'Problematic' slogan pulled by Moosehead Breweries after complaints

Moosehead Breweries says the company will be removing the phrase "asking forgiveness, not permission, since 1937" from its branding for Alpine Lager in response to complaints.

Brewery says it will no longer use the phrase 'asking forgiveness, not permission, since 1937'

Moosehead Breweries says promotional material for its Alpine lager will no longer bear the slogan 'asking forgiveness, not permission, since 1937,' after a banner at a Charlottetown restaurant sparked a petition. (Submitted by Bryan Carver)

Moosehead Breweries says it will remove the slogan "asking forgiveness, not permission, since 1937" from its Alpine Lager after a petition which called the language "problematic."

The petition started after a banner — with the Alpine logo and the phrase — was hung at Hunter's Ale House in Charlottetown, and photos began circulating on social media.

According to a post on the company's website, which has since been taken down, Alpine was first brewed in 1937 when P.W. Oland defied his father by brewing the lager without his permission.

Jesse Hitchcock, who started the petition, said the slogan makes light of the issue of consent. 

She said promoting "permission" is something the alcohol industry should encourage, not subvert with innuendo.

Jesse Hitchcock started the petition Thursday morning after several friends sent her photos of the banners at Hunter's Ale House. (Submitted by Jesse Hitchcock)

In a statement to CBC News, Moosehead's director of marketing Karen Cousins said the banners are several years old and no longer supposed to be used.

The statement says the line was intended to refer to taking risks in order to succeed in business but that the Saint John-based company recognizes it could imply an entirely different and problematic meaning.

"Based on the clear feedback that we have received from our fans and customers today, I can confirm that Alpine will no longer be using this line (with or without the broader context)," Cousins wrote.

"We're working immediately to remove it from anywhere that it's in use."  

Jeff Sinnott, operations manager for Red Island Hospitality Group, which owns Hunter's, says he didn't see the banners until he got to the restaurant Thursday morning. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Put up by mistake

Jeff Sinnott, operations manager for Red Island Hospitality Group — which owns Hunter's Ale House — said the banners were put up on Wednesday night by Moosehead employees who were setting up for a sponsored event for the East Coast Music Awards.

He said he didn't see the banners until he got to the restaurant the next morning.

At that time, he had a number of phone messages complaining about them. He said he took them down right away.

"As soon as I realized what it said, I took it down," Sinnott said.

He said the restaurant should have checked the signs before allowing Moosehead staff to put them up.

The restaurant also issued an apology on social media, stating the message "certainly doesn't reflect our position on consent."

"We apologize for not recognizing its inappropriateness."

Hitchcock — along with several others on social media — are applauding Hunter's for responding so quickly.

"I commend Hunter's for being so responsive, but at the same time I really hope that this makes them sort of, double check when businesses … are going to be putting up promotional products," Hitchcock said.

She's also "thrilled" with Moosehead's response.  

"In a way, that kind of acknowledges that this wasn't their intention, obviously with the messaging but that they do see how in the context of today's society it's not really an appropriate way to frame anything, but especially nothing in the alcohol industry," she said.

Moosehead says the line was intended to refer to taking risks to succeed in business, but it understands how it can imply a different and problematic message. (CBC)

Amy Carver, an active member of the beer community on P.E.I., said she signed the petition right away.

She said the Alpine messaging is an example of an industry-wide problem. She said the fact that these words made it into a restaurant patio shows the brewing industry still has a lot to learn.

"I find it unbelievable at this day and age that this can get through a market team, board rooms, design consultants and and all the way to a patio here on P.E.I. without anybody stopping to say, 'Wait a second, this isn't right,'" Carver said.


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