Things that make you wonder. Now, the Great State of Maine has barred the use of Santa Claus on a beer bottle label.
In a complaint filed in federal court, Shelton Brothers accuses the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship for denying applications for labels for Santa's Butt Winter Porter and two other beers it wants to sell in Maine.Belchertown?? No, um, comment. Let's hope the Shelton Brothers can do reindeer. I mean, that's not too far off from a moose. And the Maine BLE may have a point.
The dispute recalls a similar squabble last year when Connecticut told Shelton Brothers it had problems with its Seriously Bad Elf ale.
"Last year it was elves. This year it's Santa. Maybe next year it'll be reindeer," said Daniel Shelton, owner of the company in Belchertown, Mass.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, contends the state's action violates the First Amendment by censoring artistic expression.
But the state says it's within its rights. The label with Santa might appeal to children, said Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming. The other two labels are considered inappropriate because they show bare-breasted women.Right! Why didn't I think of that?! Hell, I've been to Maine. The liquor stores are just crawling with kids looking to buy attractively labeled beer. Of course, since most kids stop believing in Santa Clause well before they discover sex, anyone over eight years-old is probably just out for the beer.
The, ahem, bare-breasted women on the label is true. That would, you know, kind of attract adults. Except that the labels come from French and Belgian breweries. One of the labels is a rendering of Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading The People" which hangs in the Louvre and was once used on the back of France's 100 franc note. The other is done in the same style, in classic form, and is the work of an artist who does classic illustrations for fairy-tale books.
Here's what the State of Maine finds objectionable. The Santa labelling, the bare-breasted woman posing in an artistic masterpiece and the bare-breasted damsel in the Belgian art.
In case you haven't figured this out already, Shelton Brothers is not a brewery. They search the world for some of the finest and unique craft beers and import them to the US. Most of their product is from farm and micro-breweries in Europe. In short, it's expensive and it's for beer afficianados.
The Shelton Brothers have no problem marketing their product in 40 other states, although the State of New York has also raised an issue.
At least there is some reasoning behind the Maine and New York cases, even if it is so badly warped that it can't be recognized. Sober minds will ultimately prevail and with any luck, nothing terribly foolish will happen.