Alcohol

No Baby Pics on Beer Labels, Says New Hampshire Governor

...because that would encourage underage drinking, obviously.

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Founders' Breakfast Stout Beer
Mike Mozart / Flickr

What's one way to curb underage drinking? Ban depictions of babies on beer labels, of course:

Gov. Maggie Hassan [D-N.H.] on Tuesday vetoed a measure that would have allowed some images of minors to grace alcoholic beverage labels as long as they didn't encourage young people to drink.

Republican state Rep. Keith Murphy, who runs a popular tavern, sponsored the bill because he wanted to be able to buy Breakfast Stout, crafted by Founders Brewery Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The beer's label depicts a chubby, Norman Rockwell-esque baby scooping oatmeal into his mouth.

Hassan said allowing the images could undermine the state's efforts to fight underage drinking.

The bill wouldn't have granted automatic approval for the labels; instead, it would have "given the state's Liquor Commission discretion to approve or deny labels," according to the article from WMUR9.

The Liquor Commission—tasked with regulating alcohol sales in the state—sided with Hassan, preferring a "bright line standard," as James Wilson, the Commission's director of enforcement and licensing, called it, over using its best judgment on a case-by-case basis:

Murphy's bill would have given the state's Liquor Commission discretion to approve or deny labels. He said he could understand the commission denying a label showing college kids partying but not the Breakfast Stout depiction.

"No reasonable person would believe that this label is intended to appeal to minors in any way," he said.

New Hampshire isn't alone in its dubious panic over beer labels appealing to children. According to an article from All About Beer, Maine denied approval for beer importer Shelton Brothers to bring in Ridgeway Brewing's Santa's Butt Winter Porter:

Maine authorities objected because the image of Santa might appeal to children. "We said that made no sense. A 5- or 6-year-old is not going to be able to purchase a bottle of beer," [said Dan Shelton].

In addition to state-level labeling requirements, brewers also have to get label approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). That agency does evaluate each label, although the process leaves many brewers frustrated by "arbitrary decisions over matters not mentioned in the regs," according to the All About Beer piece:

[Epic Ales brewer and manager Cody Morris'] label for Terra-saurus was shot down because of the description "a meaty ale." Notes Morris: "They rejected it because they thought 'meaty' implied I put meat in my beers."…Morris changed "meaty" to "toothy" and the TTB nixed that adjective as well as a "non-accepted term."

Eventually, he did manage to get a label approved:

Morris submitted paperwork for a product called Simple Ale, whose label is printed in a generic black and white with simple block lettering and no extraneous designs. That one sailed through.