Craft brewers, perhaps the scrappiest team of underdogs in American culture, have never shied away from taking risks. These risks almost always succeed in building buzz, even if (or especially if?) the brewery in question gets slapped with a cease and desist letter or two along the way.
This week, Charlotte Agenda reports, the misbehaving brewery is Sycamore Brewing, a Charlotte, North Carolina, facility that decided to redesign the can for its annual Christmas Cookie Winter Ale release this year. At a distance, the new can looked more or less like an ugly Christmas sweater: snowflakes and other wintry shapes like reindeer dotted on a dark blue background—no, wait, look closer: The reindeer appear to be enjoying each other’s company immensely. Oh heavens.
Someone apparently took issue with the cans, because an anonymous tip was sent along to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. This prompted a visit last week to Sycamore Brewing by an agent from Alcohol Law Enforcement, to inform the brewery of the twofold problem: one, the label design was not sent to the agency for approval, and two, the agency probably wouldn’t have approved of a label with sexual reindeer, no matter how pixelated. According to the Charlotte Agenda, it sounds like both sides of this issue had a good laugh, at least.
Sycamore will face a small fine for failure to gain approval for the label, but the Christmas Cookie cans will still be sold, just covered up in an alternative label. Co-owner Justin Brigham is keeping things in perspective. “We’re in a moment in our country where the president is up for impeachment, there are school shootings, there’s all this horrible stuff going on,” he told the Charlotte Agenda. “And ya know, seven-and-a-half percent (ABV) beer that tastes like cookies, with pixelated reindeer? That’s a nice reprieve I think.”