New Hampshire Governor: No Babies on Our Beer

New Hampshire's Liquor Commission banned Founders Breakfast Stout over its illustration of a baby.
New Hampshire's Liquor Commission banned Founders Breakfast Stout over its illustration of a baby. 

Denying an appeal to good sense, New Hampshire's governor recently vetoed a bill that would allow the sale of Founders Brewing's much-lauded Breakfast Stout in the Granite State. The reason for the beer's exclusion is the chubby, oatmeal-munching baby on the label. New Hampshire law prohibits the appearance of minors on alcohol labels. Lifting the rule, Governor Maggie Hassan says, would hinder the state's fight on underage drinking — infants included.

The measure was introduced by state Representative Keith Murphy, who also owns the craft beer–focused Murphy's Taproom in Manchester, New Hampshire. Murphy, who's pub carried Breakfast Stout on draft without the baby on its tap handle, says he loved the rich, strong coffee beer so much that he went to his local beer store only to find it wasn't legally available.

While some detractors quickly claimed Murphy was only looking out for his own interest as a bar owner, he points out that the sale of bottles would actually end his local monopoly of what is one of the world's top-ranked stouts. "I think that people who live in a state with 'Live Free or Die' as a motto should be able to buy the best beer in the country," he says.

Despite Hassan's comments that Murphy's bill would open the door to labels and advertising aimed at minors, federal law already prohibits alcohol labels targeting minors. And Murphy wasn't looking to scrub the existing law, he was suggesting the state amend its rule to give its Liquor Commission authority to approve or deny labels and discern between Founders' harmless baby and a label glorifying something like college binge drinking. 

Another beer pulled into the fray over the state's strict label enforcement is the New Hampshire–brewed Smuttynose Baltic Porter. The world-class black lager depicts Father Time with a baby. "Now the commission is in the position of revoking the approval for that beer," says Murphy. "The people who make the beer won't be able to legally buy it. That's ridiculous."