Uncategorized — July 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

Unintended consequences: “Raging Bitch” beer to be sold in MI thanks to SCOTUS ruling on data mining/marketing


Two years ago the Flying Dog Brewery released a Belgian-style IPA called Raging Bitch with the following ‘artist’s statement’, if you will, on the label:

“Two inflammatory words … one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it … stand back!! Wallow in its golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled—and in heat—is pure GONZO!! It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!” — Ralph Steadman

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission refused to grant Flying Dog a license to sell Raging Bitch in Michigan and, in March of this year, Flying Dog filed suit, citing a violation of their 1st Amendment rights.

Jim Caruso, Flying Dog’s CEO and general partner, said Monday the issue comes down to freedom of speech and his brewery’s longtime affiliation with [author Hunter S.] Thompson and [artist Ralph] Steadman.

“When there’s smoke under the door, the fire’s not far behind with constitutional rights,” Caruso said. “If you don’t like the beer or the art, don’t buy it. … The state shouldn’t decide.”

This week, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission reversed their position. They did so based on the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that said the state of Vermont could not prevent pharmaceutical companies from harvesting data about doctor’s prescribing patterns and habits as a way to market to them more effectively. This restriction on the rights of states to regulate “speech” by corporations is beginning to have far-reaching impacts.

Including the sale of Raging Bitch IPA.

Flying Dog is, of course, pleased at the decision. However, they have vowed not to stop with their lawsuit “until the Commissioners accept responsibility for the damage they’ve caused by violating the First Amendment”.

Though the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has now approved the sale of Raging Bitch in the state, we have no interest in dropping the First Amendment lawsuit. With the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and the law firm of Gura & Possessky, we originally filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 25 not only to overturn the Commission’s regulation banning Raging Bitch, but also to deem their ability to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional. Additionally, the suit seeks to recover damages from the loss of sales under the rule.

The best part of this for me? Raging Bitch is Flying Dog’s best-selling beer in the 30+ states where they DO sell it. Now, I get to buy it and I loves me a good IPA.

Thanks, SCOTUS!