North Shore Brewer Responds To Controversy Over “Sexist” & “Racist” Labels

BOSTON/IPSWICH (CBS) – An up-and-coming local craft beer maker is laughing off accusations that its labels are sexist, racist, and downright offensive.

The company is called Clown Shoes, so as you’d expect, they try not to take themselves too seriously.

The North Shore company’s founder, Gregg Berman, says that easy-going philosophy can best be seen in the names the brewer chooses for its products.

“We try and find something that is entertaining and humorous,” Berman says. “A little edgy and provocative, but we’re really not looking to go extreme or insulting or offensive. We’re looking to engage people with our sense of humor.”

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.

Some of Clown Shoes’ names and labels are certainly provocative: “Tramp Stamp”, “Brown Angel”, and “Lubrication” (and the artwork that accompanies them) are meant to catch the eye and entice a shopper to buy.

But, those names and pictures are getting the company some unwelcome attention.

This week, someone at the influential Cambridge-based took offense. The debate is brewing around a post on the Beer Advocate website by Candice Alström, the site’s Director of Events and Promotions.

It read, “I took a lot of crap from people because I felt like the (brewer’s first) label was tacky and borderline sexist or racist.” It goes on to chastise the company over a number of “classless” labels that followed, saying if the beer was good, the company shouldn’t need to resort to gimmicks to sell it.

That kicked off a furious debate with hundreds of postings, until the site shut it down. That debate continued on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites frequented by beer aficionados.

“It keeps reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously and have humility and continue to have respect for our craft,” Berman said. “Honestly, our branding is silly. It’s meant to be fun and engaging but it’s silly.”

The woman who designed the label, Stacey George, says there’s absolutely nothing sexist about the images she created. She responded on her blog by acknowledging that some people were going to be offended, but pointing out that the urban dictionary defines clown shoes as “something that is ridiculous in its appearance or existence.”

Matt Gamble, the company’s Director of Operations, says he understands the labels get all the attention, but he’d rather Clown Shoes just be known for putting out a good product.

“The first impression you get is this is great beer, and then the labels are secondary. They’re meant as lighthearted jokes about society or the industry,” said Gamble.

No one at would go on camera to talk about this story. An initial e-mail from the site’s founder suggested that the controversy stemmed from genuine consumer-based displeasure with the labels and names. But, when it was pointed out that the anti-Clown Shoes posting was in fact written by the site’s Director of Events and Promotions (and wife of one of the founders), Founder Todd Alström responded “The only official BeerAdvocate posts on our website come from my brother and I. Anything else is simply … not from us.”

Clown Shoes also responded to the firestorm of sorts that Alstrom created; offering an over-the-top tongue-and-cheek response on its Facebook page. It reads in part:

Dear Beer Consumers,

We would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of you.

We are sorry for forcing everyone to have to endure the huge amounts of physical and psychological trauma we have caused by putting pictures of robots and cartoon women on our beer labels. God forbid you manage to actually open the bottle after seeing the horribly offensive labels because, as we all know, beers with an average rating of B+ are not even that good and shouldn’t be drank by anyone…

…-Tramp Stamp will be renamed “Lower Back Tattoo” to avoid any conflicts with the NAWWRGTS (National Association of Women Who Regret Getting Tramp Stamps)

-Lubrication will be renamed “Slippery Petroleum Byproduct” so that no one will ever think of a dong when they see it

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.

More from Jim Armstrong
  • Shawn

    Seriously? With all the problems going on in the world people are going to complain about the label of a beer? If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. Pretty simple. People need to get lives. By the way, tried this beer last summer in Haverhill. Not bad.

  • Kevin

    Candice has run her mouth and bossed her way around that site for years because she is married to Todd (one of the brothers who started the site) and now this has been widely picked up and everyone can see it. Usually when she does things like this, they are mysteriously deleted from the forums but not this time. Candice has always made a habit out of fluffing her friend’s bars and restaurants on that site (or pounced like a lion on anyone who would dare say a negative thing about them) and has gotten away with it due to her position as a forum moderator/husband of Todd/Director of Events and Promotion title at Beeradvocate. I am glad this story was picked up and now she can see how the things she says impact the image of BeerAdvocate. Good for Clown Shoes for taking this in stride and realizing that while some may be legitimately offended (lets face it, everything will offend at least a small group of people), overall us beer drinkers support what they are doing and look forward to more creative labels and most importantly…more great beer from a great new brewery. Keep up the good work Clown Shoes!

  • chiunkeols

    Oh it’s just humerous kitsch. Lighten up mother Mary of Perpetual Motion. It’s about the beer, after all. Keep that humor coming.

  • Andre

    Candice = Control Freak. ‘Nuff said.

    BTW, I love these labels, “just havin’ a bit o’ fun!” – Monty Python

  • Italo

    Ahhh, Cambridge and Massachusets……so much time on hand, so little humor. Advice to beer company owner: take your biz away from Mass. and bring it to a place like the Big Apple, which is a forward-looking metropolis where your entrepreneurial hard work and good product will be successful and enjoyed by folks who are not constipated, manic-depressive, overeducated, too politically correct Greater Boston Bay Staters. It’s BEER! ;-o

  • GoatComeuppanceSoon

    One only needs to click on the link to Candace’s BA profile to see who the real clown is in all of this.

    “= Director of Events & Promotions, BeerAdvocate

    Top Chef, Chowhound, and Yelp can all lick my b@lls!!! ”

    So classy.

    Funny how she tried to drum up support for this topic months ago and most people just shot her down – then goes on the offensive once again, and now BA is trying desperately to weasel their way out of some negative publicity. As if she is not “BA” – well, she is an employee (director no less)and wife of the founding member, not just a regular BA member – and she has no problem using that position to her advantage to get posts deleted and/or people kicked off the site that disagree with her. Many prominent members have been kicked off or left the site because of disagreements with her – some recently due to commenting on her rant. If a regular BA member put that post up, it would have been locked or deleted soon after it was posted (which is what many of the 300+ posts on the topic discussed) being the second time the member put up a rant on the same topic. If she had any conviction, she would defend her postion with the local press. This post was all about “look at me, I must be heard”.

  • Arbitrator

    Candace alstrom is the only clown here. BA deletes anything they want but her lunatic rants are allowed to stay because she is toad’s wife.

  • Jax

    Todd sounds like a b***h. Stick up for your director / wife or shut her up.

    • Kevin

      She hasn’t posted a single thing on beeradvocate since this was all in the news (there are actually less posts on her profile now which means something else of hers from the past was deleted)….looks like Todd must have shut her up because we all know she wouldn’t just stop posting on her own choice.

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