Craft Beer Censorship

Craft Beer Censorship: The Brewers Association Takes A Stand For Inclusion

The Brewers Association recently updated their Advertising and Marketing Code. This update was all about increasing diversity and discouraging offensive names/labels. There are a lot of mixed emotions about this; some are applauding their move while others feel like people are too easily offended. Craft beer censorship is an important topic and this move by the Brewers Association has added additional attention to it.

Quick Recap Of The News Story

Brewers AssociationThe Brewers Association helps support small, independent breweries. They provide lots of resources and also conduct multiple events throughout the year which include giving awards for the best beers and breweries.

On April 18, 2017 , this organization announced a change to their Advertising and Marketing Code. These changes were all about taking a stand for inclusion. Basically, they did three things:

  • Created a Diversity Committee that will focus on supporting a more diverse industry
  • Provided guidelines that prevents their association from being tied to any marketing that is deemed offensive or sexually explicit
  • Prevents breweries that use offensive or sexually explicit names from being announced as winners of their events

This last point is very important to understand. All breweries can participate and win awards but if the name of the beer is deemed inappropriate then they will not use the name in announcements or allow the brewery to use their name or logo in marketing.

The association believes that increasing diversity and making the industry friendly for everyone is a priority. But should an association use their position and power in this way?

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Freedom Of Speech

Americans love the topic of freedom of speech. It is one of the rights that our country was founded upon. We get to say what we want but also have to allow others to voice their opinion as well – it’s a two way street.

Breweries enjoy this freedom of speech in their marketing practices. They are allowed to call their beers just about anything. It is their right to be outlandish and offensive if they want to.

However, in exchange, the Brewers Association has an equal right to not do the opposite.  They are allowed to say what they want and also not be forced to say things that go against their views and beliefs. Furthermore, they can permit or deny certain content from their events, publications and marketing.

Did they go too far or not far enough?

I’ve heard many express their opinion on this matter. Some are applauding this move while others think they’ve over stepped their role in the industry. Organizations like the Brewers Association strive to help their given industry but as they grow, it is crucial that their influence isn’t abused.

For me, I agree with their approach. Something needs to be done to ensure that the craft beer industry is friendly and inclusive. The Brewers Association knows that inclusion and diversity are good for the future of craft beer.

Great American Beer FestivalThey aren’t kicking anyone out of the association or requiring that you pick tame names to compete in their events. They are simply stating that they will not be announcing or printing beer names that their committee finds out of line because it goes against their values as an organization.

Vote With Your Dollar

Through policies by the Brewers Association or even through legislation, we can control things like craft beer names and label designs. But I don’t think that is the most effective way to get things done. Instead, consumers need to use their buying power to tell companies what they want and do not want. If the craft beer industry wants racy or controversial marketing, then their purchases will express this.

As more women enter the craft beer world, I have a feeling that many breweries will opt for beer names that are not demeaning women.

As more minorities discover craft beer, I believe that breweries will opt for marketing tactics that make everyone feel included and avoid racist content.

So if you want to see a more inclusive and friendly industry, then support the beer and breweries that market themselves in that way. Instead of craft beer censorship, we can rely on capitalism to take care of this issue.

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Final Thoughts On Craft Beer Censorship

For me, this is a reminder that we must all be aware of the products we buy and the companies we support. I do not want to support a company that thinks it is funny or appropriate to be racist, sexist or offensive. And I don’t support the idea that this is an effective marketing tactic. Yes, I love a clever beer name or artistic label but the quality of the beer should be the primary selling point. I don’t want to see craft beer censorship because it can hurt everyone but there does need to be accountability to do what is right and helps include more people instead of making them feel excluded.

Have I purchased beers that stood for things that I don’t? Definitely, I am not innocent in this topic. But hopefully the Brewers Association has set a good example and I will be more aware of what my buying decisions say about me. And I hope that breweries consider what their marketing says about them.

The craft beer community prides itself on being friendly and inclusive. I love that about this community.  I don’t think graphic labels and offensive names belong in our community. However, in the end it is up to the community to make that decision and back it up with their buying habits.

What do you think? Have some breweries gone too far for you? Do we need more  craft beer censorship?


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