We don’t tend to encounter, like, wildly offensive or morally challenging wine labels. Usually, they resemble something between a minimalist modern art painting and a European family history. (Usually.)
But in craft beer, it’s not unlikely you’ll walk out of the store with a six-pack of “Barely Masked Sexual Act Stout” or “Overt Female Stereotype IPA.” And that’s because, for some unspoken reason in the beverage world, craft beer labels are allowed to get creepy. Really creepy. Creepy like “my coworker is breathing too heavily” creepy.
Maybe creepy isn’t the right word for it. Overly familiar? Like when a marketing team decides “we’re all in on the joke, so let’s make it and slap it on a label?” Of course, part of the reason we love craft beer is its familiarity. Craft beer can be meticulously well made and still nudge you on the shoulder in the middle of a dinner party to whisper a stupid joke. Only problem is the familiarity’s gone a bit too far, with beer companies invoking names and labels that score an 11 on the nasty factor—more often than not veering, as you’ll see below, heavily toward sexist.
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In the spirit of “is anybody else noticing this?,” we’ve put together a list of some of the worst offenders in the past few years. To be fair, plenty of these labels have been rejected or retired (though you’ll notice more than a few that haven’t). But the fact that they were ever plausible or marketable ideas is, well, gross.
Southern Star “Bombshell Blonde”
This label rides (so to speak) into “credibility” with the ‘50s era kitschiness. But yeah, it’s a busty woman riding a rocket.
Sweetwater Brewing Co. “Happy Ending” Imperial Stout
Oddly enough it took a Chicago Binny’s Beverage Depot owner refusing to stock this beer—which calls itself “a huge dry hopped stiffy”—to draw national attention to how hugely offensive the label is. Read closely to get super creeped out.
Hoyne Brewing Co. “Big Cock Bock”
Believe it or not, Canadians came up with this one. (Sweet, sweet Canadians, what have you done?) To be fair, Canadians also 86-ed the name, and later labels simply had the words “Big Bock” and a large chicken. Clever. Well played, Canada.
DuClaw Brewing Co. “Sweet Baby Jesus”
Sure, it sounds like an innocent exclamation—given that this is a chocolate peanut butter porter, we can believe someone actually said this. But referring to the deity of a major religion on a beer label isn’t in the best of taste.
Flying Dog “Raging Bitch”
A bunch of offensive beer names and labels have come and gone. But Flying Dog persists, maybe because the labels have artistic credibility and call forth the gonzo punk of Hunter S. Thompson. And yes, while we know “bitch” can refer to dog, nobody calls an angry dog a “raging bitch.” (No surprise the merch for this one is a men’s crew T-shirt.)
Flying Dog “Pearl Necklace” Chesapeake Stout
Yeah, Flying Dog somehow gets away with this. Yet more artwork, yet more dog misdirection, but nobody’s at a loss for the, ahem, the less formal cultural connotation of “pearl necklace.”
Pig Minds Brewing Co. “PD” California Style Blueberry Ale
“Police Department? Purple Dinosaur? Positive Discipline?” That’s what’s on the side of a label that’s dominated by a woman with her panties around her ankles.
Clown Shoes “Tramp Stamp” Belgian India Pale Ale
Yeah, another repeat offender. “Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is not so subtle at seduction.” So a.) we’re invoking the sexist phrase tramp stamp, and b.) we’re following that up by referring to women as “tramps” in our product description. Maybe Clown Shoes thought they had to out-gross Flying Dog?
Clown Shoes “Brown Angel”
Not sure where to start here. We’ll just point out that repeat offender Clown Shoes helpfully notes this isn’t an old school brown ale but a “sexy American update.”
Village Idiot Brewing Co. “Thong Remover” Belgian Tripel
Not sure why so many of the gross labels are Belgian-style American craft beers. This is “small batch,” Jersey-made crassness, also invoking ladies undergarments. Leave it to breweries called “Pig Minds” and “Village Idiot.”
“F*cking Hell” German Pilsner
There is a village of “F*cking,” in Austria. And “Helles” is actually a beer style, referring to a light Austrian or southern German lager. But this is a pilsner. Made in Germany. Spelled “Hell.” ‘Nuf said.