These aren’t your everyday brand names used to reel in customers of a certain favorite type of frothy beverage. These are examples of actual craft beer names that have been in production* that the Boulder, Co based Brewers Association wishes to address in their new Marketing & Advertising Code, in which it plans to release to its members in coming weeks.
Colorado brewery co-founder, Odd13 Brewing‘s Kristin Scott, said she agrees that the new BA guidelines “did the right thing,” but added she has suspicions about whether the BA has the authority to enforce policies that overlap existing labeling guidelines, as well as the effectiveness of complaint process itself, which requires breweries or members to act as the police of other members as for what qualifies as “obscene.”
“I’m not going to call out another brewery,” she said.
The BA updated its Marketing and Advertising Code to help brewers maintain high standards and act as responsible corporate citizens. New language has been included to address that beer advertising and marketing materials should not use sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public. Any name that does not meet the Marketing and Advertising Code that wins a BA produced competition including the Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) or World Beer CupSM will not be read on stage or promoted in BA materials, and will not be permitted to use the GABF or World Beer Cup intellectual properties in their marketing.
Additionally, the BA has convened an Advertising Complaint Review Board should an issue arise that warrants further review and action.
Media reports have recently targeted increasing competition and stifling ‘Big Beer’ mergers, coupled with the lack of responsible government oversight as plaguing America’s once-booming craft beer industry, with Boston Beer brewing giant Jim Koch taking the position that “we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the American craft beer revolution.” As a result of this increasingly competitive marketplace, some think these names arise as a tactic for some to stand out in a sea of glass.
Scott, who doesn’t consider herself a person who “gets offended” often, said she feels the labeling is a result of overly creative staff members with no checks-and-balances in place.
“I think that creativity went over the tipping point for some people,” she said. Scott said her team often pushes the limits through its can art and beer names, which sometimes include sexual innuendos, but that there’s always a discussion on what is inappropriate. “We (definitely) don’t want to offend anyone,” she said.
“I’ve seen some (labels in the marketplace) that you kinda just laugh at, but there are some that are definitely crossing the line,” she added.
So why, in 2017, has the BA now decided to take this position?
BA craft beer program director Julia Herz said the new guidelines have been in the works for several years, as a result of industry and social media pressure to move the industry to a more diverse and inclusive group of “good corporate citizens.”
Herz said, “We updated that code now, because it’s been a culmination of many things coming into play, where diversity and beer labels in the marketplace just keep coming up again and again, and many members, and beer-lovers and media have asked us what we plan to do about it.”
“The update to the advertising code is brand new – we’re treading into new waters knowing that some might feel we’ve gone too far and some might feel we’ve not gone far enough,” but adds that 2017 is “an information gathering year for that committee.”
Herz also added that the BA does not intend to evaluate past entries, and the policies will apply only to beers entered into their competitions, starting with GABF in September 2017.
Scott shared her concerns about the overlapping guidelines that are already in place at both the state and national level through the TTB, and whether the BA has the authority to enforce these guidelines. She mentions Flying Dog’s infamous “Raging Bitch,” which is distributed nationally (internationally, even), was approved through TTB, despite its sexist connotation.
“We’ve seen what passes,” she said, adding that “unless TTB and state liquor boards insist (on enforcing discriminatory or offensive names), nothing’s gonna change.” She also said that it will be “interesting to see over the next couple of years what will be deemed offensive and what isn’t.”
Is misogyny “fair game” or “all in good fun” when it comes to beer-naming? I decided to level the playing field with some male-focused, misandrist beer names of my own.
What do you think about all this? Do labels go too far? Should breweries police other breweries? Should brewers just brew beer and leave the naming to someone else? Leave us a note in the comments or Tweet me @boldtowngirl.