(WGHP) — A North Carolina judge has ruled in favor of a Maryland-based brewery in a case over a beer label.
On May 13, U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle ruled in favor of Flying Dog Brewery. The craft brewery had filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, calling its regulation allowing the ban of labels commissioners feel are “undignified, immodest or in bad taste” a violation of the First Amendment.
This lawsuit came about in the summer of 2021 when the NC ABC tried to reject a beer label for Flying Dog’s Freezin’ Season Winter Ale, which can be seen in the slideshow below.
The label, illustrated by artist Ralph Steadman, depicts a naked cartoon character standing by a fire. This was rejected by the Commission and denied by the NC ABC because they thought it was in “bad taste.” The agency later allowed the beer to be sold.
The image below may be disturbing to some viewers, discretion is advised.
Image courtesy Flying Dog Brewery
In a news release, the company stated they believed that this was not only a case of “appointed bureaucrats trying to impose their views and preferences on others,” but the regulation was unconstitutional in general.
Boyle ruled in favor of the craft brewery, finding that the regulation was vague and overbroad, violating the free speech rights of Flying Dog and its competitors. The ruling forces North Carolina to remove the current regulation so they are unable to reenact a similar directive again.
“The First Amendment is the last defense against authoritarian and arbitrary government, and it must be protected against any and all threats,” said Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog Brewery. “With the First Amendment seemingly under attack from all sides, it is heartening to see court decisions like this that protect the freedoms that it embodies.”
“The NC ABC Commission respects Judge Boyle’s decision and appreciates his time and consideration in hearing this case,” commission spokesperson Jeff Strickland said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday. “NC ABC Commission staff are reviewing the decision to determine the appropriate next steps.”
Flying Dog is no stranger to lawsuits about their beer labels, having won similar lawsuits in Michigan and Colorado as well.
A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the brewery in 2015 regarding a ban of the sale of its Raging Bitch beer in the state of Michigan, news outlets reported. The dispute began in 2009 when a board determined the label to be “detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public.” The label featured a drawing of a female dog with accentuated features, bared teeth and a tongue covered in blood.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.