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How to balls-up a brand with blatant misogyny (Updated)

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.

Yeasty outbreak

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:

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Leg-spreading labels

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:
  • Sexist/sex-shaming
  • Laced with misogyny
  • Racist
  • Borderline xenophobia 
  • Vulgar

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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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).

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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:

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Also, see my response:

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*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.*
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About Shae Leigh

Communications Champion/Digital Content Specialist at Red & Yellow Creative School of Business.
Well said, Shae! And just a further point to note... they are not even contract brewers, they just buy beer and put other labels on it. The fact that they did not even know the proper name for an IPA is indicative of their lack of beer knowledge. Boys playing in an industry they don't understand. They should stick to T-shirts and Caps. They would probably need to google to know what the 4 basic ingredients of beer are. I doubt they have brewed a beer in their lives, or designed a recipe!Also, their lack of comment/distance to the lewd, crude and disgusting comments by some of their supporters just reiterates their lack of moral compass.
Posted on 6 Jun 2018 13:43
Shae Leigh
Thanks so much for this. Just goes to show, brands have to be authentic and part of that includes their knowledge about the product they're putting out there.
Posted on 6 Jun 2018 16:18
Is anyone buying it after the initial curiosity/shock? They will soon go out of business or change their labelling entirely.,
Posted on 6 Jun 2018 20:56
Gurgaon Guesthouse
Hi very nice
Posted on 7 Jun 2018 11:43
Mandla Zibi
Can't help but wonder how many of the "outraged" really feel about one punani-grabbing Donald J Trump, our current "most powerful man on the planet" whose presence in die Withuis is due in no small measure to the legions of adoring ladies. Oh. Sorry, that has nothing to do with this right?
Posted on 7 Jun 2018 12:14
But we are outraged - difference is we can make a change here, in SA, on our doorstep. Let's start there. Let's stand up and not accept this here.
Posted on 7 Jun 2018 13:17
Oh, STFU you self-righteous ilk of the professionally-offended class. It's your deluded radical faux outrage that gets idiots like Trump elected, because people are tired of this politically-correct B.S. People are tired of having to watch every pronoun they use because some idiot, somewhere, finds it offensive.Only those in the most privileged societies in the world can complain about their lack of privilege and how the whole damned world is out to get them. Meanwhile, elsewhere, people are actually working to feed themselves instead of obsessing over what slight may have hurt them in their hurty place.Two years ago, Vale Bru wasn't a thing to the commonfolk. Now you are discussing it on a national website, and making everyone all the more aware of it. Thanks to you, I will make sure to buy a case of the stuff to support those who aren't to afraid to actually have some balls, while you natter about in the corner about a balls-up (wait, did you just use a part of the male anatomy to describe a disaster--oooh, I'm so offended).While you're at it, look up the word misogyny--it may not mean what you think it means.
Posted on 7 Jun 2018 14:05