Let’s not nanny British adults by censoring cartoons on beers

Index on Censorship is standing with our free speech friends at Flying Dog Brewery who’ve just been told by a UK drinks marketing body they should stop selling one of the beers because the artwork — by award-winning artist Ralph Steadman — might encourage “immoderate” drinking.

Flying Dog was told that the Portman Group deemed the artwork for its Easy IPA Session India Pale Ale could spur people to drink irresponsibly.

We think this is nonsense and are pleased Flying Dog plans to ignore this ruling.

The press release sent by Flying Dog Brewery is below.


Flying Dog Brewery Will Not Comply with Regulatory Group’s Ruling on Easy IPA


FREDERICK, Maryland – Flying Dog Brewery has been defending free speech and creative expression in the United States for more than 25 years. Now, it’s taking a stand in the United Kingdom.  

In May 2018, the Portman Group, a third-party organization that evaluates alcohol-related marketing, allegedly received a single complaint from a person who thought that Flying Dog’s Easy IPA Session India Pale Ale could be mistaken for a soft drink.

After months of deliberation, the Portman Group issued a final ruling, claiming that the packaging artwork “…directly or indirectly encourages illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as binge drinking, drunkenness or drunk-driving.” It will be issuing a Retailer Alert Bulletin on 15 October, which will ask retailers not to place orders for the beer.

Notwithstanding the Portman Group’s ruling, Flying Dog has decided to continue to distribute Easy IPA in the United Kingdom.

“Not surprisingly, the alleged complaint – by a sole individual – that a product labeled ‘Easy IPA Session India Pale Ale’ might be mistaken for a soft drink was, we believe, correctly dismissed by the Portman Group,” Jim Caruso, Flying Dog CEO and cofounder of the nonprofit 1st Amendment Society, said. “That should have been the end of it. However, the Portman Group then went on to ban the creative and carefree Easy IPA label art by the internationally-renowned UK artist Ralph Steadman.”

Steadman has illustrated all of Flying Dog’s labels since 1995. In the ruling, the Portman Group claims that the artwork of this low-ABV beer “could be seen as encouraging drunkenness.”

“Without question, over-consumption, binge drinking and drunk-driving are serious health and public safety issues, and Flying Dog has always advocated for moderation and responsible social drinking,” Caruso said. “At the same time, there is no evidence to suggest that the whimsical Ralph Steadman art on the Easy IPA label causes any of those problems. We believe that British adults can think for themselves and Flying Dog, an independent U.S. craft brewer, will not honor the Portman Group’s request to discontinue shipping Easy IPA to the UK.”

The Portman Group is an organization whose signatories include Heineken, Guinness, Bacardi, Molson, Carlsberg and InBev (among others).

As James Clay, Flying Dog’s importer and UK wholesaler, are not signatories of the Portman Group, the beer will remain available in the UK market for customers to purchase as they choose.

“This is about good beer and a relatively small, artisanal U.S. craft brewery standing up against a consortium of some of the largest drinks producers in the UK,” Caruso said.

Also in support of Flying Dog is Index on Censorship, a UK-based freedom of expression organization that campaigns against censorship worldwide and runs the annual Freedom of Expression Awards. It publishes work by censored writers and artists in an award-winning quarterly magazine. Ralph Steadman illustrated the cover of its 2000 magazine “The Last Laugh.”

“Flying Dog has been a supporter of Index on Censorship for several years and we’re pleased they’re standing up to this ridiculous decision,” Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said. “The idea that, based on looking at this cartoon, people might go out and drink themselves stupid is laughable. We need to treat adults like the grown-ups they are.”

About Flying Dog Brewery:

As one of the fastest-growing regional craft breweries in the United States, Flying Dog has been brewing world-class beer that pushes the confines of traditional styles for almost 25 years. Flying Dog attracts everyone from craft beer connoisseurs to those just catching the wave with up to 20 styles available at any given time. Introduced to Flying Dog by the Gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson, artist Ralph Steadman has produced original art for Flying Dog’s labels since 1995. Named the Mid-Size Craft Brewery of the Year at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (the highest honor for its size in the United States), recent accolades for Flying Dog include its Pale Ale ranked as the #1 American Pale Ale in the U.S. by The New York Times. For more information, visit www.flyingdogbrewery.com.


For Flying Dog Brewery
Jim Caruso
CEO and General Partner
+1 303 475 4321
[email protected]  

For Ralph Steadman
Sadie Williams
+44 (0)7701 017469
[email protected]

For James Clay
Mike Watson
Head of Marketing
+44 (0)7739 023152
[email protected]

For Index on Censorship
Jodie Ginsberg
+44 (0)207 963 7260
[email protected]

#FreeToAir: Index’s autumn magazine launch hails the rebirth of radio

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Despite predictions of its death, the retro medium of radio is back. From community-based stations like London’s RTS Radio, which encourages voices not heard on mainstream stations, to the renaissance of the podcast, on-the-air and online streaming options are experiencing a surge in popularity.

Hosted by Index on Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley, the panel exploring radio’s present and future included Jamie Angus, deputy director of the BBC World Service Group, broadcaster and DJ Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura from NTS Live, and broadcaster and writer Mark Frary, who also ran a short DIY podcasting workshop before the discussion.

The discussion from our panellists was wide-ranging – from the challenges of reporting in war zones to emerging DJ’s creating new sounds from their bedrooms, from terror organisations using radio as propaganda to young people rejecting social media for podcasts.

The event, which was aired by Resonance FM, was held to launch the autumn 2017 magazine with its special report Free to Air: Why the Rebirth of Radio is Delivering More News at the iconic Tea Building in Shoreditch, home to digital product studio Ustwo. Drinks were provided by Flying Dog Brewery, our freedom of expression chums and sponsors.

Special thanks to SAGE Publishing, Index on Censorship magazine’s publisher and sponsor.

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