In Search Of Grimmace

Michael Kiser

All right, so this is kind of a weird one.

Mike Vagnini and David Thomas, two homebrewers from Midland, MI, brewed a beer as a holiday gift to share with friends and family. They set out to, in their own words, "brew a dark wild ale that would highlight the complexity of mixed culture fermentation and feature some of our favorite homegrown berries and a local farm’s blackcurrants."

When it came time to package the beer, they wanted something that would be lighthearted and a bit comical. McDonald's famed purple anthropomorphic being of indeterminate species, Grimace, seemed to fit both criteria while also serving to tie together the color and the flavor.

To take things further, Mike and Dave added an extra 'M,' resulting in Grimmace, and in true imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery style, adapted Grimm Artisan Ales' Double Negative label. Vagnini tells GBH that the label "let us poke a little fun at a pair of brewers who embody so much of the creative, community-focused spirit in which we make beer."

They distributed the labeled bottles to friends and family and thought that was the end of the story. Turns out, it was just the beginning.

On Jan. 20, Maghanahan Skjellyfetti, one of the lucky recipients of Grimmace, posted a picture of the bottle on Instagram. Then, his friend Joey Pepper, an employee at TØRST, tagged Grimm on the post. Lauren and Joe Grimm got a kick out of it, and reposted it on their Instagram account without comment.

That's when the questions and requests started rolling in. "If you look at our Instagram thread there are a hilarious number of people who thought it was a real Grimm release," Joe tells GBH. So they posted a comment to clarify, but even they didn't know where Grimmace really came from.

Fast-forward five weeks. Friend of GBH, Don't Drink Beer, posted a review of Grimmace. Only instead of all the [redacted]s currently in the post, there were references to Michigan brewery, Odd Side Ales.

This is where things really go off the rails.

In response to the review, there was some chatter on the GBH Slack channel about the beer. The idea of one brewery paying homage to another in such an amusing way was intriguing, and I set to work on this Sightlines story by reaching out to Odd Side for the full story. But what DDB didn't know at the time was that Odd Side had never even heard of Grimmace.

Jay Ross, the brewery's marketing director, replied to my email: "Hate to tell you but... that is not our beer! I just read [the DDB article] and it's totally wrong. I have designed all 74 of Odd Side’s labels and I can guarantee you that is not one of mine."

I reached out to Alex at DDB to see what was up and he promptly responded, "It's a huge mix up!" He quickly edited the review with the redactions. Turns out, Mike and Dave had sent Grimmace to Alex, along with a bunch of Odd Side bottles.

"When we prepared the label, we had immediately thought that Alex would appreciate it," Vagnini explains. "So we sent it to him along with some off-the-shelf gems from Michigan. However, unbeknownst to any of us, we were on totally different pages regarding who brewed the beer."

To Mike and David's credit, Alex loved the beer, stating in his review, "I would suck on Grimace’s swollen violet teets any day." Over email, he elaborated on the teet-sucking: "I really enjoyed it, pretty god damn impressive for a home brew."

Over the course of a month and a half, two beer writers, two breweries, and two homebrewers got mixed up in what the Big Lebowski would call "a very complicated case." And similarly, at the end of the story, there was no harm and no foul. All parties were genuinely amused. Grimm even posted that they're "still ISO Grimmace."

Vagnini summed up the series of events nicely like so: "Grimmace seems to have a knack for leaving a mess in its path, perhaps living up to its animated purple namesake." All’s well that ends well?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

—Kyle Kastranec