Edinburgh craft beer company Brewdog has released a new beer called ‘No Label’ intended to spotlight transgender issues and raise money for youth charities. But critics have accused the company of appropriating the movement for marketing purposes.
Created in conjunction with LGBTQI+ organisation, Queerest of the Queer, the beer is made from hops that have changed from female to male, normally excluded from the brewing process. As a Kölsch, it is brewed with ale yeast but cold-conditioned as a lager, which, according to BrewDog’s website, “blurs boundaries between the binary worlds of lager and ale”.
The company has said that departing from conventional brewing processes may lead some to question the beer’s legitimacy, but has asserted that focussing on freedom and diversity shows that “just like humans, beer can be whatever the hell it wants to be, and proud of it”.
According to Brewdog, all profits made from the beer, available from the brewery’s premises on Cowgate, will be donated to Queerest of the Queer.
But the company has come under fire from members of the LGBT community and beyond. Jessica Lachenal, on themarysue.com, wrote “one marginalized group’s identity is being appropriated in order to sell a beer”, going on to state “they’ve shown that they still have a massive gap in understanding, coming up short with this attempt at fostering inclusivity”.
A spokesperson for LGBT charity, Stonewall, told The Independent that, while the organisation likes the concept, “the trans community is diverse – many trans people do not transition, or identify with binary genders, and BrewDog’s language undermines that”.
Many have also taken to Twitter; one user, @ok_macdonald, tweeted “oh god they’re so clueless”, while another, @Lavenderoilblue, said “yuk no thanks #PoorTaste”.
Brewdog’s CEO, James Watt, responded by urging critics to consider how ‘No Label’ was developed.
He told Business Insider: “we’ve worked with the charity Queerest of the Queer to put this together. They co-designed the packaging, they worked with us on the project”, adding that “it was important to do this one with someone who was active in that community and it was also important to give the profits of the beer to the community”.
This controversy comes just months after many condemned Brewdog for the release of a ‘transphobic’ fundraising advert. The commercial, titled ‘Don’t Make Us Do This’, displayed actors dressed as homeless people begging for money, as well as wearing women’s underwear as workers within the sex industry.
In response, The Care2 campaign called for an apology and for the video to be pulled, saying that that it was “clearly mocking marginalised groups of people”.
Brewdog responded, telling The Drum that the commercial was made “in the spirit of fun”, and stating “we have a history of supporting and championing the LGBT community, and will continue doing so”.
Image: Bernt Rostad