Posts Tagged ‘legally interesting/controversial’
Joe Sixpack this week has a good and thorough look at the many beer labels that talk about and tip a hat to their colleague, marijuana. The numbers and audacity are surely growing, as the old and antiquated laws fall by the wayside a bit. I like the quaint and funny reference to coats of arms:
With this month’s ballyhooed legalization of marijuana in Colorado, some beer makers are adding playful drug references to their brand names and labels, and regulators can do little to censor them.
Label oversight, a quirky if contentious area of federal alcohol law, has confounded breweries for years with often capricious standards that bear little on consumer protection.
Federal law, for example, oddly prohibits the use of coats of arms or wording that promises ‘pre-war strength,’ whatever that means.
Mr. Russell (aka Joe) also helped educate me that a safety meeting is not necessarily boring and dire:
Yes, there are limits. Dark Horse Brewing, in Michigan, lost its bid for Smells Like Weed IPA, though its hops, in fact, smell like pot. The name was later changed to Smells Like A Safety Meeting IPA. (A ‘safety meeting’ is slang for taking a break on the job to light up a doober.)
But expect to see fewer of those objections as more states move toward legalization.
This Bourbon label caught our eye because it makes several big claims. It says:
- FINISHED WITH AN OXYGEN ENRICHED, ACCELERATED AGING PROCESS
- Patent Pending
- “we use rapid pressure changes and oxygen infusion to control the aging process”
- “age is no longer relevant and taste is all that matters.”
That’s a lot of envelope-pushing and innovation for one label. We happen to know a person who is both an experienced patent lawyer and an experienced whiskey distiller. So, in a future post, we hope to have him review the patent claims and assess whether this is closer to an innovation or a gimmick. The Bourbon is produced and bottled by Cleveland Whiskey, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio. The approval is here. Terressentia’s closely-related patent, also for aging spirits quickly, is described here.
What is it about beer that encourages people to say things — they would never want to say on cheese or ketchup labels? In the latest skirmish, an Oklahoma brewer came out with Nobama Beer during the past few weeks.
It appears that TTB was not too fond of this brand name, at least at first. But then Huebert Brewing Company, their lawyer, and the local NBC affiliate went on the offensive, to push the label through, as shown in this video. I must admit, I did not expect to see a TV news story about the finer points of TTB Form 5100.31, Exemptions from Label Approval, or TTB’s renowned beer label reviewer (the one person that has reviewed and approved the label for just about every beer currently available in the US). The first video shows that TTB at first allowed the beer only within Oklahoma, but the above approval, and this later video, shows that TTB shortly thereafter felt compelled to allow it more widely.
On or about September 17, 2009, Flying Dog Brewery requested permission to sell Raging Bitch beer in Michigan. About two months later, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission denied the application, asserting: “The Commission finds that the proposed label which includes the brand name ‘Raging Bitch’ contains such language deemed detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public.”
Flying Dog filed a lawsuit last month, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. In a later post, we’ll review the state’s rationale. But for today, we highlight a few of the juiciest portions from the pleadings submitted by Flying Dog (and attorney Alan Gura). The complaint asserts:
Regrettably, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its members have taken it upon themselves to control not merely alcoholic beverages, but speech as well. Acting as a censorial board, Defendants wield state authority to impose their personal tastes as a prior restraint against core First Amendment expression that happens to be placed on beer labels.
The supporting memorandum goes on to cite the Staub case wherein the U.S. Supreme Court said:
It is settled by a long line of recent decisions of this Court that an ordinance which … makes the peaceful enjoyment of freedoms which the Constitution guarantees contingent upon the uncontrolled will of an official — as by requiring a permit or license which may be granted or withheld in the discretion of such official — is an unconstitutional censorship or prior restraint upon the enjoyment of those freedoms.
The memorandum argues that the ban is too broad; “preventing all adults from all access to Raging Bitch [in order to protect some children] is hardly a narrowly tailored restriction.” The Butler case calls back from 54 years ago to remind us “by quarantining the general reading public against books not too rugged for grown men and women in order to shield juvenile innocence. … Surely, this is to burn the house to roast the pig.” The brewer’s memorandum concludes:
The First Amendment is incompatible with the notion that government regulators may sit in judgment of a beer label, scrutinizing it for conformance to their personal views on what sort of expression might disturb delicate sensibilities.
If your tender sensibilities are not yet disturbed, you can find other such labels here.
Does the government check for political correctness when reviewing beer labels? Should they?
One option is to get into a snit and lay on the outrage. Another option is to learn from it. Does “ghetto” really deride or refer to one race only? Maybe, but not the one you may think of first. Here is the origin:
1610s, “part of a city to which Jews were restricted,” especially in Italy, from It. ghetto “part of a city to which Jews are restricted,” various theories of its origin include: Yiddish get “deed of separation;” … or It. borghetto “small section of a town” (dim. of borgo, of Germanic origin, see borough). Extended by 1899 to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups (especially blacks in U.S. cities). As an adjective by 1903 (modern slang usage from 1999). Ghetto-blaster “large, portable stereo” is from 1982.