If you're someone who loves a bit of stereotypical gender bashing you're in for a real treat. If not, buckle up for this sexist, crass, offensive bottled misogyny featuring Vale Bru - a lekker microbrewery with really kiff okes running rampant while calling themselves brewers.
Thandi Guilherme, founder and author of Craft Geek
, weighs in: “If you want to be clever, like Nando’s, you also have to know where the line is. Normally, you can tell by what the big issues of the day are. #Metoo, Rape culture and Trump’s “locker room” misogyny is not funny. These are real problems that society is trying to dealing with. Don’t go there.
I’m someone who appreciates a bit of maverick marketing and even the occasional industry toe-stepping without breaking the whole foot. What I’m not a fan of is a perpetuated spin-off of rape culture, sexism and disregard for other humans – usually women – who don’t just exist for the base pleasures of men. I think everyone regardless of their respective private bits can agree on that.
Enter: Vale – a Gauteng contract brewer*. With their Filthy Brunette, Ripe Redhead, Easy Blonde and Raven Porra, they’ve caused a community froth that can only result from really sour beer. The worst bit is the taglines that come with these poorly named beers. “The best head in town”. “Gushing with moist hops” and of course, “A California Blonde all your friends have had”. It’s like a bunch of 14-year-old boys were tasked with designing a range of beer labels,” says Lucy Corne, craft beer aficionado and author, in her article about sexist beer branding
following this yeasty outbreak.
They’ve single-handedly managed their one-track trip to the bottom of the food chain – their sorry-not-sorry apology was the final de-evolution to dirt worm status. I’m in two craft beer WhatsApp groups with enthusiasts, influencers and gurus across the country and there is unanimous disgust. It’s quite obvious why blood is boiling hot and fingers are typing furiously, but let me unpack it for you:
OK, so the branding on the bottles isn’t plastered with images reminiscent of pin-up girls or dingy dives for people who have lost the will to live. But. For a company “with our community in mind” there should at least be a warning for inappropriate content.
By inappropriate I mean:
- Laced with misogyny
- Borderline xenophobia
This is the branding equivalent of “she was asking for it” or “I know you want it”. Well, I don’t want it and no one asked for it. What we’re asking is for you
to cease and desist.
Bad publicity is not good publicity
For lack of a better expression, there is a virtual shit storm brewing (pun intended) around this brand. A lot of attention has been drawn to this atrocity. Sure, they’re getting publicity but I think it’s more of a public shaming (fingers crossed). The truth is, not all publicity is good publicity.
Illegal is bad
Here are the facts:
- Vale violates Facebook’s “appropriate content” terms
- Vale violates Shutterstock image license terms
- Vale violates CBASA regulations/commercial communication guidelines
- Vale violates ARA regulations
- Vale violates human rights
- Vale violates the craft beer industry’s reputation
Leave the kids out of it
Phillipa Wood, from Darling Brew, commented: “Honestly can’t think of why they think this branding is cool. Do they not have wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends?” Vale has some branded merchandise for sale, which is common practice with breweries BUT using kids to promote your below-the-belt brand is not on. Are we teaching boys so early on that it’s best practice to objectify women and use them any way they want?
In (almost) closing: “Their brand is doing exactly what it’s designed to do, offend. They may be idiots but I don’t think they are surprised by the outrage. You can’t come up with those names and not expect to offend someone, I just don’t think they care… Would be interesting if they created this to cause deliberate k@k, make noise... and then had some super-cool on-point plan backed up that just knocked it out the park... but I think that is too hopeful and giving far too much credit,” notes Karl Tessendorf and Greg Gilowey from Beer Country
Bottom line is, it’s bollocks, and no way to build a brand. I’d love to hear your thoughts – for or against – so comment below (or comment on their page… or report them… or whatever).
PS - to all stockists and restaurants supporting this travesty, you need to have a word with yourself.*The only credit they deserve is the fact that they haven’t dropped the c-bomb in their marketing efforts… yet. (Though they’re probably be calling me that after reading this.)
Given the right to reply, Vale responded as follows:
Our branding was intended to be provocative – to push the envelope to some extent – and until now, we've received an overwhelmingly positive response from both men and women.
Contrary to how the piece portrays us, we are family men. We are all in happy relationships. Some of us have kids. We care about our community. It was our initiative that revived Horwood's Farm in March. The popularity of the Market has rejuvenated the Farm and we hope to do likewise with the nearby Skate Park.
Vale XVIX is a branding company. Beer is merely a sideline of our business. Our T-shirts and caps are our main focus at the moment and they are separate from our beer brand. None of our merchandise refers to Vale Bru or to our beers. The comment by Phillipa from Darling Brew is therefore misplaced.
Yes, our beer branding is edgy. There will always be some who see it as crass. But there are plenty of others you appreciate the playfulness and the sexual innuendo. We have never used any lewd images, nor is our branding derogatory towards women or any other group. We categorically reject the promotion of misogyny, sexism, racism and rape culture. In our view, the article is deliberately sensationalist and inflammatory.
However, we're not turning a blind eye to the criticism. We acknowledge that we erred by assigning a gender to some of our beers in certain Facebook posts and for this, we have already apologised. We’ll re-consider our beer descriptions. But we intend to retain our beer names. An easy blonde can be a man or a woman. So can a filthy brunette.
Thank you to all loyal Vale supporters and customers. To them we say, rest assured, we won’t be deterred from developing our brand and from continuing to make a contribution to the Vale community.
After this article was published, Vale released a new apology on its Facebook page
Also, see my response:*Note that Bizcommunity staff and management do not necessarily share the views of its contributors - the opinions and statements expressed herein are solely those of the author.*