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Does sex(ism) sell?

Irreverent beer names amuse and anger.
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Photo by Jess Suworoff for DRAFT

Photo by Jess Suworoff for DRAFT

In Loveland, Colorado, Big Beaver Brewing pours pints of Wonder Wiener Wheat, Shaved Tail Ale, Bust-A-Nut Brown Ale, Rub-A-Chub Kolsch, and Amber Was Her Stage Name. Founder Peter Villeneuve embraces the uncouth: “Actually, it’s a really good screening mechanism,” Villeneuve says. “If you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t come.”

While Big Beaver hasn’t faced much controversy for their saucy beer names, it raises a question: How far can breweries go with edgy and provocative names before they cause offense?

In Machesney Park, Illinois, a suburb of Rockford, Pig Minds Brewing Company—progenitor of such names as Boats and Ho’s, Southy Bitch Slap and Ester the Wild Bitch—came under fire last year for their P.D. California- Style Blueberry Ale. The label depicted a woman in a short skirt with a pair of panties around her ankles—the P.D. alluding clearly enough to “panty dropper.”

Critics accused the brewery of misogyny and contributing to “rape culture.”

“It takes a sick mind to see that piece of art and see rape, in our opinion,” Pig Minds founder Brian Endl says. “Our intentions were just playful.”

In response to the controversy, the brewery dropped the name, instead dubbing the blueberry brew Happidaze. “We totally understand some people were offended, and that’s why we’re moving on,” Endl said.

Labels on packaged beer must get federal approval from the TTB—that is, the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. State oversight varies. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission recently learned that First Amendment rights often prevail; they lost a six-year legal battle with Mary- land-based Flying Dog over the label for Raging Bitch.

One state that steers clear of labeling battles is Utah, home of Wasatch Brewing Company’s Polygamy Porter. Vickie Ashby, spokeswoman for Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said that because of First Amendment issues, “we usually allow the product in stores if it has approval from the federal government and meets the specific labeling requirements for Utah.”

Another label with a controversial depiction is that of Tramp Stamp Belgian IPA from Clown Shoes, a company that commissions its beers from the Ipswich Ale Brewery in Massachusetts. The label shows the rear of a woman in low-slung blue jeans, a tattoo peeking over her waistband. The label reads, “Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is about not so subtle seduction.”

Tramp Stamp is one of Clown Shoes’ top sellers. “We created this four years ago as something ironic and playful,” brand manager Sean Geary says. “We weren’t trying to stir pots… We’re not in the game to insult anyone or put anyone down.”

12 Comments

  • STG228 says:

    Here’s an amazing idea…if you don’t like it, don’t patronize that establishment, why ruin it for the brewer and those that frankly don’t care or aren’t offended. This country needs to grow a pair.

    • DangerGirl says:

      Don’t worry, I won’t be patronizing that establishment. But I’m going to exercise my 1st Amendment right to explain why I won’t be patronizing their establishment, if that’s ok with you. There’s no “ruining” going on here. If you show by the names of your beers that you are operating on a teenage level, I’ll assume that you beers are also catered toward teenage tastes. There are plenty of beers and breweries, I’ll just go somewhere else. Simple enough. I also won’t be growing a pair anytime soon, though you probably don’t see that as sexist either.

      • No One Else Cares says:

        Why does everything think they need to spout their opinion on a matter as trivial as this. Just buy different beer. No one else is interested in hearing you complain.

    • Brett Oyler says:

      The term “Rape Culture” isn’t necessarily about people or companies outwardly campaigning for the act of rape. “Rape Culture” describes the collective actions and language of the whole society that excuse or tolerate sexual violence.

      I believe we vote with our dollars. The Clown Shoes and Flying Dog Labels are just stupid so I’ll never buy them, but they don’t do the same damage Pig Minds do. “Panty Dropper” is a term that is specifically about rape. It’s been around forever. Taking sexual advantage of someone when they are drunk is rape. It just is, so naming your beer to give a “who gives a fuck,” edgy, controversial message is more than stupid.

      I would hope that beers like this would just disappear because people didn’t buy them. You would think that would happen based on this being a Blueberry ale.

      Labels like my local Belching Beaver aren’t playful they are just gross. If you’re really edgy, name it “Pussy Queef” and see how well it sells. I love brewing beer, I love beer culture, but the more popular it has become, the more these lowest common denominator shitheads make us look bad.

  • JL says:

    Clickbait Achievement Unlocked! Proceed to Slideshow Mode!

  • Bob says:

    People are so easily offended these days. It’s humor. Deal with it. Free speech is not free if you are telling people to “shut up” all the time.

  • Al from NY says:

    That’s what I would drink if I was 14. Let’s see these brewers grow a pair and make a confererate flag beer. More like, grow some brains and realize women drink a lot of beer, and they’re not buying yours.

  • B says:

    Did people exercise their freedom of speech ages ago before “craft beer” became a thing? Why is this NOW all of a sudden an issue? Breweries who’ve established their beer names and brand years ago are now getting ridiculed by people who likely don’t care about beer anyway. Leave us alone and use your rights towards something that actually matters.

  • bob says:

    here is an idea. if you’re going to talk bad about a picture on a bottle, DON’T BLUR OUT THE PICTURE!! how do you expect anyone to believe you if we can’t judge for ourselves? I won’t even read your article, and just assume you are an idiot.

  • […] Pope of Draft Magazine asks if sexism sells. And before you argue this doesn’t count for beer blogging because it’s a magazine, […]

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