EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Label keeps beer off N.H. shelves

Local bar leads petition drive in protest

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — Prohibition is back in New Hampshire — at least for one bottled beer.

Bottles of Breakfast Stout, a seasonal beer made by Founders Brewing of Michigan, can't be sold in New Hampshire because of its label.

“The commission did not approve the bottle because it violates the advertising law,” said James Barbuti, an examiner for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

The label shows a child eating oatmeal. Although it doesn’t show a child drinking alcohol, this is still illegal under the state’s Alcoholic Enforcement Law, RSA 179:31.

“Advertising of liquor or beverages shall not contain: any reference to minors, pictorial or otherwise,” the statute reads.

Barbuti said the bottle was not approved when it appeared before the commission last year.

Founders Brewing co-founder Dave Engbers didn't criticize the commission's decision.

“We are aware of the New Hampshire ruling on Breakfast Stout and we respect the liquor commission’s perspective on our artwork,” Engbers said. “We have a number of award-winning beers for New Hampshire to choose from, and we’re excited to share the Founders experience with them.”

But others aren't as understanding.

Andrew Day, the owner of Cask and Vine in Derry, is holding an event tonight to protest the decision.

“It’s absurd,” Day said. “There is no reference to the child drinking. It’s something cute.”

Day can’t sell the beer by the bottle, but he can — and does — have it on tap at his restaurant.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “They allow us to sell (Founders’) Devil Dancer, which shows a naked woman being held up by the devil. There are so many more questionably offensive things that they have let pass through.”

Barbuti said he didn't know how many beers had been denied approval due to labeling, but he did say it's a rare occurrence.

The beer is on the shelf in Massachusetts, Day said.

“This is supposed to be the Live Free or Die state,” Day said. “But our liquor laws are archaic compared to other states. It deters so many breweries from bottling in New Hampshire.”

In Massachusetts, the law does not specifically mention the use of minors on beer labels.

Section 204-2.03 of the Massachusetts Alcohol Regulations states, "The use of any advertising matter of an improper or objectionable nature is prohibited."

At the event tonight, Day will have the beer on tap and a petition which will be sent up to the state.

“We’d like to see it resubmitted to the commission and authorized,” he said. “We’re famous for our taxes, but it takes an act of God to get anything accomplished when it comes to alcohol.”