Frederick, Maryland’s own Flying Dog Brewery is getting into at least one legal battle, and may be headed for another. Last Friday, the brewery filed suit, along with the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, in U.S. District Court on Friday to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s ban on the sale of the company’s best-selling beer, Raging Bitch. The suit also seeks to recover damages from the loss of Flying Dog sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.
The battle began brewing in September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20 anniversary commemorative beer, in the Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label — designed by British artist Ralph Steadman — is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”
Flying Dog disagrees. “The defendants arbitrarily imposed their personal tastes in banning Raging Bitch, clearly violating Flying Dog’s First Amendment right to free expression,” said Flying Dog Attorney Alan Gura of Washington, D.C.-based Gura & Possessky, PLLC.
Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso emphasized that the pending legal action is about more than a beer label. “It’s about regulators gradually morphing into self-appointed thought police,” he said. “We believe not only in freedom of speech and artistic expression for both businesses and individuals, but also in the individual’s fundamental right to choose or reject books, art, literature, artisanal craft beer, and other forms of artistic expression based on their personal preferences.”
Flying Dog created Raging Bitch, a Belgian IPA, to celebrate the brewery’s 20 anniversary in 2010. Raging Bitch was an instant hit and is now Flying Dog’s best-selling beer.
Caruso concluded by voicing hope that beer lovers in Michigan will soon have the opportunity to drink Raging Bitch. “We believe in free choice,” he said. “We do not believe that Michigan citizens deserve government regulators arbitrarily deciding what their beer should be called.”
A battle may also be brewing in New Hampshire, but a suite has not been filed yet. We’ll keep you posted.
What do you think about the suit in Michigan? Post in the comments and let us know your thoughts!