A Johannesburg-based craft beer company has come under fire for a sexist new marketing campaign. Vale Bru promoted its “moist” and “gushing” range of beers last week.
It includes the "Filthy Brunette", which is an Indian (sic) Pale Ale , well as an Easy Blonde beer, with the tagline 'All your friends have already had her'.
It also offers a Raven P*rra (an unflattering slang word for a Portuguese person) – “A porter with the best head in town” – beer and the Ripe Redhead - "Previously a Ginger P*key" (slur for people of the Traveller community).
The campaign sparked an outcry among women in the craft beer industry, including Thandi Guilherme, founder and author of the platform Craft Geek, who wrote a strong-worded blog post.
"Sexy is not always sexist. Know the difference," was her advice “#Metoo, Rape culture and Trump’s ‘locker room’ misogyny are not funny. These are real problems that society is trying to deal with. Don’t go there.”
It’s like a bunch of 14 year old boys were tasked with designed a range of beer labels, Lucy Corne, founder of The Brewmistress, said in her missive.
“I haven’t slept since Monday,” Mias Nel, a partner at Vale Bru, told Business Insider South Africa. He said that the outcry over the past couple of days has been much greater than they expected.
Initially, the names of the beers were meant to be gender neutral, says Nel. Vale Bru has been selling the Easy Blonde beer for some time. This changed with the new campaign and its explicit references to women. “We did the wrong thing.”
Vale Bru now plans to “engage with the ladies” in the craft beer industry – “to educate ourselves about sexism”, which Nel now believes is prevalent in the industry.
“We don’t want to be cowards. We are really good guys,” he said of himself and his partners.
He says they haven’t received any pushback for using the term for South African Portuguese people in one of their brand names. “In fact, my fiancée is Portuguese and she came up with it.”
Vale Bru issued an apology:
But Guilherme believes it isn’t much of an apology. “More of a 'sorry, not sorry'.”
She told Business Insider that Vale Bru is in a very tight spot.
“They have a few loyal followers (who are often equally offensive and bigoted) [who] don't see the issue with the branding, while facing enormous pressure from the majority of us - men and women from all different industries, not just beer and brewing.”
“Their best bet would be to rip the Band-Aid off - apologise sincerely, change the labels and get on with it. Being a craft brewer is South Africa is really tough - and your reputation is one of your most important assets.”
Nel says that the company is sticking with the names. Vale Bru, which is based in Edenvale, doesn’t brew the beer. It relabels and distributes beer from the Swagga Brewery in Alrode.
Apart from the sexism, Guilherme points out that Vale also got some of the brewing basics wrong, including referring to “Indian Pale” (should be India) and referring to “gusher” in a positive light, while it is in fact a term for an infected beer.
When it comes to marketing, Vale could learn from many other brewers that are getting it right when it comes to cheekiness, including Mad Giant, Frontier, Devil's Peak, Old Potter's Inn, Jack Black, Two Okes and Stimela, she added.