News Flying Dog Terminates Brewers Association Membership Over Censorship Concerns

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by RebeccaK, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. RebeccaK

    RebeccaK Associate Editor (542) Jun 28, 2012 Maryland
    Staff Subscriber

    Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery, known for its staunch support of freedom of expression, confirmed it terminated its 26-year relationship with the Brewers Association on June 1. The association's new Marketing and Advertising Code, which Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso calls "a blatant attempt to bully and intimidate craft brewers into self-censorship," prompted the decision.

    A statement from Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso:

    Flying Dog, the 32nd largest craft brewery in the country, terminated its membership in the Brewer’s Association effective June 1, 2017. Freedom of expression and free enterprise are not only what created our vibrant and robust craft beer industry, they are also core principles for Flying Dog. It seems the BA does not share those values, and wants to eliminate from the market any beer with labels they find disagreeable.

    The BA’s new Marketing and Advertising Code is nothing more than a blatant attempt to bully and intimidate craft brewers into self-censorship and to only create labels that are acceptable to the management and directors of the BA. By contrast, Flying Dog believes that consumers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what choices are right for them: What books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to, or beers to consume (and whether or not they like the labeling).

    BA president Bob Pease’s assurance to Flying Dog that the BA has “no issue with any Flying Dog brand” entirely missed the point. In a six-page letter to Pease, Flying Dog made its position clear: On principle, Flying Dog will never contribute to, support, or in any way sanction any organization that is so averse to freedom of expression that it actively engages in any form of censorship. And with that letter, Flying Dog ended its 26-year relationship with the BA.
    #1 RebeccaK, Jul 14, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  2. emannths

    emannths Initiate (188) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Terminating the membership seems perfectly reasonable.

    But this seems a bit of a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Here's the threat the BA is hanging over brewers' heads if they deem a label offensive:
    If Caruso is confident that consumers can be their own arbiters of the appropriateness of a beer label, why doesn't he trust them to ignore some finding published on the BA's website? Heck, I'd think they'd wear it as a badge of honor given their history.
    lester619 likes this.
  3. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (8,436) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I wonder why the Brewer's Association cares (except for Against The Grain's "The Brown Note" :grimacing::rolling_eyes:). It seems like they just want to make themselves more pertinent.

    And although Flying Dog may be taking them/it a little too seriously, I still agree with their principle of no censorship - the government already handles that, why should the Brewer's Association have anything to do with it?

    There's too much censorship going on in our world right now, and too much political correctness, and especially here at home. Flying Dog is right, cut it off at the root before it grows. The famous Mannekin Pis label was disallowed by the government - was that so horrible that it needed to be replaced? What's next? The answer is almost anything because the further you go down that road, the more things you disallow, the more examples of things that were disallowed there will be - and soon, nothing is OK anymore. If you want your freedom, take it in small pieces before those pieces are taken away. Once those pieces are gone it's easier to take bigger ones away.
    #3 NeroFiddled, Jul 14, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  4. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,426) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    With no knowledge of other circumstances and taking the letter just on the face of it I agree with the sentiment. Creating hegemony among independent brewers may benefit the Brewers Association but may also reduce independence of the members.

    Asserting my own independence I don't make purchase decisions based on whether or not the brand carries a BA sticker.
  5. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (766) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    An excerpt from the BA marketing code:

    Beer advertising and marketing materials should not:
    a. portray, encourage, or condone driving and drinking;
    b. depict situations where beer is being consumed excessively, involuntarily, as part of a drinking game;
    c. portray persons lacking control over their behavior as a result of consuming beer;
    d. portray or imply illegal activity as a part of drinking beer;
    e. make representations about unsubstantiated health benefits;
    f. claim or represent that individuals cannot obtain social, professional, educational, athletic
    or financial success or status without beer consumption;
    g. claim or represent that individuals cannot solve social, personal, or physical problems without beer consumption;
    h. promote underage drinking;
    i. contain sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public;
    j. contain derogatory or demeaning text or images.

    Makes me wonder which of those they want to do?

    While the principle sounds noble, in reality it is more a childish fit being thrown than a real principled stand. Not to mention the fact that the BA does not have the authority to censor anyone.
  6. emannths

    emannths Initiate (188) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    They are taking particular issue with the rule that
  7. rgordon

    rgordon Defender (692) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    It seems that we live in grouchy times. I don't like real censorship- or the appearance of it- but this seems to be a minor tempest in a minor teapot.
  8. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (194) Nov 6, 2007 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Yeah, I was going to say it is the last two.

    i. contain sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public;
    j. contain derogatory or demeaning text or images.

    BA may not like their beer names "Raging Bitch", "Doggie Style", and "Pearl Necklace".
  9. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (766) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Flying Dog isn't on my radar, although now that you mention those, I have seen one or more on the shelves.

    But I do agree with this: "Flying Dog believes that consumers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what choices are right for them"

    And I apply that principle myself and avoid any beer where I imagine the brewers are giggling like 7th graders or high-fiving each other like frat boys at a sorority party, impressing each other with their cleverness while deciding on a name for a beer.
    SuperWhip, LeRose, zstef99 and 7 others like this.
  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,244) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Lots in common with a proposed Code printed in the American Brewer magazine, in 1940, the first 10 "Don't's" being:

    The Brewing Industry Foundation (later merged into the USBA) created a similar code a few years later. Someday I'm going to scan it all and create a website for it, but the similar "Don't" rule that Flying Dog objects to:

  11. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,930) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “Flying Dog believes that consumers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what choices are right for them”

    I agree with that 100%.

    Cheers to Jim Caruso for making the decision he made.

    Let the beer market decide what is ‘offensive’.

  12. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Aspirant (219) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Note to Flying Dog: you can still have cool-ass Ralph Steadman label art without the stupid-ass vulgar, dog-related beer names.

    Just a thought.

    Not for censorship at all, but I am for the selling of beer without the "look at me" shock value seeking douchebaggery that some Flying Dog beer names represent.
  13. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (766) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Yikes! That list would shut down the whole of craft brewing!

    (#5 had a different meaning in 1940 than it would today! :wink:)
    TheDoctor likes this.
  14. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (339) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    I think there's an additional threat: a non-complying brewery can't use the BA's IP (including gold/silver/bronze GABF medals) on its labels or packaging or in its advertising and promotional materials. (If I understood correctly, which I may not have.)

    EDIT TO ADD: or, I guess, the new independent brewery logo thingie we discussed last week
  15. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,244) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Back when:
    beertunes and cavedave like this.
  16. Skunkdrool

    Skunkdrool Devotee (444) Jul 31, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Seems to me that the Brewers Association is trying to take charge of the "independent" landscape, and dictate what happens outside of the big beer world. I have a feeling that more independent breweries will turn their backs on the BA.
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,244) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Non-BA member breweries (or ex-members?) can still use the logo:
    :astonished: But will they allow it for beers that violate their Code?
    beertunes and DonicBoom like this.
  18. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Interesting that the basic code was adopted in 2008, so it must be only the very recent changes that Flying Dog considers to be an attempt at censorship and the first step on the slippery path downwards.
  19. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (437) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Agreed and it's why I can't remember the last time I bought any Flying Dog beer. So, Flying Dog is free to have to their public tantrum, and I will quietly continue avoiding their beer.
  20. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Pretty much the same here. I have tried a few that sounded like they had interesting flavor combinations or that I was curious about (e.g., their Old Bay Summer Ale), but no repeats even on the one's I've enjoyed and might have considered buying again.
    HoppingMadMonk and FBarber like this.
  21. ingchr1

    ingchr1 Aspirant (276) Jun 4, 2008 New York
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Maybe it's written in the license agreement?
  22. rockisgeorge

    rockisgeorge Initiate (118) Sep 1, 2013 Massachusetts

    3. Beer advertising and marketing materials should not disparage competing beers. Comparisons or claims distinguishing competing beers should be factual

    I know everyone is focusing on the labeling stuff, but this paragraph stood out to me...
    drtth, beertunes and HeilanCoo like this.
  23. jeebeel

    jeebeel Initiate (153) Jun 17, 2003 Texas

    Who cares, always been a lame brewery anyway. Sounds like they may be courting the High End.
    Lone_Freighter likes this.
  24. Miles_in_beer_city

    Miles_in_beer_city Disciple (308) Jun 18, 2014 North Carolina

    I've had a chuckle reading the label of several of their beers. Guess I'm one of those intelligent enough to decide for myself what is right for me.
  25. HeilanCoo

    HeilanCoo Initiate (29) Sep 11, 2014 North Carolina

    Save your breath, I don't think they are listening.
    Some of their first nomenclature issues started in the mid-90s with the Road Dog label (a minor understanding). Mid-00s brought a fight about In Heat, and they have basically been dealing with the Raging Bitch fallout off an on since their 20th anniversary in 2009.
    Flying Dog maintains a low center of gravity on these issues, always have. And they feel strongly (as does Steadman) that the 'cool-ass label art' and the 'stupid-ass vulgar beer names' are part and parcel (to wit: no, you can't still have one without the other).
    This 'douchebaggery' has been their workhorse for quite some time, and the majority of the beer world has come to terms with it. I don't think your note will catch their eye.
  26. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,238) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Flying Dog is one of my favorite brewers. And now I see we share a trait in that the number one thing I hate is being told what to do or how to be. I need to do things my own way or fuck everything else. Cheers to them. I'll still support them.
  27. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,238) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I feel like douchebaggery isn't so much the word. It's more like having fun. Sexual Chocolate is raved about and I see more of a "look at me" aspect in that label than a scribble of a dog.
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,244) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    That's the claim in the Brewbound article:

    tillmac62 likes this.
  29. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Devotee (481) Dec 12, 2014 California

    Bravo Flying Dog. I'll make a point to buy their beers more often.
  30. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Good to see the point of objection so plainly clarified.

    In other words what FD really objects to is the BA exercising its right to control the use of its own intellectual property, while asserting that the BA exercising that right is a threat to FD's right to label their beer as they see fit.

    In this case, however, I think a version of something often attributed to Will Rogers applies to tha actions of the BA, "Your right to punch me in the nose ends at the tip of my nose."

    Probably good for FD to have resigned membership since they value their own rights above honoring the rights of others.
  31. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,175) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    Wow this was great, Tt made me remember I haven't had a Raging Bitch in a while, such a great beer. Now def gonna pick some up, and raise a glass to Caruso, and also to the thin skinned, mommy state folks who want to be kept safe from having to view any image their delicate sensibilities can't handle seeing for a micro second on a shelf in a store.
  32. Dravin

    Dravin Disciple (383) Apr 27, 2014 Indiana

    It's a difference in marketing directions (namely the BA wants it's branding to go in a certain direction and Flying Dog isn't a fan of that), so separation makes perfect sense. The whole fighting against the man rhetoric is a little eye-rolling though, you can have a difference of opinion in direction without the other guy having to be the bogey-man.
  33. Mebuzzard

    Mebuzzard Poo-Bah (3,448) May 19, 2005 Colorado

    Exactly. Flying Dog could have just said something like, "Hey, we don't agree and feel like this is censorship. Maybe something else could work out later, but for now we are removing support".
    Dravin likes this.
  34. donspublic

    donspublic Meyvn (1,174) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Beer Trader

    If this helps them get into Texas sooner I am all for it. Now that my daughter moved back from OK, I have lost my pipeline for Raging Bitch.
  35. lordofthemark

    lordofthemark Aspirant (281) Jan 28, 2015 Virginia

    This has nothing to do with the so called Nanny State. BA is a private organization that has the right to withhold it's own intellectual property as it sees fit.

    Why do libertarians so often reserve liberty for their right to insult, and forget about the private property rights off those who do not share their values?

    With so much good craft beer around, exercising my own right to avoid further purchases from Flying Dog shouldn't e difficult.
  36. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,930) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    While the Brewers Association is a commercial organization it exists because it is financially supported by its membership; breweries like ABI, MillerCoors, independent breweries, …

    It could be argued that what occurred with Flying Dog terminating their membership in this organization represents proper order since the organization went in a direction that is contrary to its views.

    Maybe in the future we will see more members leaving the Brewers Association for this or other reasons.

    cjgiant, Skunkdrool, TrojanRB and 2 others like this.
  37. Wolfhead

    Wolfhead Initiate (163) Sep 1, 2009 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Personally I support Flying Dog's decision. Do we really need more censorship than we already have in this country?
    There's already too many factions that'll tell you that they can make your decisions better than you can.
    What does the Brewers Association do for us because ultimately we all pay for it
  38. SLeffler27

    SLeffler27 Poo-Bah (1,746) Feb 24, 2008 New York
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    As some others have noted, there is a world of difference between a trade organization's rules of engagement, and government censorship.

    As individuals we have responsibilities, rights, and freedoms. A group, such as the BA, also has responsibilities, rights, and freedoms. We all make the society we live in. If one disagrees with another, one has options as Flying Dog is demonstrated. Government censorship eliminates options.

    Given the tiny amount of information I have on this issue: This particular exchange is, IMO, exactly how we should be engaging one another. It allows the individuals to determine their own minds, while defending their individual values. Kudos to Flying Dog, AND to the Brewers Association.
    cjgiant, LeRose, Reemer686 and 4 others like this.
  39. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,930) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well, one thing that Brewers Association does for you is they have an employee called the Quality Ambassador:

    Have you noticed the quality improvement of less old beers at your local retailers?

    tillmac62 and mikeinportc like this.
  40. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,102) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Beer Trader

    The only thing that I find offensive about their labels is how awful they are. Well, maybe most of their beer too, but as many have stated "there is a world of difference between a trade organization's rules of engagement, and government censorship."
    The organization has the right to say your labels bother us. The brewery has the right to say we no longer wish to be memers. Pretty cut and dry.
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