Each week, Tony Budny pens SCREAMING INTO THE VOID and looks at the best in writing and social media conversation around the biggest issues in beer. If you feel something should be included, have a tip, or just want to sound off, feel free to look him up on Twitter @DrinksTheThings or email DCBeer.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you all get the $95 16.9 ounce bottle of beer you always wanted this year. You know which one I’m talking about, the rareish one that people brag about buying by the case on trading forums. Santa came early, and he’s extra smug this year. He’s also broke. But look, at least it's going global. I imagine it could be better than this drink, which is also bourbon barrel aged. Quality comes at a price after all!
Boy, does it ever come at a price. (This has not been Photoshopped)
Here's an interview with two former pastors that have founded breweries in Ohio. In many communities, breweries are becoming public square-like.
And as with any public square, there are, um, things worth talking about (NSFW). As noted, that pull handle pictured in the link is not safe for work, let alone a public bar. We have made much of names of beers in the past. Sometimes the brewery knows a beer name is cheeky [Editor's Note: at the least], and they change the tap handles at bars and restaurants serving families to reflect that. Other beer labels deserve a response from the brewery that at least indicate that they’re aware some consumers might find it in poor taste.
Such was the case with Nanticoke Nectar-shilling DC-area beer darling RAR. This was their choice of label and name for a new gose they made with J. Wakefield in Florida. The reaction was, to put it mildly, mixed. You can see both sides of that coin here, including the disappointment in the “sorry you were offended”-esque reaction of the brewery in question.
For the sake of argument, I will take an analytical tone as I look at yet another case of obvious sexism in craft beer. I guess the best question is: "What makes either brewery think this type of branding will help them sell a beer?" Marketing is about standing out in a crowd, sure, which this beer might do. But these breweries now run the risk of turning off women, a large and growing sect of the market, who would rather taste a good beer without having alienating messaging in their faces. That is to say nothing of men (unfortunately not all men) who want misogyny and sexism out of craft beer and don't mind being vocal about it. For two growing breweries looking to make a name for themselves in the industry, branding like this does nothing to expand their appeal. It isn’t just that it's sexist. It isn’t intelligent marketing, either. It has obviously turned off some that have loved their products, that much was evident via Twitter. Some will continue to drink their products, but who will look at a beer with this type of label and name and say, “There’s a brewery that brews beer I want to start drinking?” I just don’t understand this, particularly from two breweries whose beer can mostly sell itself based on quality. Making labels and names like this does not make good business sense for a new, growing brewery, and the sooner breweries begin to realize this, the sooner we can start to put this conversation to bed. Sometimes it's best not to be too clever [Editor''s Note: This label is anything but too clever]. And when consumers respond, recalcitrance won’t help either. A lot of this could have been ameliorated with a statement like, "After listening to our fans' reactions and considering our own deep respect for women in and out of the craft beer industry, we realize this wasn't a label with which we should've moved forward. We'll try to do better in the future." I call on RAR to heed the negative responses and make this better. It’s not too late.
[Editor's Note and Update: Last night, RAR responded about the criticism around the Phat Bottom label. I do look forward to connecting with them in the new year about this, helping to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again the future, and keeping focus on improving craft beer for everyone in the DMV. – BD]
In related news, here’s an article with a question as the headline and for once the answer is yes. Also, here is another article delving into the diversity in beer issue. Note to all brewers: hiring people like this on your staff can help avoid these problems.
Let’s get to happier news in local beer. Phil Runco compiled a 2016 area beer review. You should read it. It talks about lagers and has a snazzy picture of our beer lord and savior, Greg Engert.
Here is another best of 2016 list featuring the best beers consumed by writers this year. There are some surprises, including a beer shotgunned at 2pm on a Friday afternoon.
The holidays are here, and it’s not too late to learn how to pair food and beer for your friends and family. It’s magic.
In #insatiableanimals news, hop production continues to grow nationwide.
The Wall Street Journal profiles the coolship brewing process at Allagash.
It was cold in the upper Midwest this week. HOW COLD WAS IT?!?!
I haven’t done a music break in a while, so let’s go with one that lists a beer bottle as an instrument.
Asia has a thriving beer scene with some destinations that should be high on avid travelers' lists in 2017.
The Coloradoan profiles New Belgium's Peter Bouckaert and how he created La Folie, one of the benchmark sours in American craft brewing.
This has been the last Void of 2016. I’m taking next week off to prepare myself for the inevitable doom approaching in the new year. And you should, too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. And remember: don’t worry, the algorithms will save us.