It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
When I visited relatives in Rochester (NY) for Christmas I became aware of a local
controversy on a topic you might want to comment on. It seems a local pastor's complaint
about a beer's name and billboard campaign is spurring a heated discussion about sexual
harassment, marketing and humor.
It started la few weeks ago when the Rev. Katy Lee of Rochester noticed a billboard along U.S.
Hwy 52 for a beer at her favorite restaurant and brewery in town. The advertisement was for a
beer called "Easy- A Minnesota Blonde" that was being served ",,at Grand Rounds Brewing
Co.". The picture featured an exaggerated cartoon of a woman kissing a man. The text on the
billboard states, "Mark Your Territory." The entire billboard bothered Rev. Lee enough to
cause her to publicly protest it. She even made the rounds of local TV and radio talk shows to
explain her position.
Since it had to do with one of my favorite area breweries I called Grand Rounds owner Tessa
Leung. She said that the beer name, has been around since this summer, and no one has
ever questioned it before. Lisa went on to explain that the name comes from the movie, "Easy
A.". It's a comedic modern story that references the Puritan novel "The Scarlet Letter."
Wearing a scarlet "A" was the Puritan punishment for a woman who had sex outside of
marriage.The idea was to play on traditionally sexist term for women and then flip it to a
She then told me that the label, the name, the meaning behind the name was vetted by, many
women. They all got the text, the context, the irony, and everything else about it. She added
that she "has a lot pretty vocal, powerful female friends. They said, 'We love it. You're
changing the conversation.'"
From my perspective there's a bit of irony about all this since it's still an issue even after
Tessa explained the ad's tongue-in-cheek humor. .At the same time I can understand Rev.
Lee's feeling this simple billboard was symbolic of a larger issue for beer and society.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Hello Gina -
To avoid future controversy I am proposing that beers like hurricanes be named after people. I
can't see anyone getting upset about Linda's Lager, Sally's Stout, or Gina's Gose. Now before
you accuse me of trivializing your report I have to admit I understand why some people might
see this as offensive and others as a non-issue that doesn't deserve the attention it is getting.
Personally I'm certainly not in the latter camp since the bottom line for me is that open
discussion of any issue is a good thing. If you remember we did just that a few months ago
when we wrote about truly offensive beer names in this very column. We got quite a bit of mail
on that one. These clearly are t sensitive times which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Let me stop here and put an addendum on your "irony" comment - I found it somewhat ironic
that this is a case of women arguing with women over what is offensive in an ad that was vetted
by women. My point is that just because some women approve doesn't mean it still wouldn't be
offensive to others and to males too. .
I showed the ad (I'll put it below my comments) to several people of both genders here at the
Nexus office and about half said it looks fairly innocuous. I'm guessing that's partially true
because most labels that are send to us for comment are clearly and obviously 'bad' or
misogynistic.. This one doesn't fit that category. The consensus seemed to be that it isn't a
particularly good billboard ad, but it doesn't seem like a terribly 'bad' one either. However most
of the group I showed it to said that putting it up during a national conversation about sexual
harassment was poor timing and poor judgement.
If I had to play Devil's Advocate, I'd submit that when I look at the billboard I see a man and a
woman kissing each other. I don't see the woman as the passive recipient of gentleman's
attention. As for the text, it's just dumb.
I may be a touch cynical but might there be a chance that the brewery/restaurant intentionally
created an ad that walked just up to the line of being offensive to create publicity while still
giving them a measure of innocence?
Gina, you know I'm a laid back kind of guy so in matters like this my official position is clear - I
agree with whatever you say, whatever that may be.
Here's looking at you Gina