I love The Christmas season; don't get me wrong. But I swear, every year it seems to get weirder and weirder. Take, for instance, the strange and terrible saga of Santa's Butt.
It seems that the Shelton Brothers Brewery, located appropriately enough in Belchertown, Massachusetts, distributes an English-made brew called "Santa's Butt Winter Porter." The company swears that the name does not refer to anything naughty. "It was inspired," Shelton Brothers insists on the company Web site, "by this famous line from a well-loved children's story book: 'And Santa sat on his great butt, drinking a hearty brew.'"
A "butt," they hasten to add, is a type of whomping-huge beer keg holding 108 gallons, upon which, one presumes, Santa could take his ease while enjoying a well-earned cold one after a long day in the workshop.
This label ran afoul of the Grinches at the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, who banned Santa's Butt from the shelves of the Pine Tree State (seriously, that's what they call themselves). The label might cause the beer to appeal to children, a spokesman for the Maine State Police stated.
Yep, nothing gives a drink kid appeal like the exaggerated, bloated rump of a morbidly obese 800-year-old-guy.
Two other beers, a French ale called Les Sans Culottes ("Those Without Pants"), and a Belgian beer called Rose de Gambrinus ("I Have No Idea What This Means And I Am Too Lazy To Look It Up") were banned because their labels featured bare-breasted women.
"Basically, the standard we use is what are people going to see walking up and down a store aisle," the MBLE spokesman explained.
Frankly, I think we could stand to see more bare-breasted women on labels as we walk up and down the store aisles. It'd make things way more festive, so long as it was done, you know, tastefully. Nothing, say, larger than a DD cup. And let's get real, it'd just be the next logical extension of the basic marketing philosophy behind most beer advertising, which is that "if you drink lots of our beer, women with large breasts will want to have sex with you." But I digress.
It's not the first time that Shelton Brothers labels have caused controversy. Their Seriously Bad Elf beer (not to be confused with their Bad Elf beer) was banned in Connecticut. Not because of being risqué, mind you, but because the label (an evilly grinning elf firing Christmas ornaments at Santa's sleigh with a slingshot) might, again, "appeal to children" due to the presence of St. Nick on the label.
I have to ask here: So it "appeals to children." So what? They're not going to be able to buy the stuff.
I have trouble believing that a 5-year-old is going to see a six-pack of Seriously Bad Elf on the shelf , think "Look! Santa! I have to drink that stuff right now!" -- then take it off the top shelf, toddle to the counter, plonk down a sawbuck, and be found passed out in the gutter three hours later. I guess that's the kind of lack of imagination that explains why I'm not on the Massachusetts Liquor Control Board.
Well, you'll be happy to know that the freedom-loving brewers of Belchertown are not taking this blow to our civil liberties lying down.
With the help of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, they've filed a lawsuit in federal court against the MBLE, claiming that their rights under the First Amendment have been violated by not being able to sell Santa's Butt or their other beers with the nekkid ladies on the label in Maine.
"The illustrations on these labels are artistic, and art is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment," said Zachary Heiden, a staff lawyer with the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
Doggone right. If Santa's Butt is suppressed, if the good people of the state of Maine are not free to quaff fruity European beers with partially nude women on the labels -- well, by golly, we just might as well start learning to speak Arabic and eat humus or loofah or whatever it is they eat over there. After all, aren't beer and half-naked ladies two of the very freedoms the Islamofascists hate us for?
The Shelton Brothers may win, or they may lose. But there's one thing I know for sure: I seriously want to party with those guys.
God Bless Santa's Butt, God Bless America, and God bless us, every one!