Brewers Association Takes Crack at Lewd Beer Labels

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Black Stouts Matter, Pantydropper Ale, Happy Ending Imperial Stout, and any other beer that relies on, say, a woman’s breast size to describe the style of beer — consider yourselves on notice.

The Brewers Association (or BA), which is the Boulder-based non-profit trade group dedicated to independent craft brewers, is taking a crack at addressing racism and sexism within the craft beer industry. A first step: Addressing beers with offensive labels. (Because really, how trite has it become to use a busty blonde to describe a golden ale?)

While no specific beers are being called out for bad form just yet, the association has adopted initiatives to discourage brewers from using lewd and demeaning marketing strategies, which gives us a pretty good sense of the possible offenders. As such, beers with names or labels that are determined offensive won’t be announced at the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) or the biennial World Beer Cup should they win awards. And, if one of those offensive beers should so happen to nab a title, the brewery won’t be allowed to use GABF in its marketing (i.e. the brewery can’t slap on a GABF winner label to its winning, albeit lewd, beer).

The move is taking a step to say that if a brand doesn’t comply with the advertising codes or make it past an independent review panel, the Brewers Association “will not promote or celebrate that brand, although they’ll still have earned or won the medal or award,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director.

The new rules are the BA’s answer to a culmination of events over the last few years, Herz says, including Brewery Association members, members of the media, and beer lovers raising concerns about demeaning labels.

“In today’s culture, we realize that there are many different viewpoints about inclusive advertising,” she says. Herz says she’s received feedback from some saying the association has gone too far, and others saying it hasn’t gone far enough. To help determine what constitutes as offensive, the BA has updated its advertising code, assembled a three-member review panel to make sure competition-winning beers adhere to the advertising standards, and set up a complaint process so breweries can report offensive beers.

  • The updated code:

    Existing advertising codes have dissuaded brewers from marketing beers in a way that could be seen as promoting drunk driving, underage drinking, hazing, or binge drinking. The newly updated code goes further, discouraging brewers from using “sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate.” The update also says beer marketing and advertising should not “contain derogatory or demeaning text or images.” You can read the full advertising codes here.

  • The review panel:

    The three-person Advertising Complaint Review Panel is made up of individuals from outside the craft beer industry. This panel will be responsible for reviewing the beers that earn awards at GABF and World Beer Cup to determine whether they meet the advertising standards. The panel is made up of media strategist Kerri Lyon, attorney Rami S. Yanni, and Richard L. Wobbekind, the executive director of the business research division at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. You can read the bios of the panel members here

  • The complaint process:

    Breweries that are voting members of the BA can submit complaints about offending breweries believed to be skirting the advertising code. In all, about 70 percent of the BA’s 5,300 breweries are voting members, Herz says. Before they cry foul, though, they’re encouraged to address the issue with the offending brewery directly. Once it escalates to the complaint level, the Brewers Association will contact the brewer directly regarding the concern, and the brewery has 10 days to respond. If the response is deemed unsatisfactory, the Brewers Association may convene the independent panel to make a determination. The review panel’s decisions and any brewer response to the decision will be posted on the Brewers Association website. You can see the complaint form here.

In addition, the BA has set up a new diversity committee that met for the first time last week. The committee will use 2017 as an “information gathering” year, Herz says. Scott Metzger, who is on the board of directors and is the founder of Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas, is the chairman of the committee.