Ralph Steadman Ale Art Banned in North Carolina

Ralph Steadman has been creating label art for Flying Dog craft beers for three decades and has been walking a line as to what is acceptable for public viewing on those labels.

The latest example is the Freezin’ Season Winter Ale label, which North Carolina regulators have deemed inappropriate and rejected. 

From Reason: 

Alcohol regulators in North Carolina have banned Flying Dog brewery from selling one of its beers in the state due to a label that’s been deemed “in bad taste.”

The offending label—like all Flying Dog beers—contains a distinctive cartoon image by illustrator Ralph Steadman, whose work with the Maryland-based brewery dates back to its roots in the gonzo-lands near Aspen, Colorado.

It’s not clear exactly what the state’s regulators object to—though the naked, humanoid figure on the beer’s label does sport a small appendage between its legs. Caruso says he suspects that “tail-like thing” is what triggered the ban. 

This is not the first time Flying Dog and Ralph Steadman labels have met resistance.

From an Associated Press story:

In 2018, a trade organization in the United Kingdom released a report saying that Flying Dog’s Easy IPA could encourage excessive drinking and asked stores not to carry it, The Baltimore Sun reported. At issue was artwork on the can which showed an upright pig-like character with one foot on the ground and the other in the air, while the pig’s arms are outstretched to the sides.

The Portman Group said the illustration “looked akin to someone balancing along a line to demonstrate sobriety,” which it said could be seen as encouraging drunkenness, the newspaper reported.


A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Flying Dog 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.



A related story…

Cartoons are Becoming the Beer Industry’s Best New Sales Tool

Creating cartoons for beer brands is a time-tested ad tactic. In the 1950s, Piels Beer ran a popular ad campaign starring the animated antics of fictitious owners Bert and Harry Piel. That same decade, Hamm’s Beer of Minnesota advertised its lagers with a cartoon bear. Now, to recruit younger drinkers accustomed to superheroes and supervillains flying across screens big and small, breweries are channeling the Marvel universe and bringing comics-style worldbuilding to beer labels. 

A vibrant cartoon approach can boost sales.

SevenFifty Daily profiled seven breweries that successfully
celebrate comics and superheroes on their beer labels.

One thought on “Ralph Steadman Ale Art Banned in North Carolina

  1. It’s interesting to see the convoluted reasoning these guys summon up because they don’t seem to like Steadman’s art, period.

    Oh, and Harry and Bert Piel were animated, yes, but I think the voice work by Bob and Ray may have had a lot more to do with their success.

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