The label would have said “Fudge 2020” (but with the real fudge-word). The NC ABC Commission rejected it.
| The Fayetteville Observer
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A team of Charlotte craft brewers lost their battle to use the “F-word” on its craft seltzer labels Wednesday.
The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission upheld a December decision barring Justin and Sarah Brigham from calling their New Year’s Eve-themed hard seltzer “F— 2020 BUBS.” The ABC informed their lawyer, Michael Boyer, that they would not be allowed to do that.
The proposed name and label violated a regulation that prohibits alcoholic products from having any advertisement, statement or design that “depicts the use of alcoholic beverages in a scene that is determined by the Commission to be undignified, immodest, or in bad taste.” The decision comes despite the fact that the seltzer’s label (shiny gold with stylized lettering) doesn’t depict or describe anyone using an alcoholic beverage, Boyer said.
The end result: On New Year’s Eve, no one was able to say sayonara to a bad year by raising a can or glass of F— 2020 BUBS hard seltzer.
The Brighams believe the regulation is unfair, unclear and arbitrary, with hidden, shifting standards, Boyer said, and they want that changed. “It’s hard to play by the rules when — when one doesn’t know what the rules truly are,” Boyer adeed.
So the couple renewed their fight for the right to use the F— 2020 name, Boyer said, although they no longer have plans to produce the brand. Their appeal of the ABC Commission decision is scheduled to be heard when it meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
“Though our window of opportunity to release this project has now closed, we have chosen to continue to press this issue in an effort to further the cause of free speech and unbridled creativity at large for the craft beer industry,” the Brighams said in a statement. “While we respect the work of the ABC, we feel that their approval process needs to be fair.”
Past label rejections
This isn’t the first time the Brighams have battled the ABC Commission over the name of one of their products, Boyer said. And it’s not the first time the Commission has blocked the name or label of an adult beverage.
The ABC Commission initially rejected the name “Dime Bag” for an India pale ale that Sycamore Brewing produced, Boyer said. “Dime bag” is a term for a package with a small amount of illegal drugs, such as $10 worth of marijuana, according to various dictionaries.
Boyer said he persuaded the commission to allow the “Dime Bag Triple IPA” name. Federal regulators and other states previously approved the label (which is a requirement for interstate sales), he said, and he showed the commissioners that some terms used in the illegal drug trade are also verbiage used by brewers when discussing their craft.
In 2019, a Utah-based brewer tried to sell a beer named “Polygamy Porter” in North Carolina. The artwork on the bottle label showed a nearly naked man with three nearly naked women, and the product had a slogan: “Why have just one!”
The ABC Commission rejected Polygamy Porter on the basis that polygamy is illegal.
In August 2019, Wilmington television station WECT reported that the commission had rejected about 230 alcoholic beverage labels over the previous 17 years.
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Senior North Carolina reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and email@example.com.
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