In Alabama, They Like Their Bastards Fat and Arrogant, but Not Dirty

Last week the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board banned the sale of Founders Brewing Company's Dirty Bastard Scotch ale—for the children. A.P. explains:

Beer and wine are commonly sold in grocery and convenience stores and because anyone can see the labels, the agency rejected the brand for the sake of parents who might not want their kids to see rough language on the shelves, said Bob Martin, an attorney with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

"That's the whole reason for the rule, to keep dirty pictures and dirty words away from children," he said. "Personally, I believe the staff made the right call."

But as A.P. points out, Fat Bastard wines and Flying Dog Brewery's Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA remain available in Alabama. (So does Arrogant Bastard Ale, according to the manufacturer's website.) "Those decisions were made years ago," A.P. reports. Back when bastard and bitch were less offensive to the average Alabama parent? "I have no idea how or why or exactly when that went through," Martin says.

The First Amendment Center suggests that Alabama's alcohol regulators have a look at Bad Frog Brewery v. New York State Liquor Authority, a 1998 decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned an attempt to ban a beer brand represented by the aforesaid amphibian because the creature was depicted "with the second of its four unwebbed 'fingers' extended in a manner evocative of a well known human gesture of insult." The appeals court rejected New York's child protection rationale. "In view of the wide currency of vulgar displays throughout contemporary society, including comic books targeted directly at children," it said, "barring such displays from labels for alcoholic beverages cannot realistically be expected to reduce children's exposure to such displays to any significant degree." The 2nd Circuit acknowledged that the Supreme Court has deemed "commercial speech" such as a beer label less deserving of First Amendment protection than, say, a jacket bearing the slogan "Fuck the Draft." Still, to win approval for its censorship under the Court's precedents, "a state must demonstrate that its commercial speech limitation is part of a substantial effort to advance a valid state interest, not merely the removal of a few grains of offensive sand from a beach of vulgarity."

In addition to state liquor authorities, producers of alcoholic beverages must be careful not to offend federal regulators, whose sensibilities explain why a copper ale produced by Lagunitas Brewing Company that was initially dubbed The Kronik is instead marketed as The Censored. And in case you think American bureaucrats are uniquely sensitive to such things, recall that Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head vodka has been banned as excessively morbid in his home province of Ontario. On the bright side, last year Michigan lifted its ban on Raging Bitch in response to a First Amendment challenge (as Baylen Linneken noted here), and Texans should soon be able to buy Jester King Brewery's Thrash Metal Farmhouse Strong Ale, labeled as such with no blackouts, thanks to a recent ruling.

For more on banned beverages, see my 2011 Reason article "Demonized Drinks" and my 1994 feature story "BATF Out of Hell."

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  • Lord Humungus||

    Dirty Bastard is from my neck of the woods. Founders also has a fairly nice (and large) brew pub.

  • ||

    Oh man, their shit looks good. Unfortunately we don't seem to have their products out here.

  • JW||

    Seriously? The first time I had one was in a pub in San Fran.

  • ||

    Believe me, if I saw any of their shit in a store here I'd be all over it, and I haven't seen it, even in the specialty beer stores.

  • JW||

    They must not want to teach Seattle hippies any new bad words.

  • ||

    Pretty sure they get their PBR at Fred Meyer, which is why I shop at Metropolitan.

  • Killazontherun||

    Speaking of pubs in San Fran. This is THE shit:

    and, by shit, I mean the awesomest.

  • Killazontherun||

    Okay. I'm going to see if one of my local beer walls stocks this one:

  • ||

    No Arrogant Bastard? For shame..

  • ||

    I wonder how much it costs the state of Alabama to keep their ABC goons running and salaried.

  • SIV||

    Alabama has a liquor distribution monopoly so the goons turn a profit.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    The state always turns profitable monopolies in to a net loss for the state. Remember, all of those distribution workers are probably on double pensions.

  • wareagle||

    lots of states run ABC systems. For the most part, they are profitable enterprises. Not even the state can fuck up liquor stores.

  • Rich||

    But just try to market something like "Fluffy Puppy Ale" and see 'em get all Four Loko on you.


  • rho||

    The disconnect between Alabama regulatory boards and Alabamians (Alabamites?) is hilarious.

    This is a direct effect from the fundamental cause that legislatures have relegated their duties to unelected government officials.

  • JW||

    The 2nd Circuit acknowledged that the Supreme Court has deemed "commercial speech" such as a beer label less deserving of First Amendment protection than, say, a jacket bearing the slogan "Fuck the Draft."

    Fuck the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Sounds like a good name for a beer.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Bob Martin is a pussy bastard.

  • Sevo||

    Yessir! Gotta keep those fucking bad words away from the kids!
    Were these folks ever kids?

  • rho||

    All the hysteria aside, you can go into a Publix in Birmingham and buy wine and sushi. Last time I was in NYC, you couldn't do that.

    So, overall, thumbs-up for Alabama.

  • Brian from Texas||

    Too bad Ol' Dirty Bastard (the rapper) is no longer with us. I'd like to see him do a show in Alabama in the wake of this news.

  • Christina||

    Probably they'd just censor his name on marquees and tickets, etc. On Pandora he's Ol' Dirty Bast**d.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I guess I have the opportunity to poast this comment twice in a few days. The Disneyfication of America. The lazy parents answer to everything. I fucking hate people.

  • ||

    I hate how so many feel entitled to good service upon demand, rather than feeling fortunate and grateful for good service.

    This retarded mentality just makes it easier for governments to regulate businesses. Fucking people need to learn who owns the stuff they value so much, and how pathetic their lives would be without it.

    I need to go read Atlas Shrugged again.

  • ||

    Here is some interesting news from alabamy.

  • Christina||

    This is hardly surprising. This is, after all one of two states (Mississippi being the other) that still doesn't allow homebrewing. The place is for backwards hillbillies. The best thing about it is the song "Sweet Home Alabama."

    Get a load of how retarded the Alabama legislators are in their floor speeches from the last time a homebrew legalization bill was introduced.

  • Formerly Almanian||

    'bama lost what little cachet it had after Bear Bryant died.

  • wareagle||

    props to Christina for making sure this thread was not absent the obligatory cheap shot at a southern state. And just because home-brew is not "allowed" does not mean it does not happen. Please. Maybe if folks were smarter, they could move to a train wreck like CA, NY, or MI.

  • Killazontherun||

    Yeah, Christina, if you have ever driven through Mississippi you know exactly when you step into Alabama without having to read a sign. It looks like the promised land in comparison.

  • SIV||

    That's only because the worst part of Mississippi (the pine tree part) is ON the Alabama border.Most of Mississippi is a wonderful place.

  • Virginian||

    Drive By Truckers are from Alabama. They're pretty awesome.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    It drink pretty good dontit?

  • Formerly Almanian||

    Wait, a dork niche beer post and only 26 comments? You sure that isn't 260? And where are the threads about everyone's homoebrew and the cool names they'd give them IF they could sell them to anyone?

    Reason, I am disappoint.

  • ||


  • Killazontherun||

    What, only one dork meta comment expressing disapproval of a commonly cherished subject? Things sure were better when WI/Donderoo/Sanchez/Postrel/Leary/Friedlander were around.

  • Killazontherun||

    BTW, I would have called my microbrew, Peaches and Herb, Mister Dream Raper.

  • SIV||


    They like it because it's brewed with semen.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Firestone Walker had a beer named "Velvet Merkin", which for some strange reason they changed to "Velvet Merlin".

  • Brandybuck||

    No one in Paso Robles knew what a merkin was...

  • AlmightyJB||

    But if the kid sees the lable isnt that a great opportunity for those dickwads to explain what a bastard is as well as about the evils of premarital sex.

  • Russell||

    Quick, let us roulez from Louisianne to Alabam to grab all the Batard Montratchet on the state wine store shelves.

    We can say we do it for the children.

  • Entropy Void||

    ... and I guess they will have to ban every alcoholic beverage with "Fitz" in the name as it literally means " illegitimate issue of royalty."

    Damn Gubmint Regulatin' Bastards ...

  • gritzly||


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