Someone in the New York Liquor Authority has been misreading his Dickens. After his visitations, it was ghosts that Scrooge had no more commerce with, not alcohol.*
Forget about buying Rudolph’s Revenge Winter Ale, Seriously Bad Elf Double Ale or Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, at least in New York.
On Oct. 3, a representative for Shelton submitted the six Christmas-themed beers to the Liquor Authority for approval, as required under state law. The others were Warm Welcome Nut Brown Ale, Very Bad Elf beer and Criminally Bad Elf barley wine.
The labels were not especially gratuitous. Seriously Bad Elf depicts a mischievous-looking elf pointing a slingshot at Santa’s airborne sled. Warm Welcome shows Santa descending a chimney — into a roaring fire.
On Nov. 3, Shelton was told over the phone by the SLA that the labels were denied because “the Christmas themes … would appeal to children,” according to the suit.
The suit points out that nearly 12 Christmas-themed beers already exist in New York, including Samuel Adams’ Old Fizziwig Ale and Anchor’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year beer.
Here’s two of the labels in question, courtesy Will Shelton.
Butthead: Huh-huh, Huh-huh. Nut Browned. Hey Baby, would you like one of Santa’s Toasted Nuts?
Beavis: Heh-heh. Fire! Fire!
“Butt,” for those of you who also have an internal B&B dialog of your very own, actually refers to the type of beer within bottle rather than Santa’s hairy nethers, and has for nearly 300 years.
“Before the year 1730, the malt liquors in general use in London were ale, beer, and two-penny, and it was customary for the drinkers of malt liquor to call for a pint, or tankard, of half and half, i. e. a half of ale and half of beer, a half of ale and half of two-penny, or half of beer and half of twopenny. In course of time it also became the practice to call for a pint or tankard of three-threads, meaning a third of ale, beer, and two-penny; and thus the publican had the trouble to go to three casks, and turn three cocks, for a pint of liquor To avoid this inconvenience and waste, a brewer of the name of Harwood conceived the idea of making a liquor, which should partake of the same united flavours of ale, beer, and two-penny; he did so, and succeeded, calling it entire, or entire butt, meaning that it was drawn entirely from one cask, or butt; and as it was a very hearty and nourishing liquor, it was very suitable for porters and other working people; hence it obtained the name of porter.”
When it comes to Christmas beers, I’m partial to Old Jubilation and the yearly Anchor Steam Christmas Ale, but any beer featuring a label referencing Santa’s private parts will inevitably find its way into my beer
cellar….err, cabinet. As will the sociopathic elf brews, if only to give me the transient feeling of striking a blow against the Man–who, after all, has already done away with ads for my beloved Christmas tobaccy in the guise of defending the impressionable youths.
The problem with the neo-puritanism evident at the New York State Liquor Authority is that, not only does the board usurp the role of the parent when it decides what can and cannot be seen by children, it sets the standard for its censorship at the lowest common denominator level of “I know it when I see it.” So children like Santa. Big deal. Children like witches as well. Does that mean that the Pendle Witches Brew or Achouffe Macral should be banned as well? Beer Advocate, where you can see the rest of the labels in question, makes a similar argument.
What about Chouffe or Urthel beers? Those cute little gnome-like creatures that adorn their labels are literally taunting teens to pick-up their bottles and play. What about Rogue’s Santa Reserve or Gale’s Christmas Ale? They have jolly old Saint Nick on the label. Hell, I could cite off dozens of “questionable” labels on beers available in NY. Why are they allowed?
Once the act of censorship becomes common practice, it will always be safer to err on the side of the censor when it comes to the “questionable.” Just ask the Danish cartoonists. Once beer labels featuring Santa are banned, those featuring naked ladies, mildly risque phrases, or a weird depiction of someone’s god won’t be far behind. Censorship knows no bounds, because there’s someone who can be found to take offense at something, or a group that needs “protection” from a insidious combination of words and images. Censorship is always its own slippery slope.
* “A merry Christmas, Bob,” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”
5 unpeeled oranges
1 unpeeled grapefruit
1/4 pound of sugar
2 bottles of red wine
1 bottle of port
Wash the oranges and bake.
Once they begin to brown, stick 6 cloves into each orange, and transfer the lot to a large container, pot or bowl.
CAUTION: Should you live in New York, make sure the container in question is not appealing to children at all, else the New York State Liquor Puritans may come after you. Perhaps a chamberpot? Certainly it would help re-create that real Dickens atmosphere.
Add the sugar and wine – leave the port for later
Cover and leave in a warm place for a day.
Squeeze the fruit into the wine/fruit mixture, then strain out the oranges and cloves.
Add the port and heat, but do not bring to a boil