Posts Tagged ‘speech’
Right there on the label of this beer, almost every part of it, Austin Beerworks makes it clear that you should proceed with maximum caution. You should not even think about consuming this beer with KFC, while wearing lederhosen, or while operating heavy machinery of any sort.
The label is not new, but it is a tad out of the ordinary. It pokes gentle fun at the oh so serious Government Warning Statement, mandated by Congress since the 1988 Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act. In the early years, after this Warning became required on most every beer, wine and spirits label in the U.S., it would have been essentially unthinkable, to allow any fun-poking, aimed in this general direction. To wit, one of the Government’s biggest objections to the Black Death Vodka labeling and packaging, was that it tended to mock the — oh so serious Warning. This label shows that a lot of beer has flowed under the bridge since then, and there has been a general chilling out.
It probably also helps, that the real Warning does appear at least twice, and with good, solid prominence and contrast. But, that base having been covered, Austin revs up for a snarknado. I can’t list all the snarky comments and warnings, because there are so many. But some of my personal favorites are that this beer should not be paired with:
- Eyebrow tweezing
- Edible underwear (or other underwear, such as bras)
- Putting baby in a corner
The full brand is Austin Beerworks Heavy Machinery IPA, and the approval is here. Apart from the modest legal issue noted above, I hasten to add that I have a small, personal connection to this label. Christian Helms is the man behind this label and many other high-end alcohol beverage labels. I went to see him once, in Austin, to try to get help on a big legal and design project. As he sat behind his big screen, with lots of Texas light streaming in, he was willing to talk — but he was not willing to take on the project. At any cost. In 30 years since law school, I have rarely seen a professional who won’t consider any given project, if the fee gets high enough. He was not interested, at any price. One part of me is disappointed, and the other part gives him credit for his decisiveness (not to mention his good sense when it comes to mixing beer and bro-tazing).
Please let me know if you see any other funny, or unusual warnings out there.
I keep hearing about a Bud label that is so overflowing with patriotic hues and cries, that there is no room for the term Budweiser. For example, this Chicago Tribune article, from just a few hours ago, suggests that the label is under scrutiny somewhere deep within the belly of the bureaucracy.
Lo and behold, however, the label at issue got approved way back here, on March 1, 2016.
I have no idea whether this marketing plan (taking the Americana theme to the extreme and then quite a bit further) is a good idea. On the other hand, it’s difficult to find any basis for the government to have disallowed this label. At first I thought it might not mention the brand name at all, but it does, on the neck label. Then I thought maybe, somehow, it was so weighed down with homages to America, and so dressed up so as to resemble U.S. currency, that the term Beer did not fit on the label. But again, it is there, barely, this time at the upper right. If real patriotism were similar to the commercial kind, I would love to take a small measure of credit for this. We worked on this Ol’ Glory beer label about five years ago, and it is an open question, which one takes the cake.
Bud America label will look mighty nice, in a gigantic display at 7-11, on a hot July day this summer. It will look particularly nice next to this Bud Light label, submitted within the same week.
Yes that’s the whole label and it’s once again heavy on the Americana and light on the rest. At the risk of stating the obvious, a perusal of all recent Bud labels shows the advantages and disadvantages of being enormous. They can throw almost literally everything at any would be competitor: Americana, fish, soccer, kicking, shooting, baseball, festivals, concerts, hockey, basketball, football, etc.
In doing so, the CityPages article took a few tough shots at TTB, calling them a “bunch of unchill tightwads,” “notoriously persnickety,” and describing the anatomy of people who work there, in an even less flattering way.
But if the label at issue looks anything like the above, why should a government agency give it a thumbs up? What’s the point of a review process, if it’s so porous that an LSD label would go through? By contrast, this one looks to be the version that did go through, and I really don’t think it’s so bad, or such a gross imposition on free speech. This seems like a good balance; the approved version certainly gets the point across, in a slightly more subtle way.
Even the brewer seems to acknowledge the above name might go too far, saying “With the name, I think we were pushing the envelope, too. Unfortunately, the envelope broke.”
There should be no doubt that a solid disclaimer can help make your label ok. And if there was, the Bad Medicine brand of spirits should put it to rest. In at least two places, the Bad Medicine labels say “The name Bad Medicine does not refer to any claimed health benefits.”
Not so long ago, it would be unthinkable that TTB would allow “medicine” or “health” talk — outside the mandated Government Warning. But the case law keeps changing, and so do the labels, along with it.
What other disclaimers are out there (beer, wine, spirits) and what ones should be?
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.