Flying Dog sues Michigan Liquor Commission over censorship of first amendment rights

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(Frederick, MD) – The Kalamabrew blog broke the news today that Flying Dog Brewery is suing the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Over what?

The brewery’s Raging Bitch beer.


Both Michigan and New Hampshire outlawed the beer from sale in their respective states because of the branding back when Flying Dog first applied for licensing.

Per Kalamabrew:

In a complaint filed Friday, the brewery asks a federal judge to issue an injunction overriding the board’s decision and allow it to advertise and sell the beer here.

The commission, which regulates alcohol sales and advertising, deemed language on the bottle to be “detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public,” according to the lawsuit, which also names five commissioners as defendants.

This isn’t just a symbolic move for Flying Dog though. Raging Bitch has quickly taken over as the brewery’s top-selling brand after its introduction as the 20th anniversary beer in late 2009/early 2010.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Despite Raging Bitch’s financial success, which helped lift Flying Dog to 40% growth last year, the brewery’s media campaign is focusing around the idea of “free choice.” Per the brewery blog:

When informed of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s apparent distaste for his art, Steadman said, “Freedom of speech and artistic expression is as fundamental to our being as the alphabet itself. I thought censorship went out with D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ about 50 years ago! So if you are feeling a strong itch to drink Raging Bitch, just do it and get on with life.”

Alan Gottlieb, president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, said that his organization “has joined this important legal case because the issues raised have a profound impact on the right to freely engage in the marketplace.”

It will be interesting to see if the case has any impact on the other brands that Flying Dog has successfully put on shelves in Michigan.

As for New Hampshire, perhaps this is a sign of things to come. The brewery wrote one year ago:

It is an outrage that one person can arbitrarily over-rule the rights of wholesalers, retailers, and beer lovers throughout an entire state. We are proud to have Chad in the People’s Republic of Flying Dog and wholeheartedly support his quest for the Bitch.

Mr. Edwards [NH Chief of Liquor Enforcement], if you’re reading this, our CEO Jim Caruso has called you a few times to discuss this with you. He would very much appreciate a call back.

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7 thoughts on “Flying Dog sues Michigan Liquor Commission over censorship of first amendment rights

  1. Flying Dog should get Dogfish Head involved. Their Bitches Brew is unavailable in Michigan for the same reason. Of course, there are any number of Bastard beers as well as Bad Ass beer.

  2. This looks to me like a mix of cynophobia and misogyny. If it were called “Raging Bull” no one would complain about it.

  3. what do they want them to do? change it to
    Ragin female Dog? if you are old enough to drink beer. you are old enough to handle the label.
    I’m more offended by the amount of shelf space
    Bud takes up. lets put a limit on that.

  4. Pingback: Smashbombed and Raging Bitches

  5. Pingback: Michigan in hot water with another craft brewery: Bell’s | Beernews.org

  6. Pingback: Flying Dog rep alleges MillerCoors is guilty of DC bar tap line payola | Beernews.org

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