The Most Controversial Beers Names of All Time
What’s In A Name? Well A Local Beer has learnt that when it comes to beer, the answer is quite a lot. Naming a beer therefore is not as easy as you might think. Let’s pretend that you have created a beer and now need to come up with a name for it. Your name will need to be either descriptive, meaningful, attention-grabbing or all three. You will have to adhere to local government rules and regulations, as well as making sure you’re not stepping on the toes of other brewers. Lastly, you want to ensure you are not alienating or offending your consumers. It's all easier said than done. At A Local Beer, we landed on XPA, Pacific Paradise, and Runaway IPA for the names of our three core beers; names that certainly aren't controversial. That can’t be said for following beers thought that all have received their fair share of backlash, media attention and controversy.
Gandhi-Bot IPA - New England Brewing Company
On a scale of Bob Hawke to Mohammed, how appropriate is the figure you’ve chosen to name your beer after? Connecticut Brewery New England Brewing Company decided to go with someone down the later end of the spectrum back in 2015 with their Gandhi-Bot Double IPA. Mahatma Gandhi was portrayed on the can as a robotic humanoid blessing the faithful. The Indian community took offence at this depiction of their revered political and spiritual leader being used to sell alcohol. Perhaps they were also offended by 'Gandhi-Bot' looking like it was written in a text and colour palette straight from Microsoft '98 Word-Art template. (I know I was) The beer has since been renamed to G-Bot following the criticism but it’s surprising that no-one from New England Brewing considered the name may have been inappropriate from the outset. Hopefully Hitler, Jesus or Mother Teresa aren’t on the drawing board for their next release.
Hanging Frank IPA - Short’s Brewing
Frank Fotchman was the ex-owner of the City Park Grill located in northern Michigan about a hundred-odd years ago. The well-known tale (to those in that small corner of North Michigan at least) is that Frank hung himself and his ghost aka ‘Hanging Frank’ has been haunting the tavern ever since. Those at Short’s somehow thought that naming a beer after the man was a good choice that might have been fine had they not decided to put his limp, hanging body on the label. This artistic decision wasn’t helped when many thought colour of the illustration indicated that Frank was dark-skinned, bringing up a whole new set of unwanted associations. Short’s Brewing changed the skin colour but was somehow still taken aback when people were like ‘yeah guys the label is still pretty inaprops’. Their solution was to give the beer new bland label and rename the beer ContriversiALE (see what they did there?)
Coors - Turn it Loose
It wasn’t the name of Coors’ lager that was the issue but rather their slogan that experienced a ‘lost in translation’ effect a few years back. Coors' slogan ‘Turn it Loose’ didn’t quite get the cut-through in Spain which only became apparent to Coors after it was discovered that the Spanish translation of the phrase also has a colloquial term meaning diarrhoea. The slogan may have been more apt than they had planned as we all know the effect of too many beers on the body the following day…
Death From Above Indochine Pale Ale - Garage Project
It’s a fact. Garage Project makes many killer beers. The problem was one of those beers was that it was ‘killer’ in more ways than one. The since discontinued Death From Above was a brew that melded the Asian flavours of mango, Vietnamese mint, and chilli. The beer was very popular and the striking artwork, a reference to the film Apocalypse Now, featured helicopters in an exotic location against an orange sky. The issue came from many army veterans believing the beer was disrespectfully glorifying war and contained racist undertones by appearing to reference US army choppers showering a Vietnamese landscape in Agent Orange. Garage Project apologised and responded with humility saying “brewing and beer should above all be fun, but neither exist in a vacuum separated from our broader community. We live in a time when there are more than enough examples of division and hate. It’s not something we need in beer.” The beer was tweaked and then re-released as Demus Favorem Amori which is a Latin phrase translating to English as ‘We chose to stand for love’.
Vergina Beer - Macedonian Thrace Brewery
You have to feel for the Macedonian Thrace Brewery based in the small Greek town of Vergina. Their pilsner was launched in 1998 and unfortunately, no-one working for the brewery at the time spoke enough English to flag that their name shared an unfortunate likeness to you know what. But despite that, (or maybe because of it), the beer and brewery have been rather successful in Greece and beyond. You can even pick up some Vergina pilsner in very select Australian bottle shops.
Pussy Juice- Black Hops Brewing
Much loved Australian Brewery Black Hops didn’t have the same excuse as Macedonian Thrace back in 2018 when got themselves in hot water for their ‘Pussy Juice’ NEIPA. The beer was released and then quickly pulled when the backlash came in thick and fast. The beer was immediately criticised for its sexist and misogynistic name and it’s accompanying description which directed followers to ‘press their face towards the opening (and) drink the goodness in.’ Black Hops quickly apologised as they realised their error with the possible silver lining being that the episode promoted discussion around female representation and portrayal in the industry and (hopefully) helped Black Hops and others rethink their attitudes and actions.
PD Blueberry Ale - Pig Minds Brewing
Another candidate in the far too large category of ‘Degrading Women to sell beer’ is PD from Pig’s Minds Brewing. But how could PD be offensive? I mean what does it even stand for? Police Department? Professional Development? Well, the appropriately named Pig Minds Brewing made it pretty clear on the label that the PD was referring to ‘Panty Dropper’ with the label showing a pair of woman’s legs, in front of a few fermentation tanks with her knickers down by her ankles. The imagery and name understandably got the negative reaction that perhaps Pig Minds had hoped for. Reporter Amy Cavanaugh in a post in Time Out Chicago summed it up nicely when she wrote: “I don’t care if these are the greatest beers ever—giving the breweries money for them is an acknowledgement that this immature, sexist mindset is okay.”
Some other (Dis)Honourable Mentions....
Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner - Dogfish Head Brewery
For a beer that wants to invite comparison to it tasting like piss apparently.
Moose Knuckle Winter Stout - The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company
For those unaware a moose knuckle is the male version of a camel toe (you’re welcome)
Soft Dookie - Evil Twin Brewing
Should have teamed up with Coors’ Turn it loose campaign'
Happy Ending Imperial Stout - SweetWater Brewing
This beer has had two different labels: one features a winking geisha, the other a box of tissues and the face of a man appearing to orgasm. SweetWater manages to be both crass, sexist and racist at the same time - a truly admirable trifecta. Well done SweetWater.