As mentioned here (and on every other damn beer blog) back in December, Massachusetts-based beer importers Shelton Brothers had several of their beers banned in Maine due to the labels being “undignified or improper”. The beers included Santa’s Butt Porter, which pictures a rear view of the jolly old elf enjoying a pint while checking his list; Les Sans Culottes, featuring Delacroix’s classic painting Liberty Leading the People (detail pictured); and Rose de Gambrinus, featuring a watercolor painting of the king of Flanders sitting with a bare-breasted woman.
Well, it seems that common sense prevailed, and Maine’s Liquor Licensing Unit backed down after the threat of legal action from the Maine Civil Liberties Union. Unfortunately, the decision didn’t get reversed until just before Christmas, and Don Shelton didn’t find out until he returned from vacation this past week, so sales of Santa’s Butt were still heavily impacted.
And while Shelton Brothers may be happy about the outcome, they still plan on proceeding with legal action regardless:
Shelton, whose company has challenged similar bans in other states, said Thursday he has no plans to drop his lawsuit because state law still allows officials to deny applications for beer labels that contain “undignified or improper” illustrations. About a dozen beer and wine labels, out of 10,000 to 12,000 reviewed, are rejected each year on such grounds.
“You can’t have a law based on propriety and dignity. It’s too vague,” Shelton said.
It’ll be interesting to see what impact this might have on the arcane and outdated liquor laws not only in Maine, but right across the continent.