The Orlando Beer Blog

All things beer in Central Florida.

Is the craft beer industry lousy with sexist beer labels?

Since beer is a male-dominated industry and a product that is mostly enjoyed by men, it’s understandable that claims of sexism, misogyny and general male chauvinism would come with the territory. The problem is, for every valid grievance, there are scores of non-issues that get raised by those with a social/political agenda who want to stir up controversy where it really doesn’t exist.

One such complaint is of supposedly sexist/exploitative beer labels. I won’t deny that there are some labels that could reasonably be construed as such (they’re mostly European, by the way). However, I’ve seen SJW types outraged by labels that are, in my opinion, quite tame, intended to be comedic, and/or genuinely artistic (see this post on BensBeerBlog.com for one such rant). I also highly disagree with their notion that this is some kind of chronic problem – that the craft beer industry is just saturated with lowbrow T&A imagery. Or worse, that this supposed sexism is driving women away from beer.

I wanted to do some research to see how many “sexist” beer labels I could find. I visited five beer stores in the greater Tampa area and looked at each and every beer label in all the stores. I must have viewed at least 1,000 different products and took pictures of anything that could possibly send SJWs (and prudes in general) into a tizzy no matter how benign they seemed to me. We’ll look at them from most tame to most shocking.

NOTE: click on any photo to view it in its full high-def quality.

All of the above labels feature a woman, but I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could complain about any of them being even remotely “sexist.” So can we agree that there are actually POSITIVE depictions of women on beer labels?

Ah, the classic German “Beer Wench”. I suppose these could be viewed as sexist since they all feature a woman serving [men] beer. Only one of these shows any skin, though. If you’ve ever been to Germany, you know this isn’t an exaggeration; there really are dirndl girls at the Oktoberfest celebration, though some bars and restaurants utilize this look year-round. So are these labels sexist? Hardly. These are actual cultural norms from where the beers originate. There’s no “cultural appropriation” here, nor is it considered exploitation over in Deutschland (at least not yet).

The Original Sin ciders feature beautiful cartoon artwork and play up on the brand’s Biblical theme. The sour ale is not particularly provocative, nor is it clear who the woman in the glass is supposed to be or what she’s doing, so I don’t understand the marketing angle. The “Equinoxe du Printemps” label is just plain ugly and far from sexual. However, it looks like genuine art you might see in a museum; I have no problem with it. Aphrodite is another Dieu du Ciel brew, but even though the character appears to be nude, the picture itself is not exactly sexy since the exaggerated proportions of her face make it look like a cartoon. Cute to be sure, but not titillating.

These labels all feature cartoons or similar graphics. None of them come across as exploitation to me. Red Banshee bears a fantastic comic book-style artwork and is completely benign other than the word “banshee” which I’m sure some feminists will have a problem with. The Wild Docta’ and Wild Ginger definitely are a bit provocative, but because they’re cartoons how bawdy can they be, really? The three Scuttlebutt beers feature a mermaid on them – whoop de friggin’ do (not a very creative mascot, by the way). The Pike “Naughty Nellie” is also pretty boring. The name is a little provocative, but it’s cliche; the color scheme of the label is quite ugly too. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ could be seen as titillating considering the imagery and the name. However, it is just a cartoon and aside from some cleavage, the woman is fully dressed. Lastly, the Mikkeller “California Dream” label might be a metaphor for ejaculation. If that is the artist’s intention, it’s not very subtle and rather lowbrow. Personally, I find it to be ugly; it doesn’t make me want to buy the beer.

Here are a couple boxes I could see courting controversy.  The Wells Banana Bread Beer box has a strange sexual innuendo graphic on the handle of two women who look like vintage pin-up models with the tagline “The greatest thing since sliced….” I’m not sure what the sexual connection is supposed to be, though I’m sure these characters are there to be catch a man’s eye. What’s odd is that they do not appear on the bottle itself. The Thirsty Dog “Old Leghumper” box is also bizarre. The women’s legs are attractive, but that’s a very unusual fetish to use for marketing. There seems to be a subtle bestiality humor to it as well, but I just find that creepy.

The Maui “Bikini Blonde Lager” graphic is too amateurish and unattractive to be exploitative. The Big Storm “Florida Ale” has a great-looking cartoon, but it’s tame as far as sexual innuendo (you’d think the Maui beer would feature a woman in a coconut bikini and grass skirt). The Sunset Beach Bikini Ale seems rather insipid to me. Sure it catches your eye on the shelf, but the presentation is so hackneyed and cliche – this was seriously the best they could come up with? Meh. When I first saw the Old Battle Axe IPA I thought it was another Lagunitas brew as it features that Bettie Page-type vintage pinup character. Cute artwork, but it doesn’t make me want to buy the beer. The Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu is a beer based on an ancient Chinese recipe, but what does the label have to do with the beer? Why is this woman topless? Why does she have a tramp stamp? This label is much more baffling than it is sexy. As for the Costa Rican beer “Imperial,” it’s pretty obvious this is intended to catch the eye of men. The woman in the picture is much more attractive to me than the beer. I will say that it works as actual art as the sunset and golden color scheme really work well together. It’s no more bawdy than any of the other bikini-clad labels, though.

Of all the hundreds of beer bottles and cans I viewed in researching this blog, these two Belgian-brewed “Triporteur” beers are the only labels I would consider outright sexist or exploitative or whatever you want to call it. Both are probably intended to be jokes, but they seem rather juvenille to me. The artwork is professional and eye-catching, so it definitely does what it’s supposed to do. Though I will reiterate that these are from a European brewery and are no more outrageous than some of the really sexist beer labels found there.

Other observations

  • Women are some of the rarest subjects to be depicted on beer labels. Animals (especially dogs), mythological creatures (especially demons), and historical figures (especially Vikings and monks) are much more likely to appear on a beer label.
  • As the first ten examples shown in this post demonstrate, there are plenty of female characters on beer labels that couldn’t possibly considered sexist by a rational person (though I would argue that’s true of most examples on this list anyway).
  • The vast majority of beer labels, regardless of brewery (macro or micro), style, price, etc., are simply text. It seems that most breweries expect their beer to sell based on its quality and/or reputation and aren’t interested in using labels that are gimmicky, flashy, or artistic. If the industry really was as sexist as the SJWs claim, wouldn’t these labels be the norm rather than the rarities they are?
  • ALL of these labels had to be approved a government bureaucrat at some point.

Conclusion

I think I’ve effectively argued that there really isn’t a deluge of sexist/misogynistic/exploitative beer labels out there. Though these examples may seem like a lot, I personally would only consider a few of them genuinely sexist, but none are obscene. Also, the labels pictured here account for only a tiny fraction of all the bottles and cans readily available in my area; so to say these are somehow a significant segment of the market is just mathematically incorrect. I’m sure other parts of the country have a wider beer selection than what’s available here in central Florida, but I’ll bet the amount of “sexist” beer labels is proportionally equal wherever you go.

But if any of these labels offend trigger you, I’d love to know why.