Yellow Belly Beer is about more than providing alcoholic refreshment. The peanut butter biscuit stout is all about fighting racism and promoting open-minded progressivism! How unfortunate, then, that it’s sold in a pointy white hood with eyeholes, a look that is not racist at all.
You will be pleased to know that the brewpub chain World of Beer has just removed Yellow Belly from its shelves and apologized for its lapse in judgment.
But how the hell did it even get there in the first place?
Well. Yellow Belly is a collaboration between a Swedish company, Omnipollo, and a British brewer, Buxton Brewery. It’s part of a series of brews based on colors of the rainbow, organized by Siren Craft Brew of Wokingham, U.K. (yes, really) in 2014. Omnipollo and Buxton were assigned yellow. They thought for a while and decided that the word “yellow” most reminded them of “cowardice.” At the time, fascist parties was rising throughout Europe. On election night in Sweden, voters were surprised to learn that actual votes for the Swedish fascist party were 40% higher than had been reported in exit polls. (Does this sound familiar?)
“What does this mean?” Buxton asked on its website. “One thing that it could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are. Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that is particularly relevant at this moment in time.”
Which is the reason members of the KKK wore those hoods in the first place.
In an interview on the Craft Beer Channel, Buxton’s head brewer Colin Strong says that the white hood packaging was deliberately meant to evoke the KKK and the cowardice of racists hiding behind sheets. (It’s also meant to evoke how Yellow Belly has a special secret ingredient and people should consume it without prejudice.) Strong is British, so perhaps he can’t quite appreciate how this would go over in the U.S.
World of Beer, however, is an American company. So far it has offered no explanation of how beer in white hoods ended up on its shelves. Or how it remained there two years after the beer was introduced.
Another great irony here is that Yellow Belly itself has been discontinued, not because of the packaging but because of a trademark violation. Muddled thinking is something else entirely.