State says no to beer label with pint-wielding Santa Claus

The Associated Press

Trouble is brewing in Maine over a banned beer label featuring – wait for it – Santa's butt.

The label for the English-made Santa's Butt Winter Porter features a rear view of a beer-drinking Santa Claus sitting atop a barrel. The beer's name refers not only to Santa's ample backside, but also to the barrel. In England, brewers once used a large barrel called a "butt" to store beer.

In a complaint filed in federal court, the brewer, Shelton Brothers accuses the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship for denying applications for labels for the porter and two other beers it wants to sell in Maine.

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 last Thursday by the Maine branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, contends the state's action violates the First Amendment by censoring artistic expression.

"There is no good reason for the state to censor art, even art found on a beer label," said staff lawyer Zachary Heiden.

Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming defended the decision, saying the label with Santa might appeal to children. The other two labels are considered inappropriate because they show bare-breasted women.