MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Dirty Bastard and Backwoods Bastard beers can now join Fat Bastard wine on store shelves in Alabama.
After taking a second look at the attention-grabbing names of Dirty Bastard and Backwoods Bastard beers, the state's liquor control agency lifted its ban on their sale in Alabama.
David Engbers, co-founder of Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich., said the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board didn't give a reason for reversing its position on the two beers when it sent the company a letter recently approving their sales. Dirty Bastard, the most popular of the two beers, is distributed in 23 states. Alabama was the first to raise an objection to the name, Engbers said Wednesday.
ABC Board attorney Bob Martin said the board's licensing director originally rejected the names last spring. The decision was based on a state law that says no ads for alcoholic beverages can show a person "posed in an immodest or sensuous manner" and they can't contain profanity or offensive language.
Beer and wine are sold in Alabama's grocery stores and convenience stores where all ages can see them. The ABC board's attorney said last spring that the Dirty Bastard beer was rejected because parents may not want young people to see rough language on the shelves.
Because of an outcry from Founders Brewing and from craft beer enthusiasts in Alabama, the ABC Board created an employee committee to review brand names and labels when the enforcement director has a concern. In its first meeting, that committee decided to approve Dirty Bastard and Backwoods Bastard.
One reason: If the two beers were denied, the agency likely would have had to reconsider a decision many years ago under a different administration to allow the sale of Fat Bastard wine in Alabama. "No one wanted to do that because it had been on shelves for years and years," Martin said.
Dirty Bastard is a Scotch ale that is produced year-round. Backwoods Bastard is a specialty beer produced for a short period each year and distributed in September.
Engbers said the names resulted from a group at Founders Brewing sitting around trying to come up with novel titles. He said names are designed to get attention, but the brands wouldn't have grown in popularity if the names were the only thing interesting about them.
"The proof is in the liquid," he said.
Alabama's ban of the two beers generated nationwide attention for Founders Brewing. That could be an economic boost for the brewery, if a past ban is any indication.
In 2009, the ABC Board banned Cycles Gladiator wines because the label showed a nude nymph. The label was copied from an 1895 French poster advertising Gladiator bicycles, but the full-bodied exposure was too much for Alabama. The ban drew national attention.
Martin said the winery, Hahn Family Wines of Soledad, Calif., later sent the ABC Board a framed copy of the poster. "They told us their sales had quadrupled nationwide," he said.
Cycles Gladiator is also now available in Alabama. The ABC Board's licensing director, Darick Wilson, said the winery changed the label to add a toga to the nymph last year and got to permission to sell in the state.
At Founders Brewing, Engbers said the market for its beers was already growing before the Alabama ban. But he said, "The more we can get the craft beer market some attention, the better it is for all of us."