Saturday, December 16, 2006

Santa's Butt Is Comin' To Court

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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.

So there's nothing suggestive at all, according to the brewers. This might be a lot more convincing, however, if the label didn't feature a colorful cartoon Santa facing away from the viewer, with his enormous red-clad posterior dominating the frame.

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!


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I and my fellow Mainers thank gawd the MBLE is out there protecting us and our children from beer bottle illustrations. None of us know what the hell "porter" is anyway. Only pansies and rich flatlanders drink that microbrew stuff.

Toni McGee Causey said...

Well, whatever the outcome, they know how to create a fuss, which means... hey, we've heard of them. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they hadn't factored in the cost of the lawsuit as part of their manufacturing cost. I can see the meeting, "Hey guys, we don't need no stinking ad agency! Let's put Santa on there. Worked last time!"

"Oh, and nekkid ladies!"

"Woo! We just saved a million on TV ads. Quick. Somebody think of something racy for next year."

"Nekkid elves?"


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

"Nekkid elves?"


Depends on the nekkid elf. Liv Tyler as Arwen? I'd buy a whole case of that. Will Ferrell as Santa's biggest elf? I'd lead the protest march.

cognitorex said...

Anorexic Teets & Checkout Lanes
Or you can go to the checkout lane of the grocery store where the mags flash humammous teets bursting wee garments, whilst sireen calling "anorexics despair" and the lead article is "10 Ways to Make Him Cum in Technicolor."

JD Rhoades said...

cog: Where are you shopping these days? Cause I am so there.

Cornelia Read said...

So now people can get Maine-ish bumper stickers that say "DRINK SANTA'S BUTT" to go along with those white-text-on-green "EAT BERTHA'S MUSSELS" ones? I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of the one my brother brought me back from North Carolina, "BAMBI MAKES CUTE SANDWICHES." I mean, is that supposed to imply that venison is yummy on rye toast, or that there's some chick named Bambi in NC who's got a winsome way with mayo?

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

The most popular bumper stickers in my part of Maine are...

"Eatin' Ain't Cheatin'"
"Save a Tree, Eat a Beaver"
"Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student"
"My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Roll Student"

...along with various stickers in opposition of gay rights (because we're all about morality and family values).

Cornelia Read said...

I think my fave bumper sticker ever was the one Mom used to have on her camper--"Possum. The Other Other White Meat."

Mark Terry said...

Actually, my most favorite bumper sticker to date says:


Anyway, let's not forget that state liquor control boards have a big problem, and that problem is that although they are required to encourage you to drink respid .... respond ... dresponsibily, ahem... responsibly, each individual state gets a certain amount of money on their booze tax. And, to further their own internal conflict of interest, the higher the alcohol content and er, quality of liquor, the higher the tax.

So most states really want to say something like:

Drink Responsibly: Buy the Highest Priced Liquor You Possibly Can.

Mark Terry

Cornelia Read said...


There. I said it.