Flying Dog Brewery is one of the more well-established U.S. craft breweries, probably best known for its provocative, gonzo (sometimes juvenile) brand names and creative label art drawn by legendary artist Ralph Steadman. So, when I saw that the Portman Group, a third-party organization in the United Kingdom that evaluates alcohol-related marketing, was evaluating a complaint against Flying Dog, I was curious what the offending label looked like. Here it is:
Um, huh? What’s the problem?
In May 2018, the Portman Group, received a single complaint that Flying Dog’s Easy IPA Session India Pale Ale could be mistaken for a soda. After months of deliberation, the Portman Group issued a final ruling, claiming that the packaging artwork “…directly or indirectly encourages illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as binge drinking, drunkenness or drunk-driving.” It will be issuing a Retailer Alert Bulletin on Oct. 15, which will ask retailers not to place orders for the beer.
In the ruling, the Portman Group claims that the artwork of this low-ABV beer “could be seen as encouraging drunkenness.”
Notwithstanding the Portman Group’s ruling, Jim Caruso, Flying Dog CEO and cofounder of the nonprofit 1st Amendment Society, is not deterred. Flying Dog has decided to continue to distribute Easy IPA in the United Kingdom, going as far to call this “a stand against censorship in the United Kingdom.” While regulations concerning standards in advertising alcohol isn’t exactly book burning, we’ll agree that it’s pretty lame to issue a Retailer Alert Bulletin for this particular label.
“Without question, over-consumption, binge drinking and drunk-driving are serious health and public safety issues, and Flying Dog continues to advocate for moderation and responsible social drinking,” Caruso said. “At the same time, it is preposterous to suggest that the whimsical Ralph Steadman art on the Easy IPA label causes any of those problems. The Portman Group seems to have lost its mind in this case. We believe that British adults can think for themselves, and Flying Dog, an independent U.S. craft brewer, will not honor the Portman Group’s request to discontinue shipping Easy IPA Session IPA to the UK”.
Flying Dog’s importer and UK wholesaler, James Clay, will also not comply with the ruling of the Portman Group, which was founded by Heineken, Guinness, Bacardi, Molson, Carlsberg and InBev (among others). James Clay will continue to take orders for Easy IPA and allow UK retailers to decide for themselves what beers to carry to please their customers.