Remember the saga of Top Totty? MPs and other Westminster Village notables lined up to find adversely on the presence of the blonde beer from Stafford microbrewery Slater’s back in February this year. Labour equalities spokesperson Kate Green made the initial complaint, but Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow and Tory Louise Mensch also weighed in. Both offending pump clip and brew were duly removed.
Top Totty had featured as a guest beer in the Strangers’ Bar on and off since 2007, and thus the first part of the dilemma: that guest spot helps new players in the brewing industry to get publicity – and hopefully orders – for their products. And even adverse publicity can be good: after the Commons ruckus, Slater’s sold out of Top Totty within hours. The MPs’ intervention turned out to be a Godsend.
That said, the Top Totty saga has set a precedent of not allowing beer brands whose names may be deemed to cause offence. And that puts several other brews, or brewers, potentially in the firing line. Not least of these is Robinson’s, the old established and independent brewery in Stockport, who have also been getting on the blonde beer bandwagon.
And Robinson’s offering, Dizzy Blonde, can be found with a generic pump clip similar to their other beers, but more usually has the design seen here, which features a young woman wearing perhaps more than on the Slater’s Top Totty design, but not much, although there are no 70s Playboy bunny ears on view. Would Kate, Louise and Sally be happy with this one?
If Dizzy Blonde crosses the line, then what about brews whose names have what aficionados of Viz magazine might call the Fnarr Factor? Do Parliamentarians approve of brews that may induce nudge-nudgery among the clientele? For instance, how about the only beer that may be called a Kentish Strong Ale, Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger (also available in bottled form)?
And just how far does the ban over supposedly demeaning terminology go? For instance, is it allowed within the Palace of Westminster to refer to a woman as a “chick”? And if it isn’t, then how will the grammar police explain themselves to yet another up-and-coming microbrewery, Offbeat, just another 25 miles up the M6 from Slater’s at Crewe?
Offbeat is run by Michelle Kelsall, who gives her beers the kind of product differentiation that comes from operating in a male-dominated world, calling them “Great Beer Brewed By A Chick” (the pump clip designs all have a cartoon “chick” at one corner). The problem is, once you get judgmental, you end up having to keep on being judgmental.
What say Kate Green, Sally Bercow and Louise Mensch now? No pressure, folks.