She started a post that she was "done" with Clown Shoes, because she found the label art sexist and crude. Strangely, she pointed to a new label for a beer called the Lubrication. Take a look:
Granted I didn’t find this one nearly as bad as Tramp Stamp and Brown Angel. But on Twitter, the first thing people pointed out about it was the “dong.” Of course the title of the beer is gross with that in mind. And with this Clownshoes being the tacky brand that they are, I have no doubt that it is all about the dong.
I don’t get it. I don’t get why they have to go there to sell beer. We don’t need this kind of crap. Of course he can do whatever he wants, and I ask no one to agree with me if they don’t see my point of view here. I just don’t think we need to go there to sell beer. If these beers were any good, he wouldn’t need to go there to try and sell it. They are average at best and these dumb labels do nothing to help/change that.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, you may recall that Clown Shoes' art, by Stacey George (a woman), won the poll on this site for the best art of last year, and I too find it excellent. So, unlike Alström, I do not come to their art thinking of crudeness and sex. But, even if I look for it, I don't really see it here.
Stacey George sent me the original artwork, an homage to Ed Ruscha's gas station pieces:
For those of you unfamiliar with Ruscha, here's a piece of his:
öm's contention that the gas line is positioned to be a penis... I mean, I guess if you want it to be. George swears it's not supposed to be. But really, with everything going on on beer labels, this is what we choose to pick on?
You want to know what type of label art I find offensive?
öm, rather than a legit argument to make, simply has a bone to pick with Clown Shoes.
Fortunately, the commenters on BA showed some sanity in their complaints, arguing that a non-Alström who had posted the same thread would have had it deleted instantly. The post was locked after 325 comments with a somewhat opaque last word by Jason Alström. If you want, there are links to everything (including Clown Shoes owner Gregg Berman's sarcastic response), as well as a very intelligent comments conversation happening over at Beerpulse. Also, George has written an eloquent response on her blog, pointing out that offensiveness is entirely subjective, that the Brown Angel art was partly inspired by Do The Right Thing, and that the German for "tramp stamp" translates roughly to "ass antlers."
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I think there are some great debates to be had over whether and what art - especially that sexualizing women - is tasteful on craft beer labels. Hell, who would love that debate more than I? But the journalist and beer lover in me also feels like, if one has a beef with a brewery, they should just say so, rather than deciding to hide behind some faux-critical stance. And to use one's message board for a purpose that one would not allow to others is just hypocrisy (a vice which Larry Flynt calls the "greatest threat to democracy" in my friend's interview. Yes, that was a plug).
Particularly strange, to me, is that this comes up around the same time as the release of one of the most bold (and potentially off-putting) labels I've ever seen in craft beer:
B and W Bros have already gone to town on this label, by the very creative folks at Smuttynose. But this is just a reminder that when people get worked up over a robot (or, earlier, a woman in pleasure), that's a good sign there's a personal thing going on. If we're really concerned about a beer projecting an image of something one might not find appealing... there's sperm on this label, and in case that wasn't disturbing enough, the sperm have heads of real people.
What is a Homunculus? There are several different definitions that come from psychology, alchemy, and preformation. The word itself is Latin for, “little human.” As you can see from the label art, we were captivated by the preformationist usage of the term. The name was discovered during a brainstorming session. We didn’t want to call the scaled up brew by its original name, so out came the thesaurus. We saw “homunculus” was a synonym for “gnome” and the rest, as they say, was history.I should note that I am not as put off by this label as many, partly since I (obviously) view the label art as a piece of branding and design that may relate to the beer, but doesn't necessarily suggest the beer's flavor. I think it's fun, goofy, and the faces make it clear it's a joke. Plus, it's Smuttynose... they do some crazy label art.
But to argue over whether a gas pump may or may not suggest a male organ, when we've got a label with sperm on it, or to suggest the name "Lubrication" alone is "gross"... well, I'd say that goes beyond selective outrage. We've got beers called Yellow Snow and Golden Shower. I think everyone understands what ingredients aren't in those.
Still, from a marketing standpoint, I think these bold gestures are probably best reserved for products that appeal to a core craft beer crowd. They're more likely to be interested in the product inside the bottle and less offended or made queasy by a label. For the Homunculus, a big beers series offering, that's obviously the case, and for Clown Shoes, that appears to be their target market to begin with.