Deep Ellum Brewing Company has had a reputation for aggressive, big-bodied beers since they opened in 2011. Their IPA is an incredibly hoppy brew, and the Double Rye IPA is an all-out Dream Crusher. Most beer companies have some fun with their labels, but recently Burnt Orange Report, Texas' largest political blog, says DEBC took things too far.
Dallas Blonde is an American Blonde Ale that "goes down easy," if you believe what the can tells you. Taken in the context of their aggressively flavored beers, the message can be interpreted quite literally -- the beer is comparatively smooth. But add the creepy doll with a blonde wig and things start to get a little uncomfortable, according to Genevieve Cato, who writes for BOR. Put the image on a massive hot-pink van, she says, and a line has been crossed.
Cato says she'd seen the label before on a can she indulged at a house party but didn't pay much attention to it. When she encountered the van on DEBC's Facebook page, it was harder to ignore. Cato says she didn't interview a representative from the Brewery, but claims the marketing makes use of "rape culture" and is insensitive considering the role alcohol can play in sexual assault. Not to mention it's a little one-dimensional. "It's not very creative advertising."
John Reardon, who owns DEBC and has read the BOR article, says he thinks the rape culture claim went too far. "We knew the play on words there," he says, but hedges that the Dallas Blonde beer was meant to be fun. "We're not saying that all blondes go down easy," he adds, pointing out that many beer manufacturers openly objectify women in their ads.
Still, he acknowledges that he's gotten some negative feedback, which he says he's addressed by email. He also says he's trying to determine the best way to respond to Cato's article. "If there are women out there who are offended, then we should apologize," he says.
Clearly some are, but it's not clear to Reardon if those who are upset with his marketing represent are a sizable group with a legitimate gripe, or a small minority trying to give him a headache. "Everything we've ever done has been pushed back on in some way or form," he says. So instead of trying to determine the merit of the marketing on his own, he's planning on using an Internet survey on the brewery's blog to measure customer reaction.
If enough people are upset Reardon says he will drop the marketing. If not Dallas Blonde (the beer) will will continue to go down as easy as ever.
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