Home > International Report > The Americas > Selling beer with a cause

The Americas

Graffiti be the change (Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash)
02 June 2021

Selling beer with a cause

USA | Is this just an American thing or will it catch on in Europe too? US craft brewers have long used their beers as a soapbox. From Lagunitas’ Undercover Shut-Down Ale, a jab at a 2005 St Patrick’s Day police raid on their brewery, to the many anti-Trump beers, craft brewers have found that embracing a cause can help sell a product.

Recently, Beale’s brewery from Bedford, Virginia, released a beer called “Your Manager Is a Bitch” (sic). This was in response to verbal abuse from one of Beale’s customers who objected to having to wear a mask on its premises. The brewery decided to tell the story on the can and print the email with the insult verbatim.

Some of the causes promoted by brewers are more consensual than others. Supporting a local animal shelter by launching a beer is certainly less controversial with consumers than a beer that takes a swipe against an American president.

Craft brewers embrace cause marketing

In the US, a piece in Forbes (March 2021) said, the craft brewing industry has long served as a sounding board for causes advocated by its consumers. Many established and up-and-coming breweries have created beers to help spread particular messages and serve as fundraisers. That trend accelerated over the last several years as social causes have come to the forefront.

There have been beers brewed in support of planned parenthood, mental health, the elderly, the victims of wildfires, etc. “Nowhere is a beer label’s power to make a statement more evident than the massive Black Is Beautiful movement that swept across the country and globe last year,” Forbes said.

However, right-on cause marketing, as it is called, can also go horribly wrong. Remember BrewDog’s Pink IPA from 2018, which was meant to address the gender pay gap? It came at a 20 percent discounted price for anyone who identified as female, due to the fact that women do not get paid as much as men. The campaign was slammed by every gender in its over-simplistic and just generally insensitive handling of a serious issue.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that beer is a beverage that should be enjoyed for its inherent qualities, not for its politics.