Flying Dog Brewery Returns Controversial Beer For Free Speech Week

, Flying Dog Brewery Returns Controversial Beer For Free Speech Week

(Courtesy Flying Dog Brewery)

Flying Dog Brewery is adamant when it comes to issues like “freedom of expression” and not shy about addressing what it sees as censorship of its business practices or products.

And just in time for Free Speech Week Maryland-based brewery is returning what may be its most controversial beer. A winter ale that was banned in North Carolina in 2021.

, Flying Dog Brewery Returns Controversial Beer For Free Speech WeekThe headline-grabbing beer is Flying Dog’s Freezin’ Season Winter Ale and the beer’s label features a sketch of a naked man drawn by Ralph Steadman, a famous graphic artist who spent decades collaborating with the legendary gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson.

Steadman is responsible for the famous artwork that graced Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas book and he’s designed the majority of Flying Dog’s label art over the years. And while his artwork is whimsical and abstract wild it’s a stretch to considerate it in bad taste but the regulatory agency governing alcohol sales in North Carolina did.

Ardent defenders of free speech and freedom of expression, Flying Dog sued the NC ABC for violating its First Amendment rights. In May of 2022, the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled in favor of Flying Dog.

According to the federal court judge, NC ABC’s regulation allowing it to ban labels that the commissioners in their sole discretion and personal opinion feel are “undignified, immodest, or in bad taste” is indeed a violation of the First Amendment.

“Fights to protect freedom of expression, as with all individual rights, are always fought at the margin – over issues like beer labels,” said Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog Brewery…

, Flying Dog Brewery Returns Controversial Beer For Free Speech Week

(Flying Dog CEO, Jim Caruso)

“In a case like this, it also highlights the lack of respect self-appointed government censors have for the self-determination of consumers. We believe that adults are smart enough to decide for themselves what books to read, what music to listen to, what movies to stream or what beers to buy.”

Flying Dog has a long history of standing up against censorship.

When the Colorado and then Michigan liquor commissions violated Flying Dog’s First Amendment rights, Flying Dog sued and won both cases. While on the surface these lawsuits are about beer labels, they are really about defending the First Amendment at the margin, where virtually all battles of this nature are taking place.  Civil liberties are not lost overnight, they are chipped away at bit by bit unless vigorously defended.

Yep, the dog fought the law and the dog won, and after a resounding victory for the First Amendment, Flying Dog is releasing the Freezin’ Season, a 7.4% ABV Winter Warmer again this year just in time for Free Speech Week.

“Books? Music lyrics? Videos streamed in the privacy of your own home? News stories?” Caruso added in a statement to McClatchy News. “Does anyone really want to live in a country where government bureaucrats can censor material based on whim and personal preference?”


(All image credits: Flying Dog Brewery)

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