A brewery out of Lakeville, Ind., created quite a hubbub this week when the South Bend Tribune ran an article last Sunday highlighting its contentious beer brands. Flint Michigan Tap Water, Black Beer Matters, White Guilt, Mass Graves — yeah, those are a little dicey — but the owners of Lakeville Brew Crew (Jon Duncan and Rodney Chlebek) said they were looking to bring awareness to these issues, not poke fun. From the South Bend Tribune:
“The way I look at it — with the “Flint Michigan Tap Water” — if you’re going to get mad about that beer name, you should focus your anger more toward the people that are letting that happen to Flint,” he said. “If I can bring some attention to that, whether it be negative attention toward me, it still brings attention to that issue.”
After a week of Facebook posts and bad national press, the brewery is being forced to rethink its branding, and they haven’t even opened yet. Here’s the Facebook post:
Over the last few days, Lakeville Brew Crew has received a swarm of responses regarding our proposed beer names. The greatest majority of those responses have expressed disapproval and noted the short-sightedness of our marketing plan. During this time, we have had numerous conversations about the best way to move forward with the partnership. The first thing that we had to do was accept that we made mistakes. We neglected to put ourselves in the shoes of other people. As a result of ongoing conversations, the list of beer names has been wiped clean. New names will be developed, this time with a greater sense of social awareness and empathy. We will continue to use this new framework to consider the message that we’re putting in front of the public, our customers, our employees, and current and future relationships. We appreciate the honesty of all the responses that we received and we hope that the public will afford us the grace to move forward while keeping a greater sense of community in mind. We’re sorry for our poor judgment.
Last year, the Brewers Association (BA) Marketing and Advertising Code was updated so that offensive labels would come with repercussions from the trade group that represents the indie beer industry. Not that anyone has to listen to the BA, but a name or label that is sexist, demeaning or that contains derogatory or demeaning text or images could lead to a formal complaint with the BA, which could lead to ramifications like not being able to market or medal at the World Beer Cup or the Great American Beer Festival. The beer industry has long used controversial marketing techniques to persuade drinkers, but the tolerance for that type of selling is dwindling by the day — and rightfully so.