Controversial Beer Pulled From Shelves at Chicago Binny's Beverage Depot

If you’re looking for a Happy Ending – meaning SweetWater Brewing Co.’s popular craft beer that was rolled out in Chicago this week – you won’t be able to find it at Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincoln Park, as the store has deemed it too controversial for their shelves.

Craft beer makers aim to create products with a look and taste that stands out from their mainstream competitors, but to Binny’s Lincoln Park beer manager Adam Vavrick they sometimes go too far.

"This label is about a female Asian sex worker manually masturbating a man to orgasm and cleaning up the ejaculate with tissues," Vavrick told The Chicago Tribune’s resident spirits columnist Josh Noel. "Why is that appropriate on a beer label?"

Vavrick does not stand alone in his stance against beer makers who roll out sexist product labels. He told the publication he only pulled it from shelves after others brought it to his attention and were “visibly upset” by the image. His co-workers agreed.

The founder of metro Minneapolis craft beer retailer The Four Firkins, Jason Alvery, wrote about the same issue in a recent blog post where he says he’s sadly had to pull “blatantly misogynistic” beers more than once.

Alvery pointed out that many craft breweries “seem to forget that their customer base is not exclusively 23-year-old-guys,” and even if it was, he knows, “plenty of 23-year-old guys who are mature enough to realize these labels are terrible.”

One product, he referred to as the most offensive one he’s seen in his career. The beer was called “Mt. U Cream Ale,” and you can imagine the art direction the label designers went in with that not-so-subtle innuendo.

As for SweetWater Brewing Co.’s Happy Ending, the founder Freddy Bensch told the Trib despite the controversy, it was just supposed to be a joke and that no harm was intended.

Which brings up another point from Alvery’s blog post. He spoke to Ben McCoy, the owner of branding and web specialist company Bicycle Theory, who didn’t have to hear Bensch’s side of the story to expect what he might say.

“Some may say, 'Relax, it’s just a joke.'” McCoy said. “And that’s great. If your brand is a joke.”

McCoy went on to comment that although spurring controversy with suggestive sexual innuendos may help sales in the short-term, male-dominated industries often forget that it is not going to broaden a brand’s reach for the long-run.

“It may spur a few individuals to pick one up for fun, but it also objectifies half the population,” he told Alvery. “And over the long-term, this approach will almost certainly create more problems than it’s worth.”

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