Public outcry made one thing clear to the owners of a new Indiana brewery this week: The proposed names for some of their craft beers fell flat.
Now the brewers say they are sorry and have dumped the names.
The names included “Flint Michigan Tap Water,” “Black Beer Matters,” “White Guilt” and “Mass Graves.”
Those plans became public after the owners of Lakeville Brew Crew, which opens in the fall, shared them with the South Bend Tribune.
In a story published Sunday, Jon Duncan and Rodney Chlebek said they knew the names would get a rise out of people, which was kind of the point to get people talking about current events.
“The way I look at it — with the ‘Flint Michigan Tap Water’ — if you’re going to get mad about that beer name, you should focus your anger more toward the people that are letting that happen to Flint,” Duncan said.
“If I can bring some attention to that, whether it be negative attention toward me, it still brings attention to that issue.”
It brought attention, for sure.
“To summarize the reactions of many of the Midwest brewers I’m connected to on social media: ‘(Screw) these guys.” wrote Kate Bernot, beer judge and associate editor of The Takeout.
“These beer names not only make light of crises like Flint’s water contamination and the police brutality against which Black Lives Matter has mobilized, they make money off them.
“I’m don’t think donating a portion of profits to causes would make the beer names any more palatable, but not doing so means the brewery is co-opting vulnerable people’s suffering to sell beer.”
Twitter reaction was just as bitter.
“Seems as though #Indiana isn’t #TheBirthplaceOfCool but rather of racist, heartless, toothless goobers,” wrote one Twitter user.
The brewery had planned to release at least a dozen beers with controversial names when it opens in the fall, the Tribune reported.
The owners had reasons for each. “Black Beer Matters,” for instance, referenced how stouts and porters are some of the least-popular craft beers, “but they are good beers and they matter,” Duncan told the newspaper.
Their Russian Imperial Stout would be called “Mass Grave” because ““we all know Stalin has mass graves all over Russia somewhere. Nobody knows where they are, but they are there,” said Duncan.
Talking politics over beer is not new, Food & Wine wrote on Monday, “but typically, the beers themselves aren’t prompting the topic.”
By the end of the week, the names had been dumped.
In a statement posted Thursday on the Lakeville Brew Crew Facebook page, which appeared to be down on Friday, the owners apologized.
“Over the last few days, Lakeville Brew Crew has received a swarm of responses regarding our proposed beer names. The greatest majority of those responses have expressed disapproval and noted the short-sightedness of our marketing plan,” the lengthy apology, published by Food & Wine, read.
“During this time, we have had numerous conversations about the best way to move forward with the partnership. The first thing that we had to do was accept that we made mistakes. We neglected to put ourselves in the shoes of other people.”
The list of beer names, they said, “has been wiped clean. New names will be developed, this time with a greater sense of social awareness and empathy ... we’re sorry for our poor judgment.”
Food & Wine noted that Duncan had told the Tribune he wanted the brewery “to be all about the beer. Lakeville Brew Crew is now in a better position to prove that true.”