BA to Crack Down on Offensive Beer Labels

The Brewers Association is attempting to curb some brewers’ propensity toward offensive beer labels.

At a press briefing held during the Craft Brewers Conference on Wednesday, the trade organization announced steps to prevent breweries that use offensive or sexist names and labels from marketing their businesses with the industry trade organization’s intellectual property in regards to World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Fest awards and medals.

The organization’s leaders said they will still allow those brewers using questionable names to participate in its awards competitions and join its membership ranks, but noted that winners with offensive names will not be celebrated during awards ceremonies.

“If a brewery with an offensive name or label were to win an award, we would not read that name from the stage,” said Brewers Association president and CEO Bob Pease.

The beer industry is littered with past and present examples of innuendo for names and questionable labels such as Pig’s Mind Brewing PD California Style Ale (the PD is an acronym for Panty Dropper and the label features a drawing of a woman with her underwear around her ankles), Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Chesapeake Stout, SweetWater Happy Ending Imperial Stout, Stark Brewing’s Mt. U Golden Cream Ale and Village Idiot Brewing Co. Thong Remover Belgian Tripel. Some have been discontinued. Others live on.

“We will not allow them to market their award using our intellectual property,” Pease said, adding that the BA would not allow its name to be associated with labels and marketing efforts that it feels would damage its image.

The new policy is written into the BA’s advertising and marketing code, which was first enacted in 2008, and leaders admitted that they’re wading into a “sticky,” “subjective” and “sensitive” subject.

“We want our members to be responsible corporate citizens,” Pease said. “We want to err on the side of tolerance. It’s not going to be black and white. There’s a subjective element to that, and the Association, we’re going to find ways to be inclusive. But at the same time, we do think this step is the right thing to do and shows the leadership that is needed. But it’s gonna be sticky. It’s going to be hard.”

Pease said brewers will sign licensing agreements with terms of use on the BA’s marks when entering the two competitions.

If a label or name of the brewery is deemed reviewable for “offensive, lewd, demeaning” content, then an independent outside review panel will examine the name and file a report that will be issued on the BA’s website.

The policy, however, will not be retroactive for past winners, who can still use the marks.

During Wednesday’s “State of the Industry” discussion, BA director Paul Gatza urged the organization’s’ members to be inclusive in order to reach women and minorities, not only as customers but as employees.

“I think we want to stay away from names and labels that can be offensive,” Gatza said to loud applause. “That turns off people.”

During the BA’s press conference, Pease said the organization would not be screening applications to join the association for offensive or sexist names.

“Excluding companies from being members of the Association is fraught with all sorts of legal implications,” he said. “So at this point, are we prepared to deny breweries with offensive names of being members of the Brewers Association? No, we’re not.”

Gatza added that there are no provisions in the organization’s bylaws to exclude breweries from membership for those reasons.

This isn’t the first change in the way the BA handles GABF applications. Following last year’s event, the BA changed how it processes applications for category verification prior to the competition after festival organizers were forced to rescind the “Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year” award, which was given to Fat Head’s Brewery, and instead award it to Karl Strauss Brewing Company after the San Diego brewery incorrectly submitted its entries as part of the “Mid-Size Brewpub” category, rather than “Mid-Size Brewing Company.”

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