I discovered Clown Shoes Brewery when I was at the American Craft Beer Festival (post here). There has been huge controversy on their newest label since a post on Beer Advocate came about with someone expressing their disgust in the newest Clown Shoes label saying:
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 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. (Read full post)
Proceeding a 300+ comment thread the artist of the label blogged about it on her site saying:
My labels for Clown Shoes—which were named Best Craft Beer Art of 2011 by PourCurator.com—are not illustrated with a sexist intent. For instance, a Tramp Stamp is a tattoo placed on the lower back of a woman to emphasize her sexuality. In Germany, they call it, Arschgeweih, meaning, “Ass Antlers.” Can you imagine if we had named a beer Ass Antlers!? We have nicknames for these tattoos because they have a purpose. The woman who has one is confident in her sexuality and she is enticing the viewer to appreciate her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.
Brown Angel is a mix between pin-up girl, Blaxploitation goddess, and hip-hop diva. She was inspired by Pam Grier in Coffy, and Rosie Perez dancing to Fight The Power in the opening of Do The Right Thing. These are powerful women, not victims, and just because they have ethnicity, doesn’t mean the label is racist any more than appreciating a Bettie Page pin-up makes one a white supremacist. As a woman, and an artist, I have a hard time with either of these images being labeled chauvinistic. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority over the opposite sex. I’m not designing woman who are inferior, I’m designing women who celebrate who they are. So, who is bringing the inferiority? The viewer? The offended? It’s a complicated question.
Finally, and this one made me guffaw, I mean seriously spit take—Clown Shoes Lubrication. Why is Lubrication offensive? Well, first, we’ve got the name. It’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s having some fun, but the label copy pulls it all together, “Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Social lubrication, people coming together to unwind, is what we’re talking about.” This is not a dirty joke for the sake of being dirty. Lubrication is an American Black Ale, dark as oil, but at only 6% ABV it’s one of Clown Shoes’ first sessionable beers. The social lubrication marketing gives you an idea what you’re getting in the bottle.
Second, the illustration is apparently offensive because of the placement of the gas nozzle. Next time you fill your tank, take note of how high you hold the nozzle, I’m guessing it’s not up by your belly button unless you drive a Hummer. Apparently, our critics saw not a dispenser of fuel, but a “dong.” Yes, their words, not mine. I went to art school. I was taught to say, “phallic symbol.”
Now, let me tell you, when I designed this I was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s gas station paintings, 1950′s sci-fi robots, and by those old Texaco commercials with the jaunty hats and ties. That’s it. You get your car lubed at the service station and a tin-man requires lubrication, it works both ways. The client actually wanted to go sans-illustration for this beer, but I convinced him that it would be inconsistent with the brand and that I had a great idea! Never in my wildest imagination did I think this label would inspire such vitriol! But when you have dong on the brain, you see dong wherever you go, I guess. Ironically, robots don’t even have sex that way, there’s a lot more welding and screaming of 0s and 1s.
Lastly here is a post from Clown Shoes’ Gregg Berman’s on Beer Advocate comment thread:
Why the labels? Ok, I’ll bite. I’ll give you the long answer.
was started for three reasons: a personal joke, deep passion for craft beer, and
spite (spite, resulting, ironically, from the rejection of the name Clown Shoes
to one of your contests).
I used to sit behind a desk and answer phones, push buttons, and combat life threatening boredom. Now I get to do this. I want to do this forever if possible. Who wouldn’t? But I am realistic about the life of brands. So I am trying in three ways to keep Clown Shoes alive:
1. Make the best beer we can dream up and keep dreaming up more
2. Travel to markets, supports customers and reps, attend fests and give out swag
3. Put out the most creative marketing my (not trained in marketing) brain can conceive of. When my group of friends and coworkers agree overall, we roll with a new idea. The edginess is intentional, but not meant to be extreme or particularly offensive. Each label has been a unique inspiration.
Ok, all that being said, I guess I fall into the V camp too, because today is
the first I have heard of a “dong” in the Lubrication label. You may believe it
or not, but G rated was the goal, with the direction to the artist being
“reflect classic oil cans in the art somehow.” The name is provocative enough, I
didn’t feel the need for a racy label.
Candace, as always, I respect your opinion and that of your site members. I wish you saw me as I see myself and my brand as I intend it, good natured fun, but I have a feeling that I will always be yodelling across a mountain top when it comes to you understanding me. Still, despite what others say here, I’d rather you approached me privately to discuss your feelings than give me all this “free publicity”.
I find this controversy over the top and unnecessary. Firstly I didn’t find anything offensive in the label when I saw it. Actually I think all Clown Shoe’s labels are hysterical. And second is this person going to cry about every beer ad or any ad in general that shows woman showing off their breasts?
The good thing is Clown Shoes, as well as the illustrator, received a ton of publicity and free marketing! This was even mentioned on boston.com website. There were a bunch of posts from people admitting they don’t know about Clown Shoes but are now going to look out for them!