After an introduction to the merman in popular culture, this article analyses the use of mermen and related fish-tailed mythological males in brewery names and symbols, on beer bottle labels and in related marketing material. The article considers the product image created by such symbolism and the manner in which it might be modifying the role and perception of the merman and related figures in contemporary popular culture. It furthermore aims to illustrate ways that contemporary abstract, naïve, camp and kitsch depictions of mermen are embraced by breweries to situate themselves as culturally engaged, environmentally oriented, or anti-establishment agitators.