The Voodoo Ranger

There's not a lot I know about New Belgium beer other than I like it. I like the flavors. I like the shape of the bottle. I like the design of the label. I like the employee owned business practice. New Belgium brews great beer. Even so, a friend told me that New Belgium ended their Ranger IPA and I didn't know so I'm not really following the beer world here either.

New Belgium is rolling out a new series of IPA's and they have a really cool ad campaign, which I think is really apt right now. New Belgium, I don't think, advertises too much and I've often wondered what a New Belgium ad would look like anyways. This campaign for Voodoo Ranger is is cool and I ride past it in the Loop almost daily.

At the center of the Voodoo Ranger campaign is this Voodoo ranger himself; a dead park ranger's skeleton I guess kept alive by the beer or presumed campfire stories about him or maybe the magic of the lightning that struck him on a motorcycle. I guess. The character has a very devil-may-care look about him and he wears alternative hats and jackets, but there's always some kind of nod to a park ranger uniform. The flat brimmed, Smokey the Bear hat is the most notable.

I'm not sure I can really say I like the character here, or admire the notable change of design associated with the imagery on the packaging. Maybe New Belgium is trying to appeal to a different customer, but hopefully this is a sort of suite of alternatives to their old  Ranger IPA and usual host of really handsome beer. Hopefully Voodoo Ranger stands along side these other notables and appeals more to the consumer who loves IPAs and wants a bottle with a more punk vibe.

What I'm trying to say is; New Belgium please don't take the roosters of Tripel!

But why is Voodoo Ranger so apt? I don't really know if New Belgium had this ad in the works before the 2017 Presidential Inauguration, but seeing it after the chaos of the last few weeks has been perfect timing. We're a little past the hipness of IPAs, and we're right now in the midst of some madness from the EPA that makes this character just sit right with this beer and this campaign.

Here's a beer being embodied by this rouge park ranger. A cartoon champion of a beer sucked dry by intense hops. The bitterness puckers the drinker into a skeleton himself. And the cool liquid sort of splashes down your guts. So there's a visual sense there for drinking an IPA. And I think IPAs lack some class. They're a little too hip in part because they're horrible to drink, but are so ubiquitous thanks to the demand of the mustache waxing, fixed gear bike riding hipsters of 2012.

But this is where the Voodoo Ranger begins to also depart from being a sort of ugly line drawn figure in a beer ad to something more. First of all, this is the revival of New Belgium's classic IPAs. Their own ranger brought back around with a new look but maybe the same spirit. But perhaps he's also a bit of a picture of the eroded consumer of a long gone IPA craze. That Portlandia styled hipster with tattered shirts and ill fitting pants who isn't really around any more. That hipster who sort of bled out into wider culture and grew up, left that side of himself to sort of compost and compose the rest of society. The Voodoo Ranger is that guy, who shaved his chin beard and has stopped renting by now. It's what's left of him.

Finally, and most aptly though, the Voodoo Ranger is, indeed a picture of Americana hero right now. Deprived of life but not of spirit and in touch with nature for always living out in it. Here's a park ranger who can't be tamed. Who wont stop wandering the backwoods. Like the EPA is under threat today, the Voodoo Ranger is a pile of bones. All the flesh taken off him, but still he persists. This is something, obviously, we saw almost immediately from the National Park Service after the Inauguration.

The park services very quickly struck out on their own in the face of opposition and dismemberment, un-silenced by executive orders and new management. And the Voodoo Ranger is an embodiment of that as well. His bones picked clean by an erasing force, but indomitable in the face of it. And ultimately just what we want from the Park Service at the time. Resilient, respectful of nature, but rebelliously wandering off the grid with a six pack.